Peasant Perception and Performance

Duration: November 2019–October 2024

Funding: FWF (P 31855-G), € 353,195.85

Project manager: Andreas Haller

Project assistant: Domenico Branca

During the last three decades of globalization, the conversion of fertile arable land into built-up areas has been one of the dominating land use changes in the hinterland of cities. These are processes with positive and negative impacts on periurban farmers. In mountain valleys in the Peruvian Andes, where productive zones on the limited space of the periurban valley floors have increasingly been urbanized since the end of the 1980s, this is particularly evident. First, because valley floors are irrigated while the slopes and high plains of the hinterland are mostly not irrigated; smallholders depend on irrigated land to produce crops—and to generate monetary income—during the dry season. Second, because land cultivated on the valley floor is often leased by smallholders and owned by nonagrarian land owners, who expect rising land prices and prefer to sell lots for real-estate projects.

Different forms of urban growth in Andean valleys have different degrees of impact on periurban smallholders, who not always prefer compact growth on the valley floor. Instead, dispersed urban growth on the valley floor is often considered a better form, for it allows profiting from urbanization (e.g. improved infrastructure), while continuing the cultivation of the remaining arable land. This fact has largely been ignored in research.

The project aims to describe and explain changes in urban form and land cover in three Andean intermediate cities (including their hinterland) for the last three decades. Then it identifies perceptions of periurban farmers toward these changes and assesses the consequences for the farmers’ vertical agrarian land use. Finally, the project finds future periurban forms that are preferred by smallholder farmers, jointly defines quality criteria of future periurban development, and collaboratively maps potential “performance” zones for the transition area between city and countryside as well as valley and upland, to enable the assessment of (possible) flexible approaches to land use planning.

In sum, this project is an important contribution to understanding the problems of Andean farmers on the edges of expanding cities, and an attempt to making periurban areas in developing mountain regions more just und future-proof.