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Agricultura, sociedad y desarrollo

Print version ISSN 1870-5472


BERGHUBE, Konrad. Libertarian aspects in local knowledge: an example from the water management of Mam peasants in Guatemala. agric. soc. desarro [online]. 2013, vol.10, n.1, pp.59-84. ISSN 1870-5472.

The present article investigates whether Guatemalan local peasant knowledge and the corresponding social organisation incorporate aspects of a non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian behaviour and attitudes of solidarity and mutual aid in the use and distribution of natural resources. An answer to this question is attempted by using the example of the water supply system and the related social organisation of the Mam Maya village Vista Hermosa in the municipality San Antonio Sacatepéquez of western Guatemala. The local water supply system is composed of 12 different groups that run their own water supply infrastructure project for domestic use and small-scale irrigation. Decisions in these projects are made collectively in an assembly, which allows all its members to have access and the right to speak. Different positions are occupied according to a rotation principle and water and infrastructure are collective property of its members. All these circumstances can be understood as libertarian1 aspects found in the projects. On the other hand, these libertarian aspects are contradicted by the exclusion of non-members of the project from water use, a sometimes competitive behaviour between the different projects, or the - only partly discussed - patriarchal structures in the projects. Because of the identified libertarian aspects, the village water supply infrastructure can be seen as a starting point for learning about the possibilities and problems in a collective and self-organised structure, from which some elements could possibly be adopted for social organizing in other contexts.

Keywords : collective action; indigenous people; peasant knowledge; social organisation; western Guatemala.

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