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Textual: análisis del medio rural latinoamericano

On-line version ISSN 2395-9177Print version ISSN 0185-9439

Textual anál. medio rural latinoam.  n.72 Chapingo Jul./Dec. 2018 

Latin American scenarios

Key factors that enable the peasants in the cabuyal territorial subdivision in the municipality of Palmira, Valle del Cauca, Colombia to endure

José Luis Sánchez1 

1Administrador de Empresas, Universidad Nacional de Colombia; Estudiante de Maestría en investigación en desarrollo territorial rural, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO.


Taking into account the accelerated process of transformation of various forms of food production, this article discusses the key factors which allow the persistence of the peasants in Cabuyal, a village (vereda) in the municipality of Palmira, in the Cauca Valley (Colombia). A total of 22 interviews were conducted with young women and elderly adults. The results show diverse forms of territorial appropriation, depending on the particular characteristics of a) the distribution of dwellings and plots, b) the adoption of crops of high commercial value, c) the adoption of tools and agriculture technologies. In addition, two forms of land access are present: first, the owner of the land provides the ‘harvester’ a portion of the property for agricultural exploitation and shares the other costs; secondly, there is a lease called ‘percentage,’ in which the owner provides only the land, while the peasant assumes all other costs of production. These factors contribute to the fact that agricultural practices prevail as the main economic activity at a household level. The research integrates qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Keywords: Rural development; peasantry; persistence; social construction


Tomando en cuenta el proceso de transformación acelerada de las formas de producción de alimentos, este artículo discute los factores clave que permiten la persistencia de los campesinos en Cabuyal, una vereda en el municipio de Palmira, en el departamento del Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Se realizaron un total de 22 entrevistas con mujeres jóvenes y adultos mayores. Los resultados muestran diversas formas de apropiación del territorio, dependiendo de las características particulares de a) la distribución de viviendas y parcelas, b) la adopción de cultivos de alto valor comercial, c) la adopción de herramientas y tecnologías agrícolas. Además, se presentan dos formas de acceso a la tierra: primero, el propietario de la tierra proporciona al 'cosechero' una parte de la propiedad para la explotación agrícola y comparte los otros costos; en segundo lugar, existe un contrato de arrendamiento denominado "porcentaje", en el que el propietario proporciona solo la tierra, mientras que el campesino asume todos los demás costos de producción. Estos factores contribuyen al hecho de que las prácticas agrícolas prevalecen como la actividad económica principal en el hogar. La investigación integra metodologías cualitativas y cuantitativas.

Palabras clave: Desarrollo rural; campesinado; persistencia; construcción social


Although it has been asserted from different viewpoints that peasantry and its economy are disappearing (Marx, 1963 (original 1852); Lenin, 1974), it is evident that they still persist today (de Janvri & Garramón, C. 1977; Van der Ploeg, 2012, 2015). In order to understand and analyze the configuration of the peasantry in the vereda, a rural administrative area hereafter referred to as the village, its continuities and changes, it can be seen that despite the historical and present-day contexts being averse to the agricultural modality they use, small-scale agriculture continues to play an important role in the food supply. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are 1.5 billion people in the world engaged in small-scale agriculture in more than 500 million small farms (FIDA, 2014). Peasant farming has also been classified as a sustainable alternative to combat the environmental crisis and global warming (Altieri, 1986). In this context, the discussion about the key factors that have permitted peasantry to endure with its economy are highlighted.

The prospects for rural development in Latin America, as is true globally, have been concentrated in the promotion of large-scale agriculture as the driving engine of the agro-food system, leaving the advancement of small peasant production to one side (Kay, 2007). After the debt crisis at the end of the 70s and 80s, the Latin American states opted for reducing the incentives for this sector (Kay, 2007). Under these circumstances peasantry and its economics had to develop collectives and individual measures to make their endurance plausible.

Recent changes in the rural world have generated new problems for rural sociology (Craviotti & Pardías, 2013). It is clear that the channels for rural development for the purpose of solving the problems of food access and sustainability have failed (Ramírez Miranda & de la Tejeda Hernández, 2014). In effect, the incorporation of agriculture into international commerce and industrial circuits, the growing participation of financing capital, technological development with the logic of private property, especially with regards to biotechnology, and the shrinking of commercial regulatory frameworks for international commerce have worsened global warming, poverty, and the cultural decline of rural communities (Craviotti & Pardías, 2013).

That being the case, the rural sociology question regarding what kind of social subjects are in charge of agrarian production still remains (Murmis, 1994), renewing the debate regarding the endurance of peasants and their economy. In order to understand the broadness of this question, a historic analysis is needed which takes into consideration various factors in which the relevance of the subjects’ capacity to act is relevant.

This type of approach provokes questions about peasantry practices accounting for their endurance, not only the economic practices, but rather diverse aspects (Schneider & Niederle, 2010). That is to say, it leads to the investigation of various issues which might be converted into items for the formulation of public policies, programs, and intervention projects which seek to finance peasant production and economy. These kinds of research become relevant in the case of Colombia because the country is presently in a transition process from a scenario of violence towards a scenario of a post-peace agreement in which one of the points of the agreement is related to the rural world with a certain focus on small production.

Different theoretical perspectives, such as Marxism, have for years alleged that peasantry would disappear from the social system. Nevertheless, the presence and importance of the peasant economy continue to be felt in national contexts. Considering the former, this paper attempts to investigate and analyze the mechanisms or balances used by the peasants of the village of Cabuyal, in the municipality of Palmira in Colombia, for their persistence in the territory. This municipality located in the department of the Valle del Cauca has been the center of far-reaching demographic changes. The population which inhabits rural areas has notably diminished in the last seventy years. During the 50s, 33 % of the population lived in rural areas. Later in the 70s this portion was reduced to 30 %, and according to the most recent population census taken in 2005, only 17 % of the population remains in the rural sector (Anuario Estadístico de Palmira, 2017).

The specific dynamics of the village of Cabuyal have gone through a permanent process of change which has involved factors such as the growth in population or the degree of proximity of the dwellings that have contributed to the existence of close bonds among the inhabitants which permit the development of collective learning mechanisms about their crops, their ties with the market, and the improved coordination of collective actions to solve common problems, as well as the measures adopted by the peasants to access land for the advancement of their productive activities.

Research methodology

The research incorporated qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Due to the fact that the research took place in the village of Cabuyal which had no historical information on its configuration, the history, changes, and endurance of the settlement were reconstructed using the ethnographic method (Flick, 2004). The demographic growth permits an understanding, an analysis or enhancement of an extensive and necessary variety of social, economic and political situations or problems. In order to make a thorough analysis, group exercises were integrated, in which time lines were constructed collectively that took into account the most representative milestones of the territory. In order to articulate the local processes with the regional dynamics, an analysis of secondary information was also integrated that contributed to an understanding of the local phenomena with regards to different aspects of regional and national tendencies.

Once the surveys were made, the life histories were organized into two groups in order to process the information: the first included the interviews of the elderly, and the second of the younger ones. After processing the information from the two groups, a diachronic analysis was made with the results which revealed the changes and stability in the ways of accessing the land, the peasant dwellings, the composition and roles in the families, the ways of organizing work, the spaces for sociability, and the emotional bonds. Alongside the reconstruction of the territory’s history, 17 surveys were made in which the questions were focused on identifying the principal socio-economic aspects, the source of family income, the kinds of crops, the resources used in the productive process, the organization of work, the ties to the market, and the composition of the families in order to comprehend the peasants’ dynamics which permit them to persevere in their territory.


In order to address the statistical notion of counting the dwellings and inhabitants, the research work included an analysis of the settlement patterns, defined by rural sociology as the spatial distribution of the peasant dwellings and the plots where the farming activities took place (Fals Borda, 1956).


The village of Cabuyal is located in the western slope of the central Andes mountain range in the municipality of Palmira, department of the Valle del Cauca, Colombia. The development of the field work helped identify that the village of Cabuyal has two settlement types: the first is a combination of lineal village and dispersed farms; the second corresponds to the settlement type of dispersed farms in which the dwellings are far apart. The population pattern which combines the types of dispersed farms and lineal village is predominant due to its im portance in the specific case of this study.

In the first case, the dwellings are generally found at the edge of the road and the Cabuyal River. This is the part of village where there is more sociability due to the store, the collection center, and the school being located there. Most of the population of the area which corresponds to this kind of settlement has a plot of land next to their dwellings which permits them to have more effective control of its production. Nevertheless, in this type of settlement there are some exceptions where the peasants must exert themselves more since the sites where they farm are far from their dwellings. When the dwellings are far away, their exertions are considerably more due to the great distances from the highway which forces them to walk long distances or to have a horse for transporting themselves as well as their products, remittances and supplies (Figure 1).

Source: Sánchez, 2017; Google Maps

Figure 1.  The spatial distribution of the dwellings in the village of Cabuyal, Palmira.  

Through the analysis of the interviews it was determined that the settlement of the village was the result of three large waves of migration. These types of settlements were the result of a dynamic migratory process. The first corresponded to what some historians such as Motta (1991) have called late Antioch colonization, which in terms of time is at the end of the XIX century and the first 10 years of the XX century. During this period peasants arrived from the departments of Caldas and Antioch. Between 1940 and 1970 there was a second migratory wave when peasants from the departments of Nariño and Cauca arrived. Lastly, between 1980 and 2000 the village of Cabuyal peasants from the municipalities of the northern department of the Valle del Cauca and the departments of Tolima and Nariño arrived.

These migratory processes were a fundamental part of the territorial configuration given that the territory is the result of the interaction between the biophysical component and the social system. Thanks to the interviews, it was possible to identify that each of the migratory processes had a particular characteristic with regards to the appropriation of land. That is to say, the type of access to the land, the agricultural practices, the social relations, and the links to the market varied according to each migratory process.

Land access

In the initial process, the settlers who arrived during this period were able to access properties according to their economic and labor capacity. Large properties were formed in this manner which were used for livestock and agricultural activities. After having prepared a great portion of the land, the large landowners extended their properties using sharecropping.

Sharecropping consisted of a verbal agreement between the land owners and the landless peasants without any document to guarantee its fulfillment. The former would cede part of the land, while the landless peasant was in charge of the conditioning, planting, and harvesting work. After the harvest, the production was equally divided between the landowner and the sharecropper.

Although in later processes there were modifications in the distribution of the land, in the higher part of the village the large properties still abound. With the second migratory wave the structure of the use and ownership of the land was modified. During the period between 1940 and 1970 a notable process of fragmentation of the peasants’ plots located in the area where the settlement patterns which make up the lineal village and dispersed farms today was generated. This was due to the first colonists having large families, with an average of nine members, so the children upon inheriting the land received significantly smaller peasant plots. In this context, there were also changes in the peasant production base. In the first period, the principal products grown were potatoes, corn, and wheat, among other crops. All of these were characteristically for subsistence. This kind of production was replaced by the growing of coffee for commercial purposes; this transformation in the kind of production consolidated the relationship between the territory studied and the market.

During the third migratory period changes in the type of production "occurred, and to a lesser degree, in the structure of landownership. The shift in the productive base of the village during this period is due to an induced change as a result of the green revolution in which the peasants embraced crops with short cycles and high value which would represent an important factor in the endurance of the peasantry. In the case of land ownership, the new settlers were initially linked to the estates as a labor force, and also recreated mechanisms derived from sharecropping. The different mechanisms of land access recreated in the territory are relevant to the endurance of peasantry due to the peasant economy which is closely related to the agricultural activities.

Two ways of accessing the land are presently used in the village of Cabuyal that evolved from the sharecropping modality that was initially used. In the first, the landowner ceded a part of his property to the ‘harvester’, a landless peasant, to farm for a period of time agreeable to both parts. The harvester in exchange assumed the work. The costs ofseeds and agrochemicals are shared equally between the landowner and the harvester. After the harvest, what is produced is equally divided. This modality consists of a relationship of mutual collaboration, in which the landowners, having an insufficient labor force use this modality to take advantage of the land, while the landless peasants have the possibility of having a higher income than what they would receive as day laborers or rural workers.

The second modality consists of a type of leasing called ‘percentage’. The landowner" "only provides the land and the landless peasant assumes the other production costs, labor, seeds, and supplies. After the sale of the production, the landowner generally receives 15 % of the total production. According to the interviews, this percentage is not fixed. The percentage the landowner receives depends on the kind of crop. If the kind of crop requires high costs, the percentage can be reduced to 12 % and when production costs are below the market rate, it can go up to 20%. In this modality, the landowner has the advantage over the landless peasants, taking less risks because he only provides the land, while the peasant has the productions costs. In the event of a bad harvest, the latterassumes the biggest loss.

However, these historical processes help explain the configuration of the territory in spatial and productive terms resulting from the interaction of man- nature which Van der Ploeg (2012) would define as a form of co-production. The different processes through which the village has gone through gives it some distinct characteristics, among which are the access to land, the spatial distribution of the dwellings, and the productive characteristics which sustain the local economy. To this extent, the distribution modalities of the dwellings and peasants’ plots are relevant to the endurance of this community in its territory due to the fact that the short distance between the dwellings generate cohesion processes, the strengthening of social ties which facilitate the coordination of collective actions, and also permit the creation of spaces for the building of collective knowledge. The short" "distance between some of the dwellings has allowed the collective organization modalities of the peasants of the village of Cabuyal to be maintained. In the village there are two organizations in which the peasant communities converge, the committee for communal action and the peasant association which implement collective actions that seek to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants of the territorial subdivision. Though the benefits reached through the actions taken have not managed to overcome all of the territory’s problems, the institutional government and nongovernmental institutions recognize them as valid negotiators, opening opportunities for dialogue and rapprochement with regards to productive and environmental topics. An important aspect that the cohesion among the inhabitants of the village has accomplished is that the assembly meetings of the peasant organizations are unfailingly monthly, where besides dealing with topics related to organizational objectives, the affective ties between the neighbors are strengthened which has contributed to the peasants’ attachment to the village of Cabuyal becoming stronger.

The building of collective knowledge was clearly seen in the agricultural production since the peasants’ plots share similar characteristics in terms of soil composition, climate and topography. When there are production problems, the peasants are able to overcome them through collective experimentation. That is to say, that when problems in production are widespread in the village, each peasant family encounters them on its farm and" "results traditionally transmitted orally are converted into general knowledge.

With regards to the peasants’ dwellings, through the triangulation between the information from previous studies about peasant dwellings at the regional level (Motta, 1991) and at the national level (Fals Borda, 1956), and the result of the in-depth interviews and participants’ observation, it was determined that the peasant dwellings in the village of Cabuyal are experiencing a transformation process in which they have adopted characteristics of urban housing. These changes in the peasants’ dwellings have been positive, bettering the living conditions of the peasants in the village and thus becoming an element that makes it possible for them to remain there.

For the analysis of the peasants’ dwellings it is important that they be understood to be a portion of the plot next to the physical structure, the garden, or orchard, and the yard (Fals Borda, 1956). Economic activities, the growing of food and sociability take place within them.

In the case of the village of Cabuyal, the changes in the dwellings have improved the peasants’ quality of life. They are therefore considered to be a key aspect for their endurance. In the first place, the construction materials have changed from predominantly wood and daub walls, to most of the dwellings presentlybeing made of bricks (45%), followed by those made of daub walls (30%), and to a lesser degree, made of wood (25%). These changes have reinforced their functions of protection and shelter. Despite the improvements," "it must be noted that quantitatively and qualitatively there are still needs. Eight families do not have their own homes and 12 houses need improvements.

On the other hand, there is access to public services. In the municipality of Palmira, as in the rest of the country, the rural sector lags behind with regards to access to public services in comparison to the urban areas. According to the National Agricultural Census of 2014 (Censo Nacional Agropecuario del 2014), 82 % of the rural houses in the country have electricity, 42.6 % have a water supply, and only 6 % have sewers. According to the POT (2012) regarding Palmira, 97 % of the rural houses have electricity, 58 % have water, and only 10 % have sewers.

According to the surveys taken during the field work, in the case of the village of Cabuyal, 98 % have electricity. Nevertheless, none have piped in water, nor sewers. In order to overcome the restriction of access to potable water, the peasants of Cabuyal used their astuteness and get the water from the River Cabuyal for their use, and to a lesser degree, the sources of water from the higher area. To achieve this, they have built supply systems for each dwelling, except in the case where this has been done collectively. These activities, where the social actors overcome adverse situations by their own means, is part of what Van der Ploeg (2012) would call the peasants’ ability to adapt.

The peasants’ kitchens in their dwelling have also been changed, becoming actor in the endurance of the" "peasants in the village. Among the changes it was found that the wood traditionally used as fuel for food preparation has been almost completely replaced by gas. This change has had repercussions in two aspects: a reduction in the time used for food preparation by the women has permitted them to do tasks such as farming work, and to occupy leadership roles in community organizations. According to the interviews made during the field work, women in 98 % of the homes in the village do farm work, which has been favorable so that a lack of labor is not an obstacle to maintaining local agricultural production and furthermore it has permitted the strengthening of family economies. Secondly, this change has reduced the risk of the peasant families having respiratory diseases since, as has been demonstrated by researchers such as Guzmán and de la Oz Restrepo (2008) , there is a risk of developing respiratory diseases due to exposure to biomass smoke.

While recent interpretations of the rural world, such as a perspective of the new rurality, have shown that agricultural activities are being supplemented or substituted by other economic activities, in the case of Cabuyal agricultural activities are of paramount importance. Nevertheless, these practices have not been static. On the contrary, theyhave been subject to constant changes which have permitted the peasants of the village to generate resources that satisfy their basic needs and thereby ensure their endurance in their territory.

The decisions made by the peasants regarding the types of crops, supplies," tools, technology and relationships with the market include empirical deliberations to evaluate, and based on these, to make the needed changes that permit improvements in their lives, changes which have been called balances by Van der Ploeg (2010) . The decisions made by the peasants seek to overcome adverse aspects such as natural conditions, soil composition, the duration of the crop cycle, or the amount of rainfall, and socio-economic factors, among others.

By means of the interviews and secondary information, it was determined that the kind of agriculture that was initially introduced in the territory was for personal consumption. According to the National Historical Memory Center (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica) (2014), the farming then did not use much technology and had low productivity, precluding any excess for commercialization. This situation limited the ties to the market. Low productivity was due to the fact that the peasants had to spend a large amount of their labor to consolidate and prepare their plots in the arable land.

This means of farming initially conserved the characteristics of the territories where the first colonists settled that included potatoes, green onions, corn, beans, Peruvian parsnips, pumpkins, and coffee, among others. One of those interviewed remarked:

The potato, there were people who came from Manizales. They brought the seeds. Since at that time fumigating nor fertil izing were necessary, you only planted it. After three months, the earth was built up and it was left, after ten months or less, around seven months one returned, the plant was dry, one pulled it up, one plant could yield 25 lbs. (Interview 006_2017).

In the specific case of the village as a part of the land, it can then be seen how its unique territorial characteristics are the result of the interaction between the geophysical characteristics and the cultural characteristics of the social group who arrived there.

After the establishment of subsistence agriculture, a leap was made towards coffee production. In the case of coffee production in the village, this was related to the national economic export risk. At the beginning of the XX century, Colombia gambled on the expansion of coffee growing. From this perspective, agricultural production experienced a boom during the first ten years of the XX century (Kalmanovich, 2013). The high prices of coffee led to this crop being grown along the central mountain range of the Valle del Cauca, including Palmira (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, 2014). Although coffee growing offered advantages in economic terms, the peasant production additionally grew food for their sustenance.

Coffee producing in the village generated a closer tie to the market until the 80s. This crop was gradually replaced by transitory crops. The decline of coffee growing was due to factors such as the dissolution of the international coffee pact and the spread of coffee wilt and canker. The change induced by the state by means of the green revolution also was a factor. As coffee stopped being cost efficient, it was slowly replaced. Nowadays, cabbage, cilantro and onions are grown by the peasants of the village of Cabuyal in Palmira.

The fertile characteristics of the village reproduced the productive base of the first colonists’ territories of origin, thereby establishing subsistence agriculture. The changes in farming production of the village have brought about changes in the ways of producing.

In the case of work which is directly related to the type of crop, the cultural characteristics and the availability of resources have continually changed. The kinds of changes in work include changes in intensity, the kinds of work, and the use of tools and technology, which together have made agricultural labor less strenuous. Nevertheless, according to the village inhabitants, for the moment, there is a shortage of available workers.

During the initial onset of farming in the village the inhabitants needed to double their efforts because when the first inhabitants arrived in the territory there was abundant vegetation which required a lot of work to clear the plots for production.

With regards to this type of work, one of the peasants remarked: “Afterwards there came another clearing of the growth of more or less a meter, later the thick wood was cleared and left for three months and what there was, was burnt once again, then planting took place (Interview 0010_2017). This kind of work increased the intensity and the peasants’ time, making peasant life more difficult.

Nowadays, the difficulty of the work and the time used by the peasants on their crops is much reduced. The introduction of the plow to production in the village occurred during the second migratory wave. According to the interviews, this tool accompanied the peasants who came from the department of Nariño, as one of the sources mentions:

When I arrived at the end of the 60s, the plow was not used here, plowing, which I believe arrived in 1975. I went to Ipiales many times to bring plows to sell around here. They were metal, brought unassembled and assembled here. They cost some 60 or 70 thousand pesos (Colombian pesos). Now they cost 500 or 600 thousand pesos (Colombian pesos). Plows are available in Palmira now (Interview 0011_2017).

Now this tool has very different characteristics from when it arrived in the territory. Originally this tool was made of wood and was gradually replaced by the metal plow. This change in its material is due to the fact that the peasants who arrived in the second migratory wave kept ties with Nariño, a department where the advances in this type of tool had already occurred. This is paradoxical because the municipality of Palmira is characterized by its progress in agriculture. The difficulties in obtaining this type of tool in the local market was due to the fact that the tools made locally were for the corporate farming of sugar cane.

Access to this farming tool made it easier to condition the land for crops because the soil in these peasants’ plots in the village was very rocky, even requiring a part of the labor forces’ time to remove the larger rocks from the plots. Although the plow reduced the time and effort of the work, not all the peasant families have this tool. When they do not own one, it must be rented, costing an average of one day’s labor, fifty thousand pesos (17USD) (Interview 008_2017).

The use of herbicides has been another element that has contributed to the change in the organization of labor in peasant families. The use of herbicides is replacing some farming practices such as building up the soil around plants (aporque), and with that reducing the use of such tools as the hoe; it has reduced the amount of manual labor needed for the crops, thereby reducing the demand for farm labor. This has had negative effects for families which depend on the income as laborers in their neighbors’ plots. With regards to the subject, one of those interviewed said:

This change happened about four years ago, when the hoe began to be replaced and cabbage also. For example, the building up of soil, before planting was done and then the soil was built up so that it would be strengthened. Now, for example, if they are weeded, they are damaged, they rot. So now they cannot be touched, the soil cannot be touched. They are things that are being changed, right? Before the soil was built up around beans, corn, but now it is not built up, neither is the cabbage. Now it is only weed killer (Interview 008_2017).

"It can be seen how the use of herbicides displaces tools, as well as the manual labor needed for farm work. According to the peasants’ own observations, the use of agrochemical products is also causing a notable reduction in productivity:

The landscape has changed dramatically, then it was the land of coffee, bananas, arracha (a starchy taproot) were grown, yucca was grown. At that time sisal grass was taken out, around the 70s. Not as much herbicide was used as today. The work was done with a hoe, a machete, a plow. Not like today, when everything is with herbicides. That affects the soil very much and lowers production (Interview 0010_2017).

In fact, it can be seen how the intensity and the working time have changed. It must be noted that the changes in the intensity and the ways of organizing work are not only the result of the introduction of new tools and techniques. In the village processes are also being introduced that have an impact on work. Among them, the peasants of Cabuyal are undergoing an aging process because the younger generations are choosing to migrate, whether to other rural territories or to the larger cities, within or outside the country.

Another factor regarding the organization of the peasant families’ work is women’s greater involvement in farm work. According to the results of the interviews, 92 % of the women are involved in farming activities. Female farming work is mainly done in the nuclear family’s plot, and to a lesser degree, in the neighbors’ plots. It can therefore" be noted that through internal forces the peasant (Hernández, 1993) seeks to increase his productive base to cover family needs. Women’s participation in farming work is related, as in the reorganization of the controlled resource base referred to by Van der Ploeg (2010) , where women’s participation in farm work contributes to the increase in the level of products, while not causing expenditures that would result from having to pay for outside labor.

In the case of the village of Cabuyal, according to the interviews made about farm work, the majority of the family members engage in agricultural work, with the exception of two. Aside from that, in 100 % of the cases of peasant families, the male head of household organizes the farm work. In terms of the significance that the peasants gave their agricultural labor, the majority (61 %) feel pride and for the other part (39 %) it means food. As can be seen, peasant production does not have a purely mercantile logic. They experience their labor as part of their cultural roots and to meet their need for food, which in essence is what embodies the peasant.

Discussion and conclusions

The purpose of this paper is mainly to investigate and analyze the elements developed by the peasants of the village of Cabuyal that have given them the possibility to endure in their territory. The approach to this topic was made in order to analyze the territory’s unique dynamics from a historic perspective which would permit the disclosure of the changes in its unique ru ral dynamics, especially to identify the elements that might have contributed to the farming activities enduring as the main economic activity in the territory because one of the principal characteristics of peasant life is their close link to the land.

Analytical categories were used as the research evolved to examine recent developments in order explain the present-day reality of rural societies. To this extent, a new approach was used that included an analysis of the spatial factor. This led to the conclusion that identity processes and their roots are found to be closely related to the spatial distribution of the dwellings and their plots. That is, that the closer distance between the peasant dwellings generates processes of collaboration. In this case, they are related to building collective knowledge with regards to farming practices, collaborative processes, and improved coordination of collective actions.

Agrarian styles permit an understanding of how the peasants in their race to overcome the particular conditions they are subject to, combine diverse forms of using the elements they have on hand. During the research process it was found that over time, the productive base of the village has been transformed: coming from subsistence production to production with a closer relationship to the market. This transformation includes aspects such as the kind of crop, the organization of work, and tools. Although these changes cannot be assumed to be the result of a solely local action, it does underscore the ability of the peasant to adopt actions in their constant search to improve their way of life, which could be called their ability to change. Among these actions are the adoption of high-value crops and those with a short cycle into their agricultural practices. These actions empirically demonstrate that the village peasants exercise a certain economic logic.

As various studies have shown, one of the restrictions the peasantry encounters to develop their economic activities is their limited access to land and capital. In the rural administrative area of Cabuyal it is evident that the peasantry has developed two mechanisms, involving evolution of the sharecropping modality, which have allowed reciprocal collaborative relations between the landowner and the landless. These two modalities for accessing land and production have permitted the landless people to have the possibility to develop agricultural activities that generate income for their families. On the other hand, in the case of the landowners, they can take advantage of land that they had been unable to exploit due to a lack of laborers. These cooperative modalities are based on mutual trust since there are no supporting legal documents.

Although these possibilities have generated income for the families from agricultural activities that have improved their quality of life, it cannot be denied that there are still needs to be resolved. As a result, it can be seen that the peasants’ dwellings are going through a process of change that has been favorable for the health and care of the families who live in the rural administrative area. It is notable that the functions of the peasant dwelling are not only related to the physical structure itself. The area next to it is also used for animal breeding, for consumption, or to generate additional income, as well as for growing crops for family consumption, as a garden, or an area where they can rest. This idea might be converted into input for rural dwelling programs endeavoring to preserve peasant culture.


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Received: February 19, 2018; Accepted: May 09, 2018

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