While anthropologists and ecologists have carefully described the activities of the slash-and-burn cultivators, ranchers, and miners of tropical South America, they have largely overlooked the economic strategies and political struggles of riverine people who survive by flood-recession agriculture and fishing. These ribere¤os, who constitute the majority of the inhabitants of the Amazonian floodplains of Peru, have developed ecologically sustainable resource management practices that enable them to cope with periodic inundations of their fields by "risky rivers." They have, however, suffered greatly from unpredictable crop prices and erratic state agricultural policies.
Michael Chibnik here examines the household economies, cultural ecology, grassroots political organizations of ribere¤os living in three floodplain villages near Iquitos, Peru. He describes the villagers' remarkable history, their participation in misconceived development programs, and their longstanding conflicts with regional elites.
Chibnik discusses the political ecology of the region in the context of arguments about appropriate development policies in tropical lowlands. Although ribere¤os practice intensive agriculture with low environmental impact, they have not been able to improve their economic circumstances in recent years. Chibnik's study is a significant and timely contribution to current debates about the possibility of sustainable, equitable development in Amazonia.
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