The Role of Community Values and Social Capital in Combating Soil Degradation in Central Chile Dryland Region.
Published: 31 October 2013 by MDPI AG in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Social Values for a Sustainable Economy
MDPI AG, 10.3390/wsf3-c002
Abstract: The unirrigated Mediterranean region of Central Chile is characterized by high levels of soil degradation and rural poverty. However, in most cases, these issues have been approached and analyzed separately. In one hand, soil degradation has been mainly attributed to “poor agricultural practices” conducted through the years by the small farmers and peasant communities that inhabit the region. In the other hand, rural poverty is commonly attributed to the low access to economic opportunities and quality education. The public proposals to address these problems have taken a linear and common path; promoting the entrance of the forest industry and the migration to urban areas. Besides these actions, from a macro point of view, it has been established the introduction of agricultural machinery and intensive agricultural methods as an answer for development, which are far from being suited for the ecological and cultural context. This paper analyze the main historical and socio-cultural factors behind this socio-environmental issue, emphasizing in how qualitative factors related to the loss of social capital and the disintegration of communities have had fundamental implications in the environmental problem of soil degradation. Also it attempts to propose causes and solutions that go beyond the technical and neo-Malthusian explanations for this case, presenting social cohesion and territorial empowerment as the bases for a sustainable agriculture in environmentally vulnerable regions.