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Accueil du site → Doctorat → États-Unis → 2020 → Agrarian Dreams, Agricultural Realities : Agricultural land conversion in Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert

University of California Berkeley (2020)

Agrarian Dreams, Agricultural Realities : Agricultural land conversion in Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert

Hruska, Tracy

Titre : Agrarian Dreams, Agricultural Realities : Agricultural land conversion in Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert

Auteur : Hruska, Tracy

Université de soutenance : University of California Berkeley

Grade : Doctor Philosophy (PhD) Environmental Science, Policy, and Management 2020

This dissertation examines the drivers and socioeconomic process of the conversion of rangeland to irrigated crops in Janos County, Chihuahua since 1970. The research was motivated by a desire to understand why irrigated agriculture was expanding in this site when there were no such expansions in adjacent regions. I analyze the historical roots of agricultural expansion as well as the contemporary social and economic dynamics that propel it today. Data came from 166 interviews with landowners, ex-landowners, laborers, and local officials, as well as from historical land records. Results reveal the importance Mexico’s national land reform ( 1920-1992) in breaking up large ranches and creating opportunities for small farms to become established, even if many of those small farms—especially on ejidos—ultimately failed. I attribute the majority of rangeland-to-cropland conversion to Mennonites, whose commodity farms have proliferated through both in-migration and capitalist investment of agricultural profits.

My research contributes to the wide-ranging literature on Mexico’s ejido system through the analysis of dynamics on the arid lands ejidos in Janos County. The Janos ejidos differ from the preponderance of cases in the literature in that they were founded through very different mechanisms and have seen far higher rates of land sales and consolidation. I contribute to the literature on agricultural frontiers by discussing agricultural expansion in arid rangelands rather than in tropical forests, where most of the literature is centered. The contrast between stagnating agriculture on the ejidos and expanding agriculture by Mennonites reveals both the importance of capital access in desert farming and the prominent role that social and cultural capital play in improving access to agriculture. In Janos, addressing the ‘agrarian question’ entails a close examination of capital access as well as intragroup social dynamics.

Commercial cattle grazing has been the dominant land use there for at least 300 years, though the percentage of land under crops has expanded significantly in recent decades, irrigated with groundwater from a declining aquifer. The proliferation of irrigated agriculture has roots in Mexico’s national land reform, which ran nearly from the end of the Revolution in 1920 until 1992. The land reform fractured the vast cattle ranches that had previously dominated Janos County and redistributed a third of the land area in the form of 14 ejidos. The land reform also incentivized ranchers to sell land rather than have it expropriated by the government, which enabled groups of Mennonites from central Chihuahua to buy thousands of hectares at a time starting in the 1950s. Those parcels became the first four Mennonite colonies in Janos County and the hubs of ongoing cropland expansion.

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Page publiée le 8 décembre 2021