Title

Agrobiodiversity conservation with illegal-drug crops: An approach from the prisons in Oaxaca, Mexico

Author Information

Gabriel Tamariz

Date of Publication

2020 12:00 AM

Security Theme

Transnational Organized Crime

Keywords

Agrobiodiversity, Illegal-drug crops, Violence, Vulnerability, Agrarian change, Mexico

Description

Drawing on political-ecological vulnerability theory, this paper analyzes the impact of illegal-drug cultivation and its related violence on smallholder agrobiodiversity in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is a global agrobiodiversity hotspot where cannabis and opium poppy have been widely cultivated for decades. The study is based on 76 structured/semi-structured interviews with imprisoned farmers, harvest gatherers, and former soldiers in four state prisons. Results show that illegal-drug crops and native-food crops complement each other until a threshold of violence is crossed, which leads to the abandonment of agriculture due to murder, imprisonment, and out-migration. The specialization of smallholder agriculture in illegal-drug crops tends to favor crossing the threshold of violence. In most municipalities in this study, however, rather a diversification process took place in which illegal-drug crops were incorporated to food production systems, reducing both the exposure and the sensitivity of smallholders to structural and direct violence. Other adaptation strategies involved local organization and militarization of smallholders for collective-risk management and territorial control. Ultimately, by comparing five vulnerability scenarios, this paper argues that the combination of peasant organization, militarization, and crop/livelihood diversification in Oaxaca mitigates the violent agrarian change associated with this illegal economy, while conserving agrobiodiversity.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Agrobiodiversity conservation with illegal-drug crops: An approach from the prisons in Oaxaca, Mexico

Drawing on political-ecological vulnerability theory, this paper analyzes the impact of illegal-drug cultivation and its related violence on smallholder agrobiodiversity in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is a global agrobiodiversity hotspot where cannabis and opium poppy have been widely cultivated for decades. The study is based on 76 structured/semi-structured interviews with imprisoned farmers, harvest gatherers, and former soldiers in four state prisons. Results show that illegal-drug crops and native-food crops complement each other until a threshold of violence is crossed, which leads to the abandonment of agriculture due to murder, imprisonment, and out-migration. The specialization of smallholder agriculture in illegal-drug crops tends to favor crossing the threshold of violence. In most municipalities in this study, however, rather a diversification process took place in which illegal-drug crops were incorporated to food production systems, reducing both the exposure and the sensitivity of smallholders to structural and direct violence. Other adaptation strategies involved local organization and militarization of smallholders for collective-risk management and territorial control. Ultimately, by comparing five vulnerability scenarios, this paper argues that the combination of peasant organization, militarization, and crop/livelihood diversification in Oaxaca mitigates the violent agrarian change associated with this illegal economy, while conserving agrobiodiversity.