cattle and horse feed; all animal wastes were reintegrated as fertilizer for the fields (Altieri and Merrick, 1987).

In the highlands of Bolivia, the project AGRUCO is attempting to maintain the ecological diversity of the Andean agropastoral economy by helping peasants recover their production autonomy. To replace the use of fertilizers and meet the nitrogen requirements of potatoes and cereals, intercropping and rotational systems utilizing a native species, wild lupin (Lupinus mutabilis), have been designed. Wild lupin has been cultivated in the high Andes for several thousand years (Smith, 1976). It can fix 200 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare, part of which becomes available to the associated or subsequent potato crop, thus significantly minimizing the need for fertilizers (Augstburger, 1983).

In Chile, where lately the peasantry has been subjected to a process of systematic impoverishment, the Centro de Educacion y Tecnologa (CET) is helping peasants become self-sufficient, thus reducing their dependence on credit demands and fluctuating market prices. CET’s approach has been to establish several 0.5-hectare model farms where most of the food requirements for a family with scarce capital and land can be met (Altieri, 1983). Peasant community leaders live in CET farms for variable periods, thus learning through direct participation farm design, management technologies, and resource allocation recommendations. CET farms are composed of a diversified combination of crops, trees, and animals. The main components are vegetables, staple crops (corn, beans, potatoes, fava beans), cereals, forage crops, fruit trees, forest trees (e.g., Robinia, Gleditsia, Salix), and domestic animals all assembled in a 7-year rotational system designed to produce the maximum variety of basic crops in six plots, taking advantage of the soil-restoring properties of the legumes included in the rotation (Altieri, 1983). Most species are locally adapted varieties traditionally grown and consumed by rural populations (Altieri and Merrick, 1987).


A number of people have stressed the importance of in situ preservation of crop genetic resources but have failed to suggest practical avenues to achieve this goal in Third-World countries (Prescott-Allen and Prescott-Allen, 1982). If the conservation of crop genetic resources is indeed to succeed among small farmers, the process must be linked to rural development efforts that give equal importance to local resource conservation and to food self-sufficiency and market participation. Any attempt at in situ crop genetic conservation must struggle to preserve the agroecosystem in which these resources occur (Nabhan, 1985, 1986). In the same vein, preservation of traditional agroecosystems cannot succeed if not tied to the maintenance of the sociocultural organization of the local people (Altieri, 1983). The few examples of grassroots rural development programs currently functioning in the Third World suggest that the process of agricultural betterment must utilize and promote autochthonous knowledge and resource-efficient technologies; emphasize the use of local and indigenous resources, including valuable crop germplasm and essentials such as firewood resources and medicinal plants; and be based on self-contained villages and the active participation of the peasants (Altieri and

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement