Agrobiodiversity and Development of Meso-Scale Irrigation in Tropical Mountain Ecosystems of Bolivia and Peru

Project: Research project

Project Details


Loss of the biological diversity of diverse food plants (agrobiodiversity) has long been assumed a fait accompli due to the effects of irrigated agricultural development. According to standard assumptions and analysis, agrobiodiversity decline is a necessary environmental trade-off in the irrigation-based development of modern agriculture. Recent studies have challenged assumptions regarding negative interactions between agrobiodiversity and irrigation, however. This research project will investigate the changes in biodiversity, social conditions, and policy networks that are associated with the development of medium-scale irrigation projects during the last 15 to 20 years. The investigators will conduct multiple case studies at field sites in Bolivia and Peru. These studies will be complemented by investigators at international policy and aid organizations in those countries as well as in Canada, the United States, and Colombia. The project is grounded in geographical theory of the relation of the environment to development change. Special emphasis will be given to links between biodiversity in agriculture (agrobiodiversity) and irrigated farm environments. Attention also will be given to irrigation risk and household-level resource status and to the environmental design of irrigation under recent policies of national and global development agencies. The investigator and his Peruvian collaborators will apply research methods and analysis that consist of ethnography and interviews; farm surveys; plant ecological and soils analysis; GIS databases; multiple regression analysis; and examination of institutional, property, and archive documents.

The social significance of this research is expected to be evident in its contributions to policy making and analysis for agricultural and environmental sustainability. This significance is centered on the combined problems and challenges of declining biological diversity in agriculture and the increasing management of water supplies. It is especially significant for the agriculture and inhabitants of semi-arid environments of tropical mountain countries, exemplified in Bolivia and Peru, which support a large share of global agrobiodiversity that is subject to expanding areas of meso-scale irrigation. The research project also will contribute analysis and guidelines on the role of agrobiodiversity to farming under this sort of irrigation management, and it will provide recommendations for policies that are concerned with agrobiodiversity and irrigation in relation to technological and social change.

Effective start/end date7/1/036/30/07


  • National Science Foundation: $229,999.00


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