An investigation warns that the communities of indigenous peoples of the Salta Chaco lost 21% of the surface that they traditionally used to hunt, raise livestock and gather food. In addition, the degradation of the remaining forest impacted the quality of life of 64% of the studied communities. The most affected towns were those located in the departments where agriculture advanced the most.
The data arise from the doctoral studies of María Vallejos, who is a professor at the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (FAUBA). “202 communities of native peoples, which include nine ethnic groups, were sampled in five departments in eastern Salta. In this region also live Creole families dedicated to lowland cattle ranching and there are agro-export companies that use large areas for agriculture or extensive cattle ranching for the global market. These actors compete for the use of land, which generates conflicts over access to resources ”, he stated.
The indigenous communities of the Chaco are hunter-gatherers and it is not easy to determine the area of forest they need to survive. To define this surface, GPS were given to different members of the communities, who mapped the collection sites for firewood, water, fruits, wood, honey, fish and animals. With this information the potential area of use was estimated. In addition, to analyze the loss of demanded area and the impact on the well-being of the communities, Vallejos crossed this information with the deforested area in the period 2001-2015 and calculated the drops in the productivity of the remaining forest through the use of satellite images.
The teacher stated that in addition to the loss of area due to the advance of agriculture, 64% of the studied communities were affected by the decrease in the quality of the remaining forest, since processes that provide direct benefits such as the provision of food or flood control. In this sense, the study also demonstrated that the most productive season of the year is shortening (when the provision of ecosystem services is greater). These negative impacts differentially affected the different areas and social groups
Through the analysis of the actors present in the five departments of the Chaco Salteño, indigenous communities -which make use of natural resources at the local level- were identified as the most vulnerable group in the face of changes in land use. "The most affected communities are located in the study area where agricultural expansion is greatest," Vallejos said.
“It is essential to have scientific evidence to understand how changes in land use differentially affect the different social actors. The results of this thesis are useful to understand and monitor these processes, and to empower the most vulnerable groups, as well as the control agencies and the justice system, ”said María, who is also a researcher at the Laboratory for Regional Analysis and Remote Sensing ( LART-FAUBA). At the same time, she highlighted the role of the transmission of knowledge from the scientific to that of management.
Disassembly without borders
“Until 2012, 15.8 million hectares of original Gran Chaco coverage were registered, transformed into crops or pastures. The historical maximum annual deforestation percentage in the Paraguayan Chaco was also determined, which was 4% and occurred in 2010 ”, highlighted Vallejos from the analysis of satellite images of the last 30 years.
In addition, the researcher used the images to characterize the fragmentation of the forest: “The way in which the clearings expand and the predominant size of the plots provides information about the actors that transform the territory. In the Argentine and Paraguayan Gran Chaco large lots dominate, since mechanized farmers and connected with external markets are the engine of change in land use ”.
Vallejos stated that the Chaqueña region is the place in Argentina with the most conflicts over land use. In this sense, Vallejos added that businessmen and producers who dismount to establish extensive production take advantage of the productive potential of the land, the incentives of the international grain market and, above all, the absence or weakness of policies for the protection and conservation of the environment. . For María, after the Forest Law, many Argentine capitals are beginning to invest in Paraguay, where control is less. There are even Argentine investments in Africa to produce soybeans.
“Monitoring deforestation is key to understanding the dynamics of changes in land use and assisting in land use planning,” Vallejos told the scientific outreach site Sobre la Tierra.
Zoning human activity
“Our study generated mechanisms to map territorial actors, integrating biophysical and social aspects. This makes it possible to identify socio-ecological systems that function similarly, that is, they share a certain degree of resilience or vulnerability to shocks. A territorial unit in which agricultural companies predominate cannot be managed in the same way as one in which indigenous communities predominate ”, said Vallejos, adding:“ It is essential to consider the ability of people to withstand negative natural impacts or those caused by them. human activity in zoning ”.
Finally, the teacher highlighted the importance of science and technology in a context of budgetary conflicts and uncertainty about the direction of research organizations in the country: “Science is not disconnected from decision-making. Making wise decisions requires an understanding of how systems work. Theses are not notebooks that are kept on a shelf, they are used. The studies that are being carried out at the faculty have implications in many public and private spheres. The results of this thesis, for example, served to resolve legal disputes, which was unexpected for me at first. One is the Karlen case, who was convicted of illegal clearing, and for another case of deforestation at Finca Cuchuy, in Salta, which currently remains unsolved.