Smallholder livelihoods and market accessibility in the Peruvian Amazon



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Abstract: This study examines how differential accessibility to regional markets and natural resources affects smallholder livelihoods in the northeastern Peruvian Amazon, particularly in terms of household income diversification or specialization. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods were applied to semi-structured smallholder household (N = 319) and community leader interview data collected in 40 communities in 2006-2007, in addition to change detection performed on Landsat satellite imagery (1987, 1993, and 2001). First, the dissertation explores changes in smallholder land use patterns across the study region during a period of profound macroeconomic changes and continual urbanization, finding that overall land use trends of agricultural abandonment reflected national reductions in agrarian subsidies. Second, based on interview data, household processes of income diversification and specialization were analyzed in two sections of the study area, the Itaya and Nanay basins. In the Itaya Basin, it was observed that smallholder livelihood specialization was aided by road development increasing transportation accessibility to important regional markets. In the more isolated Nanay Basin, livelihood choices were found to be influenced by processes of livelihood displacement caused by conservation efforts, in addition to remoteness and river seasonality. This study concludes by reflecting on the importance of the spatial relations of access to resources and markets in the region and in similar places in the developing tropics. This kind of information can help make national and regional policy decisions on such issues such as conservation, agrarian credits, road development, which may differentially affect smallholder livelihoods and their environments.