Large irrigation: the best option?

CEPES. Large irrigation: the best option? Published in: The Agrarian Journal 122, Water and Irrigation, September 2010, Peru.

In the last three decades, Peru has invested more than 4 500 million dollars in irrigation works, especially on the coast. Only Brazil and Mexico, the largest countries in Latin America, have invested more. Has been worth the investment? According GRADE study  the new 180 000 hectares, and other 195 000 hectares improving irrigation  have required an investment of $ 12 000 per hectare, reaching in the case of Majes, Arequipa, the  40 000 dollares per hectare, amounts greater than the market value of one hectare  under irrigation.

Moreover, these projects have exacerbated the problem of salinization of soils, which affects about one third of all arable land on the coast. The paradox is that on the one hand, large investments are made to gain lands and, secondly, at the same time are lost, because salinity reduces soil fertility to zero.

Why do then, these mighty works? Many reasons influence. One of them is regionalist claims. Populations in the regions expect the incorporation of new land will open up new opportunities, fair expectation, but not necessarily supported by reality, since the new lands won, as Chavimochic where a dozen companies have the vast majority of land and Olmos where minimum lots to be sold soon are 500 and 1000 hectares, the locals have no access, including employers in the region, due to large amounts of investment required:  4250 dollares per hectare is needed 4. 25 million dollars to buy a lot of one thousand hectares, to which must be added thousands of extra dollars of investment to enter the production phase. Under these conditions, only large national  and foreign investors can access these lands. The Lambayeques will be their employees and workers.

The decision to sell in large lots is political rather than economic. Since the government of Fujimori, governments have opted for neo estates exporter and thrust of the strategy of modernization of coastal agriculture, an option that exacerbates inequalities in the distribution of a resource that is so important for more than a million and half families . Other options are more inclusive and equitable as possible, without the expense of economic efficiency. The colonization of San Lorenzo, in the department of Piura, is a good example of an irrigation project whose lands were transferred to medium and small farmers, who have been successful and many of them are exporters. This type of agriculture contributes more to regional development, while large neo estates often adopt  characteristics of enclaves.

Publisher by: Peru Centre of Social Studies- CEPES, Lima, Peru.



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