Colonization San Lorenzo, fifty years later.

CEPES. Colonization San Lorenzo, fifty years later.
Published in: The Agrarian Journal 124, Water and Irrigation, November 2010, Peru.

The irrigation model being promoted by the State, for some years, with examples such as Chavimochic, Olmos and Majes-Siguas II, is clearly excluded for small and medium producers. The experience of San Lorenzo Irrigation in Piura, despite its difficulties, is a mirror in which they should see those who believe that agriculture is profitable only if is practiced on a large scale.


San Lorenzo Irrigation was part of a rural development pilot project promoted by the World Bank for Latin America, and became the program of agricultural frontier expansion of Peru’s most important, transforming a desert into a highly productive valley. What made a model that favors small and medium farmers continue successfully fifty years later? We present a tour of what it meant colonization of land in San Lorenzo and what is now one of the most diverse productive valleys of the country. The Irrigation water infrastructure San Lorenzo was built between 1948 and 1960 was largely financed by a World Bank loan. He saw major civil works: a reservoir capable of storing 250 million cubic meters of water, and an extensive network of over 1,300 kilometres of main and secondary channels, which would allow the irrigation of more than 20 thousand hectares.
.While there, San Lorenzo was conceived as a typical irrigation model, there was something that made him different. The model, proposed by the State, was the delivery of land to small and medium farmers, the largest batch was 80 ha, which also included technical support services directly to the settlers, to which was sent from Lima a team of agronomists, irrigation experts, agricultural extension workers, economists, educators, etc.. A group of professionals engaged in developing the maps, with defined limits of the premises, and to identify soil types, which allowed for a valuation per hectare of each of the plots. Then he summoned the farmers of Piura and the rest of the country, mainly from the coast, they were interested in filling, although farmers had priority area flooded by the reservoir, as well as yanaconas, former tenants and former owners of the areas expropriated.
Alejandro Seminario, an agriculture engineer who joined the team of specialists to the selection of settlers, recalled that in 1961, “many farmers and a large group of professionals are dedicated to receive potential settlers. We had to walk through the areas where were the plots. We went with them to the field and there were interviewed to learn the skills that they had for agriculture. The qualifying went according to who had the greater power or knowledge for successful use of each of these plots. ” The land allocation process lasted five years. The settlers paid an initial fee and the difference was amortized over the next fifteen years. In its initial stage, the project included agriculture engineers specialists in irrigation. A farmer had an engineer with very good level to advise on the best way to irrigate their plots, and that served to build the entire irrigation system from the main valve to the plot. The settlers will also have an agricultural extension system: engineers with experience in temporary and permanent crops, that evaluate, according to soil quality and availability of water, what kinds of crops were better suited to a particular parcel. “There was a market office indicating which products they were buying, at what prices, in what area. Over time, production cooperatives were organized and ended up they had processing plants of fruit and vegetables. There was even a housing program that aimed to deliver a daily farmer’s house, “says Seminario.

Sowing in the desert.
The irrigation and colonization San Lorenzo is the irrigation district with greater success has been practicing crop diversification: Currently 35 000 hectares are under irrigation, where mango and lemon trees occupy the largest area: 14 000 and 8 000 ha respectively. Besides these products, planting rice, vegetables, cotton, avocado, corn, among others. Until 2007, the profitability of mango producers remained at high levels. However, recent seasons have been difficult for those, especially as the agro-export boom was planting the product that grew out of order, prompting prices to fall to very low levels. This year things seem to improve for producers: at the beginning of the harvest are making good prices. Products such as lemon, rice and maize maintain acceptable levels of profitability in recent years, which has enabled San Lorenzo producers invest their profits in other businesses that will generate additional income outside of farming, farmers there are now who plant flowers and take them to sell to Piura, many have their hardware stores, shops, business houses and various businesses gradually expanding the range, “says Francisco Ojeda, a farmer and leader of the San Lorenzo Valley. The engineer Angel Gamarra, president of the Mango Growers Association, notes that almost fifty years after the beginning of colonization, “Tambogrande is an emerging area with hotels, restaurants and shops. You see a lot of investment, lots of movement. There are notable improvements in terms of employment generation, access roads, etc..”.

Unity is strength
The impact assessment report conducted in 1982 by the World Bank points out in his findings that “the most striking feature of the project was the establishment of producer organizations strong and efficient. These organizations were able to organize farmers to cope with the increasing difficulties and to maintain satisfactory levels of living and security for the settlers. ” Over these fifty years, farmers have maintained the spirit of partnership that allows them to obtain better prices for their products, from the now famous Settlers Association of San Lorenzo, through agricultural cooperatives of production to the current producer associations. There are even associations experiences have managed to install mini-plant processing of mangoes. This union of farmers in 2002 allowed to throw out the Manhattan mining company, which sought to exploit the gold mine located in the heart of the valley. But not everything is rosy in this time. A recent profitability problems are compounded by no research and agriculture extension by the state. Since 1976 were completed the works of the project, was set aside researches into new crops, and even experimental station installed in the valley has stopped working. And while the settlers have managed to adapt to the Water Resources Act and become one of the most organized user of the country, have been few efforts to keep in good condition the infrastructure of the irrigation system . At present there are still serious problems of soil salinization, caused by poor drainage infrastructure. The engineer Seminario thus summarizes the change in the lives of several settlers who arrived in San Lorenzo: “The jump from a person living raising goats in the mountains, in areas that had only a little vegetation, in an economy totally marginal, and suddenly becomes a landowner and a vast team of professionals around him, it just becomes in another person. “

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

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