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Chapter 3 - Ccorao

General characteristics


Department of Cuzco, Province of Cuzco
3,380-4,000 metres above sea level
15 km from Cuzco



575 residents
132 households


Land Resources:

1,862 ha
60% rainfed farmland and pasture (rotated)


Main Crops:

Potatoes, broad beans, barley, wheat
oca, olluco, lettuce, onions


Forest Resources:

50 ha eucalyptus
Some native shrubs on hilltops


Sources Of Income:

Farming, produce sales, small animal breeding
casual wage labour


The history of land use and tenure

Ccorao has also struggled to sustain a growing population on a very limited resource base. The presence of haciendas in the area has further decreased land availability. Although Ccorao has been able to maintain relative political autonomy since the late 1950s, there has been very little improvement in the availability of farmland for poor community members. The Agrarian Reform of the 1970s made little difference. While large landowners were obliged to give up sizeable portions of their property, these were sold individually to approximately 40 of Ccorao's wealthiest families, i.e. 30% of the village's households. Most of the remaining inhabitants saw little change in their situation; they remained highly dependent on neighbouring estates for permission to farm hacienda fields in return for labour. The increase in arable land promised by the construction of a new aqueduct system had yet to be realised by the mid-1980s.

Access to Land Through Group Work

Despite some improvement in village land holdings over the years, many poor residents of Ccorao have persistently been dependent on nearby estates for their means of livelihood. Any gains in access to land have been due mainly to the evolution of new work practices. Poor farmers have been able to farm hacienda land for their own purposes in exchange for their collective labour. The conversion of sizeable portions of village property to community tree plantations in the late 1960s and early 1970s closed off other alternatives for gaining usufruct land rights. The vulnerable position of many poor villagers in Ccorao has not changed.

In Ccorao as elsewhere, land scarcity has reinforced a strong preference for individual rather than communal farming. Only 3 ha of irrigated land around Ccorao have been farmed communally since the 1950s. This communal land has survived for two reasons. Public and private organizations have encouraged the village to maintain traditional farming systems, and the nearby Bandorani hacienda has persistently threatened to annex the land (wider community assistance in maintaining the area has helped protect it from expropriation by this powerful neighbour).

Although communal farming has declined sharply over the years, commonly owned village property continues to exist in the village, largely in the form of entrada plots. These tracts of land are rotated periodically from fallow to different crops under the supervision of the village governing body. Although collectively owned, entrada plots have been assigned to specific individual families.

The main obstacles to acceptance of reforestation proposals in the 60s and 70s were the fragmented ownership and scarcity of cutivatable land. Photo: Miguel Ramon

The rotation schedule is organized to permit the community to raise cattle and sheep and collect dried cattle dung and native shrubs. The system has allowed Ccorao to incorporate even very poor lands into its stock of farmland.

Migration and access to hacienda land through group work has helped ease the pressure on Ccorao's limited resources. This is why the community has not been forced to subdivide entrada lands or to shorten traditional fallow periods. In the past thirty years, the only change in entrada management has been the use of part of one entrada plot for communal reforestation.

Community organization

One of Ccorao's most distinctive characteristics has been the consistent strength of its community organization. Thanks to a history of relatively equitable distribution of resources within the community, a predominance of families of middle-level economic status, ongoing relationships of reciprocity and long-standing traditions of struggle against outside forces, Ccorao's Community Assembly has been a particularly cohesive and effective decision-making body. This has allowed Ccorao to defend itself successfully against recurring attempts by the Bandorani estate and neighbouring communities to annex Ccorao community territory. It has also allowed Ccorao to win itself freedom to organize and control its own resources.

The Ccorao community has had a history of active community participation in it's Community Assemblies and faena projects. This has ensured that elected village leaders are held accountable for the use of community funds, distribution of project costs and benefits, implementation of Assembly agreements, and management of Assembly sessions. Dissent among community members and their leaders does, however, continue to be considerable. Final authority over issues like land tenure rests with village leaders who have made some unpopular decisions.

Forest resources

With tremendous pressure on the Ccorao community to use every possible piece of land for farming, very little forest cover remained in the area by the 1960s.

Standing Up to Outsiders

As a result of its strong organization, Ccorao secured independence from its parent community, Ayamarmaca-Pumamarka, in 1965. With its own village government, Ccorao was better able to defend its village borders. When a community-planted eucalyptus grove was partially destroyed by the national government's construction of a highway in 1978, the community succeeded in collecting an indemnity for the loss.

Another indication of the strength of the Ccorao community organization has been the success it has had in obtaining economic and technical assistance from external state and private agencies. The community has sought this assistance mainly to make village improvements that help the community use its resources more productively. Among the most notable successes have been the construction and subsequent enlargement of a small irrigation canal, installation of a potable water system and the import of new farming equipment and tools.

The lack of trees was offset by the fairly abundant presence of native shrubs, especially on nearby hilltops and fallow and grazing fields. A careful rationing system and the use of dried cattle and sheep dung, branches of native trees, straw, stubble and shrubs (collected mainly by women), made it possible for families to satisfy their cooking fuel needs. The need for more fuelwood and building materials did, how- ever, lead to new reforestation efforts.

Reforestation. Household-based reforestastion.

The recent history of reforestation in Ccorao has involved both community and family-based ventures. Well before any official community reforestation pro- gramme was initiated, families often planted native tree species such as Queñua, Buddleia spp., and Quishuar, Polvlepis sue., on their farm plots and near their homes. Eucalyptus seedlings had been introduced to the area when made available to a neighbouring community. Although village households appeared to like using the exotic tree species, they were not widely planted at the time, mainly because of the shortage of healthy seedlings and technical knowledge.

Planting eucalyptus trees on family plots became more common with the establishment of forestry nurseries in the nearby towns of Cuzco and Calca, and the later initiation of a communal reforestation programme within Ccorao itself. Small- scale family-based eucalyptus cultivation never developed into large family-owned plantations due largely to the prohibitive technical requirements of maintaining this species on a larger scale. Nevertheless, many of the family- owned eucalyptus trees that exist today are the same age as those found in the communal plantations, indicating that family reforestation developed as an indi- rect result of communal reforestation.

Communal reforestation

Like the Ccollana-Chequerec case study, the history of organized community reforestation in Ccorao may be divided into three distinct phases based on the amount of community support.

Ccorao's community reforestation ventures began in 1966 when staff from the government's "Forestry and Hunting Service" proposed a project with assis- tance from the government and a trust fund loan. The initial proposal was well-- received. It suggested planting eucalyptus trees (already a valued species in the community) and implied that no land under cultivation would be used for the project.

The initial proposal's apparent promise not to conflict with existing land practices was however, never made a formal part of the final agreement. When the contract for the reforestation of 50 ha of land was signed, it specified a planting site on village entrada land that was currently being used for grazing livestock and which had already been assigned to individual families for eventual cultivation. Almost immediately after ratification, the project was criticized by those who stood to lose access to the land. Because part of the funding had already been invested in seedlings, however, attempts to annul the contract were unsuccessful. Dissatisfied members of the community were able to obtain a promise for compensation in the form of coppice re-growth after the first felling. The plantation was subsequently named the "Ccasa" forest.

Following the disillusionment caused by the project's initial implementation in the late 1960s, the 1970s was typified by almost total opposition to any new reforestation efforts. Only 5 ha were planted with trees during this period despite numerous proposals from forestry officials. Leaders were generally reluctant to stir up more conflict by advocating new projects.

Interest in planting new sites grew among village leaders only as initial reforestation sites approached maturity and the promise of community income became more tangible. The terms of the original contract required that any harvesting of the original plantation be accompanied by the planting of a new woodlot. Furthermore, the opportunity to install a potable water system arose. In 1980, the Community Assembly agreed to apply for a logging license for their original plantation, to sell one lot to an interested middleman and establish a new plantation with further government assistance. In 1981, the Community Assembly accepted a contract with the International Development Bank to plant trees on 50 ha of community land.

Three factors appear to have catalysed the change in attitude. First, a neighbouring community had attempted to take possession of some of Ccorao's grazing land. Villagers saw planting trees in the disputed area as one means of protecting their property rights. Second, forestry technicians began to show a greater flexibility in site selection requirements. This helped community members overcome their fear that reforestation projects would reduce the size of their farmland and alter their land tenure arrangements. Finally, the potential to earn daily wages from reforestation work proved a significant incentive, especially for the community's poor. As the community agreed to accept a new plantation, logging permits for the original Ccasa plantation were granted.

At the time of this case study, approximately 67% of the community's families, mostly from the poorest strata, supported the establishment of new communal forestry plantations on non-arable land and border zones. Furthermore, interest in family reforestation had not diminished. More than 90% of Ccorao's households wanted to plant eucalyptus trees on their own plots.

Forest resources: Supply and demand

Forest resources continue to be an important for cooking and house construction in Ccorao. Thanks to the reforestation efforts of the past two decades, the community now has communal eucalyptus plantations and private eucalyptus groves to supplement the native shrubs growing on entrada plots. Eucalyptus has largely replaced native trees as the community's main source of lumber. Although the plantations have made the collection of native species and cattle dung somewhat more difficult, their proximity and careful management have helped reduce the work involved in fuel gathering.

Local levels of eucalyptus consumption remain relatively low. Higher-income families consume three to five trunks (approximately 20 to 50 cm in diameter) per year. Medium income families use about two trunks while poor families consume less than one. The average consumption is one thick trunk or two thin trunks per year. Eucalyptus promises to continue to be an important community resource.

Distribution of benefits

As in Ccollana-Chequerec, distributing the costs and benefits of reforestation efforts has been hindered by conflicting priorities and divergent interests. The first villagers to benefit from the Ccasa forest were women, who started to gather eucalyptus branches and dried leaves for fuel a few years after planting. In 1984, however, community leaders prohibited all such activities in the plantation sites, citing the technical problems that this kind of gathering caused. They maintained that prohibiting branch collection would help preserve the bark on the trees and help control illegal felling. Additionally they felt that the tree branches that were being collected for fuelwood could be profitably sold as fuel to brick and tile manufacturers.

Wood merchants became interested in premature exploitation of the Ccasa forest because of its proximity to a highway leading to Cuzco. Community leaders saw logging as a way to obtain funds for development projects and responded favourably to the merchants' purchase offers. One leader even arranged the sale of 100 trunks as early as 1974. Some community members were not enthusiastic about the early tree sale. There was concern that felling the original forest would require new plantation sites decreasing the availability of arable farming land. Community members also opposed the sale because the necessary logging license was not yet available and the young forest would command a low price. When community leaders attempted to begin selling the trees in 1977, other community members would not authorize the sale. Only when the opportunity to install a potable water system arose did the community agree to sell approximately 3,350 trees despite the low price that was offered.


While selling the Ccasa plantation trees allowed the villagers of Ccorao to complete their waterI project, the terms of the sale were disadvantageous. On the basis of a forestry official's unfavourable assessment of the plantation, the price for the trees was very low, only 4 intis per tree (as of May 1987 the exchange rate was 21 .80 intis to 1 US Dollar). Furthermore. maintaining that the contract did not specify the exact time when logging should occur, the buyer did not fell the trees he had purchased for many months and in the end chose only those trees with the largest diameter.

The unfair terms of the felling contract for the Ccasa plantation fueled opposition to the sale of forest resources to merchants. As a result, in 1983, the Village Assembly agreed that members would be given preferential status in subsequent sales. For community members, prices would be lower than market value. To safe- guard the tree supply and to avoid over-felling, restrictions were placed on the quantities of trees that could be sold to lumber merchants.

Questionable Deals

The resolutions adopted by the Ccorao community regarding its common property forests were unfortunately. not always carried out. A permit for felling 3,055 trees was eventually secured in 1985 and again merchants benefited most. One merchant obtained over 2,000 trees at 1980 prices; the sale had been arranged by former leaders, contrary to all community agreements and the expe- rience increased community member opposition to dealing with merchants. It also confirmed the need for reater community control over sales.

Despite the problems the community has encountered with its reforestation programme, most Ccorao households say they have benefited from the Ccasa forest. Among the benefits most often cited are: new employment opportunities (due to the construction of a health centre, a community centre and an irrigation canal); improved tree availability for building and to a lesser degree, for fuelwood; the opportunity to gather eucalyptus branches for fuelwood (although this practice was later banned by village leaders); and, a new source of funds for the purchase of communal goods and for community projects.

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