Problem of Access to Land for Bolivian Horticultural Producers in the Transitional Zone of Western Greater Buenos Aires
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Problem of Access to Land for Bolivian Horticultural Producers in the Transitional Zone of Western Greater Buenos Aires


The Buenos Aires metropolitan area (BAMA) is one of the largest urban areas in Latin America with a total population of 11.5 million inhabitants. The core district, the city of Buenos Aires, has around 3 million, while the suburbs contain some 8.6 million. To the west, the principal suburb is Moreno, with a population of 380,000 inhabitants. While it is generally considered that Moreno forms a part of the urban area, since it has a central commercial and residential area, it also has an extensive area on the urban perimeter with mixed rural and urban characteristics. 1 Land use is very diverse including: primary activities (horticulture, flower-growing, poultry-farming, bee-keeping and marginal ranching); small construction industries (brick-making); dispersed industrial establishments; dispersed residential spaces (country clubs, settlements and poor neighborhoods), etc. Moreno is one of the 14 partidos which make up the so-called Buenos Aires Green Belt (18,000 hectares).

The Green Belt of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (BAMA)

Throughout the 20th century the Green Belt of the BAMA has specialized in different agricultural crops. Benencia (1984), using various agricultural censuses, has analyzed its historical evolution. In 1914, maize, flax for fiber, sweet potatoes were cultivated; by 1937, cattle-raising and milk production had been added to fruits, maize and alfalfa. In 1969, artichokes, celery, tomatoes, and squash had become prominent. The National Census of 1988 and the recent 1998 horticultural census show strong specialization in horticultural products, both in the open and under plastic.

The evolution of production in the Green Belt is related to a complex set of socioeconomic and spatial factors. The intense urbanization that took place throughout the 20th century gradually displaced the primary activities on the city's periphery, as well as changes in consumer markets and in the structure of commercialization. At the same time, from the producers point of view, in recent decades important changes have been [End Page 127] noted in their demographic and cultural make-up: the increasing presence of Portuguese truck farmers in the western and south-western areas of the BAMA; of Japanese flower-growers in the northwest and the south since the 1950s, and the notable presence of Bolivians from the 1980s. In summary, territorial changes, the evolution of the market, the cultural and technological points of view of the producers and the possibilities or restrictions imposed by the physical space, 2 explain the geographical composition of the Buenos Aires Green Belt.

The horticultural sector: social aspects

Horticulture in Buenos Aires is mostly carried out by workers of Bolivian origin, 3 who rent market gardens from older Portuguese producers. The geographical circuit of the Bolivian immigrants is complex; since the 1960s immigrants from the south of Bolivia have been coming for the sugar harvest in the northern Argentine provinces of Salta and Jujuy, and the grape harvest in the western provinces of San Juan and Mendoza, and finally they have arrived on the edge of the BAMA, where many have made their permanent homes. Currently, there are also Bolivian workers in other areas of the country, for example in Mar del Plata, and in Gaiman (Patagonia), etc. The economic progress of a Bolivian worker (from migrant laborer, to one who shares the harvest, and from there to be the owner of a piece of land) takes from 10 to 12 years.

With reference to Moreno, the 1998 horticultural census shows us that in the partido there were 56 units, working 362.72 hectares. 54 establishments (186.65 hectares) employed 172 people and 8 units (125 hectares) were worked by 77 medieros. The municipal agency which gives support to the horticultural producers is called IMDEL

(Municipal Institute for Local Economic Development). It has established a different way of classifying the units of production. They estimate that there are 267 families producing in 67 units which occupy some 450 hectares. The crops are divided into the following categories: 79 hectares of lettuce, 63.35 hectares of swiss chard, 48.8 hectares of zucchini, 16.32 hectares of tomatoes redondo and perita...