Change and continuity in a peasant community of Peruvian shepherds : the case of Pilpichaca, Huancavelica
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Pilpichaca is a campesino community of shepherds located in the highlands of Huancavelica in the southern Andes of Peru. Its lands are between 3900 and 5200 m elevation within an ecosystem characterized as puna or dry tropical alpine. This thesis analyzes how the community of Pilpichaca interacts with its environment over the course of three different spans of time (long-term, a recent decade, and present time). Using methods from the social sciences and Geographic Information Science, this thesis analyzes historical archives, remotely-sensed data, and current land-use practices in Pilpichaca. The combination of these two scientific traditions aimed to understand the socio-environmental dynamics of Pilpichaca. This thesis elucidates how high-elevation Andean pastoralism systems have responded to disturbances from the complex drivers of the 'outside world,' such as climate change. The main economic activity in Pilpichaca is the cultivation of mixed flocks of alpaca, llama, and sheep. The land-tenure system combines communal ownership of pastureland with the use of those lands by individual households. Pilpichaca's landscape is a key element in the pastoralist system that has been changing over the course of many centuries in conjunction with changes in the socioeconomic context. South American camelids were domesticated and became conditioned to life in the highland environment over many years; more recently, sheep were introduced in the Andes along with the Spanish tradition of livestock cultivation. Over the long-term period, these may be the most significant transformations in the Andean highlands. This thesis has used satellite imagery from 1990 and 2000 to analyze land use/ land cover change (LULCC), to establish the situation of different LULC classes, and to provide possible ecological succession figures. Over that decade (1990-2000), the landscape of Pilpichaca has changed dramatically demonstrating a multipath ecological succession. The most dynamic classes were Wetland (326%), Barren Light Vegetation Soil (314%), and Snow/Ice (-95%). Changes in LULC have been identified and contextualized by this thesis revealing that the causes of the changes occur at both global and local scales and result from social and environmental dynamics (e.g., diminishing snow/ice cover and increasing wetlands). Past, current and potential responses of the people to these changes are described and show that the community has a body of knowledge pertaining to their environment, and flexible but strict social and political relationships that manage the use of limited natural (e.g., pastures and water) and cultural (e.g., population and livestock) resources.