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Sustainable Lifeways: Cultural Persistence in an Ever-Changing Environment


As many chapters in this volume demonstrate, unpredictable rainfall is a common reality for farmers worldwide, past and present. During my ethnographic study of farming practices among indigenous Aymara communities on the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia, I had many conversations about rain. When I arrived in October 2003, the farmers said the planting season was delayed because the rains had not yet come. When the rain finally fell in November, they complained that it was too much. Despite anxiety voiced about too much or too little rain, I found that the Taraco farmers have practices that mitigate risks presented by variability in precipitation. The previous chapters have provided examples of risk reduction strategies such as exchange, storage, and economic diversification. In this chapter, I take a detailed look at how farmers in the Lake Titicaca basin of the Andes reduce the risk of crop failure due to unpredictable rainfall through knowledge of the water-retention qualities of the local soils. Using this knowledge they have developed a planting schedule and land-use strategy that usually results in a successful harvest even in the face of drought or flooding.


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© 2011 by University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6324 All rights reserved. Published 2011

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