New paper on Payments for Hydrological Services Schemes in Mexico

Want to learn more about Payments for Hydrological Services schemes in Mexico and the efforts to incorporate community-level organization and extensive technical assistance? Read the article my co-authors and I published in Society and Natural Resources (now included in Vol. 31), available at:

Fair Trade Coffee’s Aftertaste

Fair Trade for All (FT4ALL), a new certification developed by Fair Trade USA (FTUSA), is an innovative model to reach more farmers, farm workers, and communities.

FTUSA split off from Fairtrade International (FLO) in 2011, aiming to expand Fair Trade opportunities to independent smallholders and farm workers on medium and large size coffee farms. While FLO only includes smallholders that are organized in cooperatives, it can be argued that independent smallholders and farm workers are in as much, if not more, need of a Fair Trade premium as those in cooperatives.

But what impact does FT4ALL really have on farmers and farm workers? That is the question behind the impact study that the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and partners are conducting in Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Brazil.
If you would like to know more about our preliminary results in Brazil and Nicaragua visit the following link: Fair Trade Coffee’s Aftertaste

Pasado, Presente y Futuro de un Programa de Desarrollo Agricola basado en Investigación: Fundación McKnight y Comunidad de Práctica en la Región Andina

A continuación un resumen sobre mi participación en la comunidad de práctica de la región Andina impulsado por la Fundación McKnight y el Programa Colaborativo de Investigación en Cultivos. Una experiencia grandiosa que no quería dejar de compartir.

Más información sobre mi participación en este proyecto en el siguiente:

Link: Comunidad de Practica – Andes

Participación en la Comunidad de Práctica Año 2013



Audio – Presentación Comunidad de Práctica – Análisis del Proyecto de Alianzas Rurales – Bolivia


Deforestation scenarios for the Bolivian lowlands

Our latest publication in the journal of Environmental Research is title: “Deforestation scenarios for the Bolivian lowlands”. Please see below the abstract and here is the link to the full article:


Tropical forests in South America play a key role in the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon sinks, biodiversity conservation, and global climate regulation. In previous decades, Bolivian forests have mainly been deforested by the expansion of agricultural frontier development, driven by the growing demands for beef and other productions. In the mid-2000s the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party rose to power in Bolivia with the promise of promoting an alternative development model that would respect the environment. The party passed the world’s first laws granting rights to the environment, which they termed Mother Earth (Law No. 300 of 2012), and proposed an innovative framework that was expected to develop radical new conservation policies. The MAS conservationist discourse, policies, and productive practices, however, have since been in permanent tension. The government continues to guarantee food production through neo-extractivist methods by promoting the notion to expand agriculture from 3 to 13 million ha, risking the tropical forests and their ecosystem services. These actions raise major environmental and social concerns, as the potential impacts of such interventions are still unknown. The objective of this study is to explore an innovative land use modeling approach to simulate how the growing demand for land could affect future deforestation trends in Bolivia. We use the LuccME framework to create a spatially-explicit land cover change model and run it under three different deforestation scenarios, spanning from the present–2050. In the Sustainability scenario, deforestation reaches 17,703,786 ha, notably in previously deforested or degraded areas, while leaving forest extensions intact. In the Middle of the road scenario, deforestation and degradation move toward new or paved roads spreading across 25,698,327 ha in 2050, while intact forests are located in Protected Areas (PAs). In theFragmentation scenario, deforestation expands to almost all Bolivian lowlands reaching 37,944,434 ha and leaves small forest patches in a few PAs. These deforestation scenarios are not meant to predict the future but to show how current and future decisions carried out by the neo-extractivist practices of MAS government could affect deforestation and carbon emission trends. In this perspective, recognizing land use systems as open and dynamic systems is a central challenge in designing efficient land use policies and managing a transition towards sustainable land use.


  • Deforestation scenarios;
  • Amazon forest;
  • Land cover change (LCC) model;
  • LuccME

Conflicts and Tensions between the MAS government and NGOs in “Post-neoliberal” Bolivia

ONG1The explosion of NGOs in the developing world is especially associated with neoliberalism. They were seen as the ideal vehicle with which to replace the state. This model emerged from specific liberal conceptions of civil society and its relation to the state in particular. It has been argued that Latin America is now experiencing a post-neoliberal era. This does not mean that neoliberalism and its impact have been eradicated completely, nor that a new model has replaced it, but rather it is an open-ended process characterized by policy experimentation, which may eventually move towards a postneoliberal model. Bolivia, yet again, is at the forefront of such experimentation, as indeed it was at the beginning of the neoliberal era. Such a transitional period naturally brings into question hegemonic development paradigms which have been so influenced by neoliberalism. And among these the role of the NGO is particularly questioned, especially in the countries governed by so-called “New Left” parties, where they were once so hegemonic (except for Venezuela). This mirrors wider debates on the role of NGOs within the development literature and their power to de-politicize development issues.

1014f0a4-5d94-4836-915e-32c1df8c6060_lauzan-evusaid-1-A recent article examined  the growing conflict between NGOs and the so-called post-neoliberal MAS government in Bolivia. This government proposes to re-politicize agrarian development by favouring a prominent role for the state and sees NGOs as a threat to social transformation.  We engage with critiques of development intervention as de-politicizing and with viewpoints that argue that politicization often neglects technological aspects.  We examine how particular definitions of the political and technological field play a role in the growing conflict between NGOs and the MAS goverment.  We show that NGOs appear to have found the space to respond to public confrontation and adapt their interventions to post-neoliberal politics.  While the MAS government is making efforts to bring the state back in, NGOs are trying to accommodate to a highly politicized environment by highlighting their technical strengths and filling the current void in providing technological services. The analysis shows how in development processes the boundaries between the political and technical domain are not fixed. Instead, they are continuously redefined in a process in which actors shift their activities (concrete practices as well as discursive justifications) between these domains.

If you are interested in this paper email me or access the paper in the following link:

Cordoba, D. and Jansen, K. (2015) Realigning the Political and the Technical: NGOs and the Politicization of Agrarian Development in Bolivia. European Journal of Development Research. Advanced online publication.


The Malleability of Participation: Agricultural research and neoliberalism in Bolivia

A new paper title: ‘The Malleability of Participation: The Politics of Agricultural Research under Neoliberalism in Bolivia’ with Kees Jansen and Carolina Gonzalez has been published online in Development and Change Journal

Please see below my post/summary of this research in Bolivia.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the public research model represented by the experimental stations of the Bolivian Andes collapsed.  As part of the administrative decentralization law enacted in 1995 the Bolivian Institute of Agricultural Technology (IBTA) was closed in 1998 and replaced by the Bolivian System of Agricultural Technology (SIBTA) four years later.  The decentralization process was part of broader policy packages starting in 1985 that advocated for a reduced role of the state in rural development, bowing to pressure from international financial institutions as the IMF and the World Bank (Assies, 2003; Perrault, 2007).  SIBTA dispensed with the experimental stations. They were transferred to the departmental governments that did not have either the budget to maintain the stations and research staff nor the experience to manage these centers.  The institutional gap generated during this period of transition facilitated their progressive abandonment. Some stations were at the mercy of the civil unrest of the social struggles in the Andes under the leadership of Felipe Quispe and the Pachakuti Movement, along with the demonstrations against water privatization (water war) in Cochabamba and the coca farmer blockades in the Chapare region against the neoliberal economic project (Albó, 2003)[1].  Some stations were dismantled while in others the abandonment and time corrode the infrastructure, machinery and laboratories.  Gene banks of crops such as tubers and Andean roots, minor cereals, forages, camelides, sheep, and fruit species, as well as documents and passport sheets were lost, making it impossible to continue with any on-station research (Coca 2010; Quispe, 2005).

New PictureSIBTA contributed to the advent of non-state actors, especially non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in agricultural research and extension services. These organizations were seen as an alternative to the ineffective, politicized and bureaucratic state-driven research centers (Kaimowitz, 1993).  It was thought that their privileged presence at the local level and their technical capacity away and protected from political control of the state gave them a privileged position to generate research processes relevant to society (Hartwich, et al., 2007a; 2007b). Words like participation, market-based demand for technology and the strengthening of farmers’ capacities started to be dominant (Ranaboldo, 2002). A new way of governing science production lead by neoliberal politics emerged.

Using the case of PROINPA, a national NGO and a forerunner in agricultural research in the Bolivian Andes, our new paper discusses how neoliberal restructuring embraced an increased use of participatory methods by research organizations that once were part of the state system for agricultural research but had become privatized.  Inspired by Foucault’s work on governmentality and neoliberalism, we conceptualize participation as a productive new way of governing people, a technology of government, rather than a simply repressive tool through which power is exercised.  We show how PROINPA shaped participatory methods to create moments of ‘real’ participation. Although PROINPA used participation mainly for their managerialist effectiveness, it also had to play politics to balance its notions of technical expertise, globalizers and developers wishes with local contexts and demands.  We argue that participation is not only about power, social relations and processes, but is also about reconnecting people and things and whether it makes sense to people, researchers and farmers alike, heavily relies on technological success. Our new paper seeks to contribute to the ongoing debate of participation in development and the normalization of participatory methods in agricultural technology innovation and its implications for thinking about technological improvement and politics

[1] The invaded statation were: Patacamaya station in August 2002, the Kallutaca and Huayrocondo stations in September and October of 2003, and the Belén station in 2004 (El Diario, 2004; El Diario, 2005).


Albó , X. (2003). Pueblos indios en la política. La Paz: Plural-CIPCA.

Assies, W. (2003). David versus Goliath in Cochabamba: Water rights, neoliberalism, and the revival of social protest in Bolivia. Latin American Perspectives, 30(3), pp.14–36. Available at:

Hartwich, F., Alexaki, A., & Baptista, R. (2007a). Innovation systems governance in Bolivia: lessons for agricultural innovation policies: Intl Food Policy Res Inst.

Hartwich, F., & Jansen, H. G. (2007b). El rol gubernamental en el proceso de innovación agropecuaria: La experiencia de Bolivia. Research briefs.

Kaimowitz, D. (1993). The role of nongovernmental organizations in agricultural research and technology transfer in Latin America. World Development, 21(7), 1139-1150.

Perrault T. (2007). ‘De la ‘guerra del agua’ a la ‘guerra del gas’: gobernabilidad de recursos, neoliberalismo y protesta popular en Bolivia’. In, Crespo C. and Spronk S. (eds) 2007. Después de las Guerras del Agua, Plural Editores. La Paz, Bolivia.

Ranaboldo, C. (2002). Asistencia Técnica y Sector Agropecuario Campesino: Y si dejáramos de pensar en “un sistema”?, Condiciones y Posibilidades Productivas del Campesino Andino en el Libre Comercio. La Paz.

Black Sigatoka Disease and Agricultural Research in Brazil and Colombia

A new article titled: “Same Disease—different research strategies: Bananas and Black Sigatoka in Brazil and Colombia” was recently published in the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. This article raises the question in what aspects research on banana diseases, in particular black Sigatoka, and current practices and innovations in disease control differ in Brazil and Colombia. We show how state-producer-researcher networks have developed divergent research trajectories (different research agendas, different research priorities, different research-state-producer networks, and so on) to the same disease (black Sigatoka).

Below a summary of the paper:

Fungal dise030ase epidemics have the potentialto bring about drastic innovations. However, in the case of the Black Sigatoka (Mycosphaerella fijiensis) fungus in bananas, producers and international traders are still awaiting a breakthrough in crop protection research. Using the cases of Brazil and Colombia, this paper examines different agricultural research responses to the disease. Brazil opted to replace susceptible varieties with resistant ones, whereas in Colombia chemical control by private actors dominated. We argue that these different responses result from at least three interrelated factors. First, producer type—smallholder farmers or larger export-oriented plantations—influences the setting of crop protection research priorities. Second, a central, state-led role versus a private sector response influences the size and time perspective of research activities. Third, domestic markets with multiple crop varieties versus Cavendish-only export markets leads to differences in control practices and research responses. From this case study, we argue that the currently proposed innovation systems approaches in international agricultural research should adopt a broader perspective that assesses how research is interwoven with agrarian dynamics, commodity chains and particular state roles to elucidate how state–producer–researcher networks perform disease control and where and how to find new solutions.


Cordoba, Diana and Kees Jansen. Same Disease—different research strategies: Bananas and Black Sigatoka in Brazil and Colombia. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. Early view.

The Return of the State in Agrarian Development and its Contribution to Food Sovereignty in Bolivia

A summary of my paper in the Journal of Agrarian Change on the return of the state in Bolivia, and in general in Latin America!

  In the 20th century several Latin American countries turned to state control of agricultural production and commercialization to meet domestic demands for food (e.g. through marketing boards), but since the mid-eighties this state intervention declined due to a strong process of liberalization.  More recently, we see a return of the state in Latin America, driven by the so-called ‘New Left’, of which the Bolivian case is one example (besides Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela).  Once in power, the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) government officially rejected the dominant food regime led by large-scale industrial agriculture in the east of the country.  It prioritized peasant and communitarian economies and conceptualized the state as the main instrument to realize change.


A recent study led by CIAT in collaboration with the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University, and funded by the Collaborative Crop Research Program from McKnight Foundation, explored the current role of the Bolivian state to enhance food sovereignty.  It asked how the Bolivian state has tried to implement agrarian policies in the agro-chain as an alternative to the dominant food system in the country to benefit small farmers and national food sovereignty.

To address this question, the study examined the case of the Empresa de Apoyo a la Producción de Alimentos (EMAPA, Company for the Support of Food Production).  EMAPA, created in 2007 as one of the 18 new public companies financed with revenues from hydrocarbons and minerals, has to support production, commercialization, and stabilization of the agricultural market (rice, wheat, maize and soybean).  EMAPA offers seeds, agricultural inputs, and technical assistance to small and medium producers with 0 per cent interest loans and purchases from small and medium producers to offer an alternative to the vertically integrated systems of commercialization dominated by the agribusiness sector.



By focusing on EMAPA, we studied the capacity of the Bolivian state to intervene in rural development, to enhance food sovereignty, and to increase their control over regional elites and international non-state actors that dominate in Santa Cruz, the department where EMAPA concentrates most of its intervention. We examined three aspects of this state intervention for food sovereignty: a) The institutional arrangement to meet its goals; b) the relative autonomy of the state to formulate and implement alternative views on agrarian production and its independence from actors who may affect the fulfillment of its objectives; and c) the capacity of state organizations to carry out these alternatives that enable food sovereignty in favor of small farmers.


Far from the often-heard criticisms of the State intervention, this study shows how the Bolivian government has extended the much needed state’s support (credit and inputs) to places and people where it did not exist, helping small farmers to carry out agricultural production.  However, for the most part the findings question the lack of state leadership in generating technological changes to break small farmers’ dependency ties with the agro-industrial sector and adapt agricultural technology to local problems. It also makes clear the immense difficulties that the Bolivian government faces in bringing food prices under control and enabling food production for poor people, especially in the cities. These have included popular protests against EMAPA, the skyrocketing of food prices in 2008 and 2010 and the lack of state capacity to intervene in food production and commercialization.

If you want to read more about the findings of this study, please visit this link or e-mail us.

STEPS Summer School at the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton – UK

The STEPS Center Summer School on pathways to sustainability took place from 12-23 May at the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, UK. The STEPS center aimed to bring together an exceptional group of people who are exploring and developing ideas on pathways to sustainability. The 2014 summer school was attended by over 40 participants, PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from 25 countries, working in fields around development studies, science and technology studies, innovation and policy studies, and across agricultural, health, water or energy issues.

Some of the STEPS summer school participants

Some of the STEPS summer school participants

The Summer School facilitators introduced us to the Pathways approach as a way to understand and contribute to the collective construction of sustainable pathways in a complex and dynamic world. Emerging from iteration between the STEPS Centre’s theoretical work and empirical field-based projects, the pathways approach is an ongoing work-in-progress that focuses on emerging sustainability challenges such as climate change, poverty, food crises, water management and scarcity, among others. Through what they called the 3D’s agenda, the STEPS center advocates for an increased focus on: a) an equitable distribution of the costs, benefits and risks of innovations, b) the maintenance and enhancement of a diversity of innovation pathways responding to sustainability challenges in different social, technological and environmental contexts, and c) a directionality (towards specific Sustainability objectives). By bringing these 3D’s interrelated aspects in the sustainability agenda, the STEPS center seeks to flesh out politics and power – unequal power relations- issues to take them both into account when designing development interventions.

Steps discussions and round tables

Steps open discussions

During the summer school and through a mix of lectures, walk-shops, discussions and public events, participants challenged the STEPS team and each other on questions of science, society and development. I was fortunate to participate actively in this summer school and to share and discuss with other young scholars the major results of our investigations and new ideas for further research.  Some of the highlights from this summer school were the current experiences of the STEPS researchers with a pull of methodologies and approaches that have been tested in different research and development programmes, as well as the possibilities to influence policy-makers at different scales. Our discussions also highlighted, on one hand the need to open up spaces that include different ways of perceiving and exercising participation (from social movements to cooperatives and more ‘productive’ and technical oriented organizations), and on the other our own experiences on generating reflexive research. For more information on the STEPS Summer School (12-23 May 2014) please visit: