Subsistence and land-use amongst resettled indigenous people in the Paraguayan Chaco : a participatory approach.
The lack of data on subsistence and land-use patterns often impedes the design of
ecologically sustainable, culturally appropriate, socially acceptable and politically
feasible approaches to the legalisation of land tenure among indigenous peoples.
With specific reference to Amerindians of the Gran Chaco, this thesis shows the
extent to which a participatory research methodology can empower indigenous
peoples in generating, articulating and communicating data which are vital to the
support of their land claims.
Fieldwork was conducted with Angaite Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco between
1994 and 1996. Participatory research methods included a census of ten villages
(pop. 1,005), drawings of subsistence activities, a survey of material possessions, a
time-allocation study, self-kept records of food intake, anthropometric measurements
of children, self-kept records on wildlife use (in ten villages), and Indian-made maps
of land-use. Satellite imagery provided the basis for the geographic analysis of landuse
patterns at local and regional scales.
The Angaite own some land but are surrounded by privately owned cattle ranches.
Their actual land and resource-use patterns extend over an area ten times greater than
that to which they are legally entitled. Although horticulture and paid labour are now
the mainstay of the Indian subsistence economy, hunting and fishing continue to
provide over 90% of their meat consumption. Hunting patterns are shown to affect a
large number of animals but only a small number of species.
Land-use is focused on the communal exploitation of resources at key sites spread
over broad areas of land. This concept is not catered for in the current Paraguayan
legislation, which is based on the principle of giving families a plot of land to farm.
On the basis of data generated by the Angaite, this study underlines the need for a
radical rethinking of how Indian land-rights might be legalised in a manner which
enhances the ecological sustainability of their respective lifestyles. Fundamental to
that rethinking is the empowerment of indigenous peoples to express and
communicate their own views on their own needs for land.