Agricultural restructuring and coordinated policies for rural development in Chile
Despite a successful process of economic growth in Chile principally engineered by a dramatic rise and diversification of primary exports since the late 1970s, rural poverty is still a widespread condition throughout the country; nearly 40 per cent of the rural population are affected by this condition. From a geographical perspective, rural poverty in Chile is a complex result of different intervening factors. The adoption of outward-oriented strategies of development since the mid-1970s has initiated some new trends that have adversely affected a significant segment of the rural population. Thus, one of the results of the socio-productive change, which can be observed in the Chilean countryside, is a growing number of landless peasants and an aggressive market for agricultural land. New lands have been required for the expansion of export-led primary resources, notably agricultural and forestry. In parallel, the developing of a seasonal structure of labour demand has become an additional constraint affecting the rural labour force and the quality of life in rural areas. Within the institutional framework of the government rural problems have been largely perceived as a responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture. However, usually the main difficulties affecting rural population are not only related to productive concerns but they are also associated with a wider number of inter-sectoral constraints (e.g. availability and access to housing, social services and infrastructure, to grass root organisations, to culture and recreation among others). So, any attempt oriented to increase rural development transcends unisectoral policies. This study has three main general aims. First, it attempts to explore the background to rural poverty in Chile in a national and international context. Secondly it examines the regional evolution of agriculture in a highly-competitive framework. In this context, a comparison is made of a region that has been transformed by export-led agriculture with a region whose products have not been competitive internationally and, indeed, have found it difficult to remain competitive in the national market. Thirdly, it pretends to present and evaluate an intersectoral attempt by the democratic government of President Patricio Aylwin to alleviate rural poverty through better organisation and coordination of ministerial responsibilities dedicated to rural areas. The vehicle for improving horizontal coordination was the Interministerial Commission for Rural Development-CIDER. The regional focus was the VII Region (Maule), a region that had not benefited from export-led agriculture.