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Vicuña conservation and poverty alleviation? Andean communities and international fibre markets

Author(s): Gabriela Lichtenstein

Journal: International Journal of the Commons
ISSN 1875-0281

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 100;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: common pool resources | wildlife | collective action | poverty alleviaton | conservation policies

Vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) fiber is produced by extremely low-income communities that inhabit the harsh environment of the Andes in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia. At the other end of the social scale, affluent consumers are willing to pay high prices for vicuna-made accessories and clothes. Vicuna management projects follow the logic of community-based wildlife management. The rationale for seeking to conserve vicuñas through sustainable use is that commercial utilization of the fiber (obtained from live-shorn animals) will generate sufficient economic benefits to outweigh the costs of conservation, and contribute to community development and poverty alleviation. However, although conservation efforts have been extremely successful with vicuñas having recovered from the brink of extinction, the socio-economic achievements have thus far proved modest. This paper explores multiple-objective projects that address vicuña conservation and poverty alleviation in Andean countries. In doing so it analyses the tensions that exist between these objectives, as well as the factors that limit a more equitable distribution of benefits among stakeholders. Examples are drawn from vicuna management under common-property in Peru and Bolivia, and vicuna captive management under private property in Argentina. These case studies enable us to illustrate the complex relationship between local communities and the global market, and the importance of community enterprises and supportive government policy in managing a common pool resource.
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