Corn-buying peasants: The capitalist development of forestry production and its impact on the diversity of local economy in Oaxaca, Mexico

Date of Completion

January 1995


Anthropology, Cultural|Economics, Agricultural




This study aims at examining the problem of the combination of agricultural and non-agricultural production through the case of a rural community in the valley of Oaxaca to inquire into the capitalist development of forestry production and its impact on the diversification of the local economy. The three general propositions tested in this study are as follows: First, participation in non-agricultural production, such as forestry, varies in accordance with the access of households to local primary resources, as well as with the commercial market potential of the commodities that are produced. Second, the easily approachable and extractive nature of forestry industry may stimulate the transfer of labor power and capital between various economic sectors. Third, the articulation of various productive activities (e.g., agriculture, non-agricultural employment, migratory labor) contribute to the maintenance of rural households, reorganization of the community, and rural class differentiation.^ The labor-intensiveness of lumber production and the availability of plentiful forests near the rural community provided a favorable employment opportunity. Some households combined agriculture with forestry, non-agricultural employment, and wage labor migration until 1992. There was a phase of capitalization and decapitalization in the forestry sector. The process of the capitalist development of the forestry sector was determined by various factors such as the method of capital investment, the recruitment of labor power, and marketing. The stages of forestry production could be clearly divided by forestry products produced and enterprises involved in local lumber production. After the decapitalization of the forestry sector in the community, villagers have actively engaged in various non-agricultural and non-forestry income-earning activities. Non-agricultural employment and migratory wage labor to the U.S. or other areas of Mexico are separate but complementary cash-earning activities for households also involved in subsistence or cash-crop agriculture or commodity production.^ In summary, the economic situation after the decline of the forestry production can be characterized as the intensification of non-agricultural small-scale production and the diversification of occupations. ^