3.3.1. Institutional Ranches
The results obtained from the sensitivity analysis for the institutional ranches showed that management is the most relevant variable that influences the social performance of ranches in the Mexican tropics since the institutional ranches presented better performance than the private ranches in four out of five impact categories evaluated (Figure 4
). This result is in line with Siebert et al. [62
], who state that the social implications are associated with the conduct of the organizations along the life cycle.
However, the institutional ranches achieved acceptable performance only in the category “human rights”. In the categories “health and safety”, “working conditions”, “governance”, and “socioeconomic repercussions”, they showed poor performance.
The best performance of the institutional ranches was in the “human rights” category since the workers are affiliated with a union and no child labor was identified during the evaluated period. However, in the “equal opportunities/discrimination” subcategory, no working women were identified in three of the institutional ranches; therefore, they had a very poor performance rating.
Regarding the “health and safety” category, all institutional ranches met the RV; however, in the “safe and healthy living conditions” subcategory, their performance was poor. In the “working conditions” impact category, the institutional ranches met the RV of the “forced labor”, “social benefits/social security”, and “job satisfaction” subcategories; however, in the “fair salary” category, none of the ranches met the RV, and in the “working hours” category, only two ranches met the RV.
In the “fair salary” subcategory, none of the institutional ranches met the RV. The ranches comply with paying workers the minimum wage established by law; however, this salary is not above the poverty line established in this study as a RV. Educational institutions are obliged to pay only the current minimum wage established by law, a salary that does not guarantee that workers and their families can cover their basic needs. However, the institutional ranches in this subcategory have a higher average performance value than do the noninstitutional ranches (1.5 vs. 1.1).
In the “working hours” subcategory, during the evaluated period, two of the institutional ranches (I-VMC1 and I-VMC2) had very poor performance because of the existence of underemployment due to few working hours.
In the “socioeconomic repercussions” category, the institutional ranches did not reach an acceptable performance level because only two out of four impact subcategories (“access to immaterial resources” and “local employment”) met the RV.
The dendrogram obtained by the HCA using the pvclust package (95%) (cluster analysis) shows the agglomeration of the 16 ranches in three groups (Figure 5
). This grouping has a probability greater than 95%, as indicated by the AU p
-values in the dendrogram. Cluster A groups the four institutional ranches; Cluster B includes five ranches, two with the ISP system, and three with the NSP system; and Cluster C includes the seven remaining ranches: three ranches with the MC system, three with the ISP system, and one with the NSP system (all noninstitutional). According to the cutreevar function of the “ClustOfVar” method, an R package for the clustering of variables, the similarity variables of Cluster A are the “labor benefits” and “fair salary” subcategories, as these ranches had the best performance value in these subcategories; in Cluster B, the similarity variables are “working hours” and “social acceptance”; and in Cluster C, the similarity feature is “job satisfaction”.
The reason for the best performance of the institutional ranches with respect to noninstitutional reaches is that these ranches are obliged by a labor contract to comply with the law, especially with regard to the workers.
In accordance with the above results, diverse socioeconomic conditions act on workers in a way that favors abuse by employers, including the lack of legal orientation, the lack of education and the ignorance of their labor rights, such that they do not find effective ways to negotiate better labor and salary conditions, which is in line with the findings reported by Contreras [56
]. This phenomenon is exacerbated by socioeconomic situations of poverty that lead to the acceptance of unfavorable and unfair working conditions [63
One relevant factor that makes possible the poor social performance of the livestock production systems studied is the lack of vigilance in compliance with legal frameworks regarding social matters, which is why establishing adequate monitoring instruments is necessary. Doing so will mean the development of local norms that cover the particular requirements of the economic activities of the field and the creation of a monitoring agency (governmental or civil) that supervises and receives complaints concerning noncompliance with laws regarding social matters and that has the abilities to intervene to rectify violations by the ranches. The above will support improving the working conditions of workers and, in general, improve the welfare of all stakeholders in livestock systems.
Additionally, it would be appropriate to implement social agriculture programs to increase the empowerment of women, provide social assistance to children, and promote the recovery of the dignity of the rural worker, practices that are widespread in Europe and that should be applied in developing countries such as Mexico.
The sensitivity analysis shows that even when institutional ranches comply with legal requirements, they do not achieve acceptable social performance because the RVs for evaluating the impact subcategories established in this study were based not only on compliance with legal requirements but also on human rights. Therefore, it is necessary to reformulate the laws regarding social matters by considering the basic well-being requirements of people based on local social and cultural situations.
Establishing local standards will support obtaining more accurate results through the use of SLCA, achieving better coverage when evaluating social impacts. Such results will reflect the points of opportunity to raise the quality of life of stakeholders and thus promote human dignity and well-being.
3.3.2. Private Ranches
The results of the Kruskal–Wallis H test showed that there is no significant difference (p > 0.05) in the social performance of the 12 noninstitutional or private ranches.
The results of the global performance index calculated from the contribution to local employment did not allow us to distinguish significant differences in social aspects between the systems analyzed. However, the results of this analysis are considered “inconclusive” since it is not unlikely that there would be an important impact (the 95% confidence interval across the threshold for what is considered to be an important effect). The social performance scores were 0.30, 0.35, and 0.35 for the MC, ISP, and NSP systems, respectively (see supplementary Tables S4 and S5
). The reason may be that the social performance of livestock activities is the result of a complex interaction of the social, economic, and political factors involved in the region. Thus, the results for the livestock systems evaluated can mainly be explained by their social context and not by the type of agricultural production system.
Regarding the social context, southeastern Mexico is the region with the lowest economic development in the country, with an average annual growth in GDP of 1.3% (56% less than the rest of the country, which is above 3%) [64
]. Furthermore, this region has the largest national indigenous population (56.26%) [65
], which is considered a vulnerable group due to conditions of social marginalization (e.g., high levels of illiteracy, lack of access to social security, and lack of access to food) [66
] (In addition, lower levels of education in the employed population are present in this region [57
]. This context leads farmers to provide unfavorable working conditions and precarious salaries to their employees and to show indifference to or little interest in contributing to improving local social well-being. Our results are in line with those of Dumont and Baret [67
], who note that the socioeconomic and political context, history, work orientation, and sociocultural heritage exert a greater influence on producers’ working conditions than does their degree of mechanization.
At the same time, the agricultural sector has conditions of economic lag compared to other sectors. Its participation in the generation of jobs is the lowest, and it contributes only 11% of the employed population, while the services, secondary, and commercial sectors show percentages of employment of 44%, 25%, and 18%, respectively [57
]. Additionally, the labor markets, particularly the agricultural markets, tend to be informal [64
], which favors legal noncompliance.
From the perspective of the sustainability of the sector, the above results are worrisome since the informality of these producers (most of them are small) prevents them from accessing financing programs for the acquisition of technological tools, infrastructure, or specialized advice, perpetuating low economic growth. In addition, the precarious working conditions of the agricultural sector have caused the abandonment of agriculture and have increased nonagricultural rural work (e.g., small shops and transport services), leading to, among other things, the transformation of societies in rural areas and the loss of their cultural identity [69