The agri-pastoralist communities of the semi-arid region of Chile, with their unusual common land ownership, have not escaped economic neo-liberalism. The general pattern of insatiable demand of land for agricultural production, mining, energy generation and real-estate development has become a challenge for these communities. How are these processes affecting the traditional practices of these localized agri-food systems, based on rain-fed-agriculture, pastoralism and the fading practice of transhumance? In this article, we look at how the Huentelauquén Agricultural Community in the Canela Commune has dealt with, reacted to, and been affected by regional economic shifts geared towards market liberalization. In particular, we analyze the structural changes in the community in regard to alienation of the commons and changes in land tenure. Qualitative interviews were conducted with key informants in this setting. To provide a richer contextual setting, this article draws on several other empirically-based works on the commons’ emergence and evolution, land commoditization and local struggles for livelihoods. Our study shows that a community can adopt different strategies when dealing with powerful sectoral development that can involve resistance as well as positioning that seeks to find favorable terms of engagement. Our findings highlight that processes affecting the traditional commons are resulting in the re-appropriation and re-occupation of the land. This is resulting in social differentiation, weakening of the community’s social bonds, depeasantization and further degradation of an already vulnerable ecosystem. In sum, these shifts are posing an existential threat to this form of traditional agri-pastoralism.
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