Sustainable Rural Development in NW Argentina

Instructor Name: 
Leopoldo Rodriguez
Course Description: 

Rural communities in NW Argentina are among the poorest in the country. Lacking the rich soils of the Pampas, facing more extreme climatic conditions, and subject to a heavily concentrated land tenure system, agricultural production, the mainstay of the region’s economy, has failed to raise the standard of living of the bulk of the population. The northward expansion of soybean production into marginal lands, while providing new economic opportunities for large landowners, threatens small rural communities and the environment in the region. Tourism has represented an alternative economic activity for many communities in the region, but this industry is not without its social and environmental costs itself.

San Pedro de Colalao is a small town located in the province of Tucuman, Northwest Argentina. The town sits in a transition zone 3,400 feet above sea level. To the east lie the flat expanses of the Chaco region. West of town rise peaks up to 15,000 feet high, presenting the landscape and cultural characteristics of the high Andes. The countryside presents dense vegetation fed by summer rains and conditioned by prolonged winter droughts.

The population in the area is a mixture of descendants from European immigrants and people of indigenous ancestry. San Pedro faces the dual challenges and opportunities implied by an encroaching soybean frontier and the expansion of tourism activities.

Students in the capstone will work with community organizations to strengthen the town’s potential to attract ecologically minded tourism, primarily of foreign origin, always keeping in mind social equity and environmental impact. Foreign tourism exhibits less seasonal variation than Argentine tourism and enjoys considerably higher purchasing power, making it ideal to address the community’s concerns with income generation spread more evenly throughout the year. Furthermore, foreign tourists are more likely to be attracted to the biological and cultural diversity offered by the region. As foreigners with knowledge of sustainability, capstone students are particularly well positioned to assist local organizations to enhance the attractiveness of the town as a destination for foreign eco-tourism.

Interested students must submit an application prior to registration.  Application and information are available at:  http://oia.pdx.edu/ea/.  Deadline to apply for the winter 2012 term is October 31, 2011.

Please contact Leopoldo Rodríguez, leopoldo@pdx.edu, for more information.