Accumulation by dispossession in coastal Ecuador: Shrimp farming, local resistance and the gender structure of mobilizations

Sandra Veuthey, Julien François Gerber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Over the last two decades, the global production of farm-raised shrimps has increased at a faster rate than any other aquacultural product, leading to massive socio-ecological damages in the mangrove areas where shrimp farming often takes place. Consequently, an increasing number of conflicts pitting coastal populations against shrimp farmers has been reported although very few conflicts have been studied in detail. This article contributes to fill this research gap by analyzing the causes, development and consequences of one such conflict in the Ecuadorian canton of Muisne (province of Esmeraldas). This conflict is one of the world's earliest and most important protest movements for the defence of mangroves and against the shrimp industry. Within a political ecology perspective, we connect three key dimensions of the conflict: (1) the socioeconomic metabolism of shrimp farming locally and internationally, (2) the institutions - formal and informal - that regulate the access to mangroves, and (3) the development of the mobilization itself, with special reference to the role of local women. The study is based on six-month fieldwork and combines data from 52 in-depth interviews of a wide range of actors, various documentation, and direct and participant observation. We find that the development of shrimp farming can be understood as a modern case of enclosure movement whereby customary community mangroves are privatized for the building of shrimp ponds. As a result, local mangrove-dependant populations - especially women - mobilized with the support of a grassroots Environmental Justice Organization. The protest was targeted at a form of ecologically unequal exchange where sectors of the global North shift socio-ecological costs onto poor sectors of the producing regions of the global South. In agreement with feminist political ecology, local women were particularly resistant to this process of 'accumulation by dispossession'. While only some mangroves could be saved or reforested as a result of the movement, women's mobilization has had the unexpected effect of challenging gender relations in their communities. This research articulates dimensions of a given conflict that are too often considered separately, namely social-metabolic issues, institutional change, and gender issues. This allows a more comprehensive view of a complex power struggle. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)611-622
    JournalGlobal Environmental Change
    Volume22
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012

    Keywords

    • Ecuador
    • Enclosure
    • Environmental justice
    • Feminist political ecology
    • Mangroves
    • Shrimp farming

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Accumulation by dispossession in coastal Ecuador: Shrimp farming, local resistance and the gender structure of mobilizations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this