6 Apr

Rural social networks along Amazonian rivers: seeds, labor and soccer among communities on the Napo River, Peru.

Author Names:
Christian Abizaid, Oliver T. Coomes, Y. Takasaki and J. Pablo Arroyo-Mora

Full article here

What is the main purpose of your study?

The purpose of this study is to examine regional patterns of interaction among rural communities in Amazonia to inform our understanding of connections that shape rural livelihoods and lifeways. We focus specifically on networks through which seeds and labor move and how they relate to soccer networks–an important marker of rural life.

What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study?
This study should inform development policies and NGO programs in Amazonia by:

  1. Providing information on how risk is shared among rural communities and on how seed systems are organized at a regional level.
  2. Pointing to the potential for community sports and other formative networks more broadly, to be instrumental in facilitating access to resources for livelihood enhancement or for survival.

How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
The importance of social relations in Amazonia is well-documented in the literature, but research has typically emphasized interactions within rural communities, or between individual rural communities and urban centers. This study contributes by using social network theory to describe the overlooked structure and spatial arrangement of social interaction among rural communities.

What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?

  1. Inter-community soccer matches are an important factor that helps to bind rural society in Amazonia, and may be instrumental in helping rural households to secure important agricultural inputs such as seeds and labor.
  2. Interactions between rural communities are common and there are important complementarities between lowland and upland communities, yet there are cultural barriers limiting inter-ethnic interactions, especially for smaller native groups which may be more socially isolated.
  3. Rural-rural interactions coexist with and may be complementary to rural-urban connections even as access to markets improves.

What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?

  1. Rural communities do not function in isolation and are connected economically and socially in important ways that affect livelihoods and rural life.
  2. Such connections are affected by formative networks, i.e., the soccer network in this case, but there are others such as the communication and religious networks that need to be better understood.
  3. This study confirms the importance of regional seed networks for livelihoods and for agrobiodiversity and suggests that inter-community labor sharing is more common than previously acknowledged.
  4. This study also challenges the common assumption that informal relations based on sharing, trust and reciprocity tend to disappear with the expansion of commercial markets.

How does your research help us think about Geography?

  1. This community-level study provides new insights on regional patterns of interaction among rural communities, thus improving our understanding of livelihoods, rural life and cultural ecology in the Amazon.
  2. It examines interconnections between physical space and social space, for example how spatial and cultural factors such as ethnicity and distance affect the prospects for social interaction.