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L’encadrement des paysanneries dans les zones de colonisation en Amérique latine

Romain Gaignard
Claude Bataillon

Troisième partie. L'organisation des colons : migrants et producteurs

Rural Migration to the Ecuadorian Oriente

David A. Preston

Texte intégral

1The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the characteristics of migration and of migrants who move from rural areas in highland Ecuador towards the eastern lowlands. The data used are derived from a broader study, carried out in 1975-76, of the impact of emigration on rural communities in highland Ecuador and they enable us to understand more than usual about the process of the selection of destination both by those migrants who have subsequently returned and by those who are still absent. This paper will aim to demonstrate that the Oriente attracts migrants who are quite different from those who have been to other rural destinations. We hope thereby to throw some light on the colonisation process affecting these areas.

2The data used in this paper are the resultat of studies of five rural areas chosen to represent those rural zones of highland Ecuador that have experienced most emigration in the past 25 years. Two of these case study areas, Quilanga in Loja Province, and Guachapala in Azuay province had a tradition of migration to the Oriente. Quilanga used to have sporadic contact with the nearby zone across the easten Cordillera but, during the major drought in the late 1960s, migrants went initially to Santo Domingo, to the northwest of the Andes and subsequently to the most recently opened part of the Oriente in the area of the newly developed oilfield in the far north of the country (see Map 1). Subsequently, more migrants had been attracted there not with standing the considerable distance. Migrants from Guachapala have long since had contact with the Oriente and in 193 3-36 a number of people went north-east into the area of Mendez and Huambi to seek gold and also to work for gold miners exploiting placer deposits. When the gold was worked out some migrants acquired land and took up farming, in particular cattle farming, and the area cleared for agriculture and livestock rearing has gradually increased, particularly since a road has been completed from Cuenca and Gualaceo to Macas. Information was collected by questionnaires administered to a 20 per cent sample of the occupied houses in the case study areas. Additional data on migration came from School Registers and Registro Civil lists of births in each of the parish centres studied.

3The data presented here reflect the characteristics of only a proportion of those who migrate to the Oriente. Data from the 1974 Census suggest that about half of those who have moved to the Oriente and still live there came from rural areas (49 per cent in Napo province, for example). The rural migrant's view of colonisation areas, such as the Oriente, is very probably different from that of the urban migrant destined for the same area, but in both migrants are moving into a distinct physical environment and are taking part in the formation of new communities. Rural migrants are faced with a choice of several environments to which they can move. The Oriente offers the possibility of clearing virgin jungle or of taking over a partly cleared farm but often some distance from a village or town and thus effectively isolated from urban centres and their attendant services. By contrast migration to other rural areas that have been cleared and settled for longer offers opportunity of working as a day labourer while becoming acquainted with the area, and of buying farmland that is more costly than cleared or half forest but still very much cheaper than land in the densely settled Sierra. Informants quoted land for sale at 1/2 to 1/4 the price of comparable land in the case study areas. Finally migrants may move to areas of commercial farming-citrus, rice, bananas, etc.-where there is demand for labour and where there are opportunities for petty commercer in groving rural centres such as those along the main roads in the coast. When a migrant chooses to go to the Oriente he is, in part, rejecting alternative possibilities that would be available elsewhere. Although a range of employment possibilities exist for Oriente migrants, the range is effectively much more limited than in the coast by the very small proportion of the population employed in commerce. Data from the 1974 Census, for example, shows that less than 3% of the labour force in the Oriente is employed in commercial activities, in comparison with over 6% in coastal provinces.

Where do rural migrants go?

4Although some returned migrants who had been in the Oriente were encountered in each of the case studies, the Oriente was an important destination only for people in Guachapala and Quilanga where 22 % of returned migrants had been to the Oriente. Of the whole population interviewed in all case studies, only 12% had been to the Oriente. The coastal zone was the most popular rural destination.

5The children of informants, whose present residence provides another measure of migration, have migrated very much more to urban centres than have the returned migrants and only 13% currently live in the Oriente. Even is the case studies of Quilanga and Guachapale the proportion of informant's children living in the Oriente was only 15% and 19% respectively. In Quilanga and Guachapala, by listing children in school in 1960 or born in 1950 and asking informants where these children now lived we arrived at a third measure of migration destinations which reveals that while 14% and 24% of children from Quilanga and Guachapala respectively now lived in the Oriente, 29% and 25% of their parents now lived there.

6In each case the Oriente was of almost equal importance to the coastal lowlands as a destination. We may conclude therefore that, in two of the communities, the Oriente was an important rural destination for both migrants who had now returned and for our sample of those absent. The third case study where good migration data were collected was the region of Atahualpa in the Cordillera Occidental north-west of Quito. It was only a day's journey on foot from a long standing colonisation area, that of Intag on the western tropical lowland slopes of the Andes and this was by far the most important rural area to which migrants had been, quite obscuring the significance of any migration to the Oriente. Migrants from the two Indian areas studied, where much less adequate migration data were gathered, had predominantly oriented their ruralward migration towards the coastal areas.

7Informants were asked where they had thought of migration to and this revealed a strong influence of information about the Oriente; 48% and 34 % of informants respectively in Quilanga et Guachapala who had thought of leaving had considered moving to the Oriente, a much larger proportion than those who had actually left for the jungle.

Who are the Oriente migrants?

8Having shown the relative importance of the Oriente as a destination it is necessary to indicate something of the nature of. those who have migrated to the Oriente. Most complete data refer to returned migrants and therefore offer only a possible indication of the characteristics of the present Oriente residents but these data to distinguish those who have been to the Oriente In comparison with those who have been.

Table 1. Some characteristics of migrants.

Table 1. Some characteristics of migrants.

9Data in Table 1 suggest that those who have migrated to the Oriente own only half as much land as migrants to all rural areas but they have more years of schooling and are more innovative than either all rural migrants or the other major groupe of migrants, those going to the rural areas of the coast. These differences are also reflected in data referring to both Quilanga and Guachapala. The implication of these results is clearly that migrants to the Oriente are much more similar to migrants to urban areas with respect to land ownership and schooling but very different from them in their greater propensity to be innovating farmers. If these factors are in part indicators of "good" farmers then we may expect Oriente farmers to be more associated with commercial farming than migrants to other rural areas. It was certainly true in the mid 1970's there were more opportunities for the establishment of new farms near roads in the Oriente than anywhere else in lowland Ecuador. These data suggest that the Oriente may be attracting the more dynamic farmers from among those leaving and the flow of migrants to rural areas of the coast is possibly the result of inertia from the period of expansion of highways in the coastal lowlands and a function of the number of migrants from the Sierra already living there.

Migrants' views of the Oriente

10The view of the Oriente held by returned migrants and by non migrants is an important element in determining who migrates and who stays. In the five case study areas informants were only willing to express an opinion about the Oriente where there had already been substantial migration-otherwise answers were essentially negative -"I haven't thought of going there", "I have never been there so I don't know" or even "The Oriente, where's that?". In Quilanga and Guachapala, where up to a quarter of the migrants have gone east in recent years, views of the Oriente were strongly polarised. In some cases people who knew the Oriente showed a strongly negative reaction to going there, and in other cases informants praised its freedom and the ample land available. In Quilanga, 25% of informants did not want to go to the Oriente and half of these demonstrated a wholly negative attitude directed specifically at the jungle environment-saying that the children would die, the climate was "bad" and that it was a dangerous place to work ("tigers", snakes, etc.). A further element of the fear of the Oriente is the seeming difference between the views of men and women. Some men said that they would like to go but their wives wouldn't come with them, in some cases wives joined in the conversation and expressed the strength of their fears for the health of their children etc. Part of the particularly negative women's view is surely associated with the lack of specific employment opportunities for women in comparison, for example, with an urban destination and women's migration in highland Ecuador, as elsewhere, is strongly urban based.

11If there is such a strong negative view of the Oriente from those who have been there, and a considerable ignorance of it as a possible destination on the part of many people, how are we to explain people from Loja in Southern Ecuador migrating to the Oriente in the far distant north of the country and how do we explain its popularity among rural destinations? A series of tentative answers may be offered. Firstly, the Oriente offers a range of opportunities for the acquisition of land for clearing not too far from a highway and it is a zone which the media and the Government proclaim to be ripe for rapid development. The findings of the ORSYOM mission that some of the best soils in the Oriente be near the oilfield south of Lago Agrio may justify optimism for the longer-term future of the zone. When men, who wish to migrate in order to farm where there is plenty of land available, perceive a strong advantage in moving to the Oriente this may overcome the opposition of the women to a move to such a different environment. An answer to the extreme distance of migration from Quilanga to Lago Agrio can only be given when more is known about the motives of the initial Quilanga migrants to these areas for the news of the advantages of moving to that area of the Oriente was clearly attractive enough to subsequently attract many kinsmen and friends.

12Now (in 1975-76) so many Quinlangenos have friends in the Lago Agrio area that migration there is sensible and logical to many. At least two families left Quilanga for the Oriente with all their goods during our stay of six weeks.


13We have identified the role of the Oriente among other migration destinations and shown that rural destinations are frequently as common as urban destinations, both as revealed in our case studies and 1974 Census data at a provincial level. The Oriente is one of the more attractive rural destinations for both informants and their children.

14The information about the characteristics of returned Oriente migrants shows them to have little land in the sending community but to be more innovative farmers and to have received more years schooling than other rural-bound migrants. This suggests that, qualitively, the jungle attracts those most likely to become modern, commercially oriented, farmers. This is not a direct result of government propaganda for the auto-selection of spontaneous migrants has often been shown to be much more successful than selection by government agencies. However, it is possible that the actual destination of those going to the Oriente is influenced by the rosy image of the Oriente promoted by the media and by the government.



Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1. Some characteristics of migrants.
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Fichier image/jpeg, 525k

© Éditions de l’IHEAL, 1979

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