Caught between ambition and neglect: the Argentine lowlands of Pampas
A journey through the heartlands of Argentina's agribusiness, this project is a portrayal of the changes
to the landscape and socio-economic tissue brought about by intensive farming and exportation of produce.
The South American country's focus has long been on agricultural production and trade, which can be traced
back to the sixteenth century when Europeans first settled there. In recent years, Argentina's agribusiness
has exploded due to the huge global demand for manufactured food and the need for cheap cattle feed and biofuel.
Large farms, gauchos, cattle and horses populate the vast fertile lowlands, but nowadays production is managed
via phone and the internet. There is no need for people to be out in the fields. Everything - from renting new
land to hiring the company that will sow the land - is coordinated from offices in the haciendas or the city.
I travelled around the Central and North East regions in early 2016. During this time, I met landowners, labourers,
activists, jobless farmers, and those affected by toxic pesticides put on the land. Gradually I began to grasp the
extent and complexities of land-related issues in this country.
A relatively small number of people have long managed the cultivation of the land, but in the last few decades
this number has become even smaller. Several small and medium-sized holdings have been forced out of business
due in part to the technological shift that has occurred; changes include the introduction of direct seeding
and use of genetically modified seeds. The landowners and agribusiness workers who remain have considerable power in the country, and, as revenues
increase each year, so the industry expands, setting up Argentina to be one of the biggest biofuel producers
in the world and a major exporter of meat. Argentine beef, for example, is famous worldwide.
The focus, however, is on short-term profit while the environmental, social and health implications are often
overlooked. Large parts of the local population in rural and peri-urban areas are neglected, and there has been
a drastic reduction in skilled manpower needed for agricultural tasks. Fewer opportunities for the younger generation exist.
This economic shift has made an already difficult situation worse. In the rural areas of central and northeast
Argentina, unemployment and poverty are rife, and internal migration is a regular occurrence. Some towns
such as Avia Terai in the north, home to 6000 people, don't even have drinking water.
The situation for indigenous people is especially difficult. Caught in a cycle of lack of land ownership,
migration, poverty and disease, they are dependent on assistance-based programs set up by the government.
These programs encourage settlement in urban areas where there is free housing, but the result is the
uprooting and disappearance of communities.
During my time in Argentina, I realised the heart of the project would be to document the inequalities
that exist in the Argentinian countryside, inequalities made worse by the demands of the global market
and neoliberal policies. An economy in a state of flux combined with the difficulties local people face in adjusting to changes
and infrastructural problems within the country are forever altering the realities of these lands. Their
implications will be seen in years to come.
The production of this work was partially supported by the Magnum Foundation's Emergency Fund Program