Pastures and Cash Crops: Biomass Flows in the Socio-Metabolic Transition of Twentieth-Century Colombian Agriculture

Urrego Mesa, J. Alexander, Infante Amate, Juan, Tello, Enric
This article aims to situate a national case study of the global periphery at the core of the debate on the socio-ecological transition by drawing on new data of biomass flows in twentieth-century Colombia. We draw up a century-long annual series converting a wide set of indicators from Net Primary Production (NPP) into the final socioeconomic uses of biomass, distinguishing around 200 different categories of crops, forests, and pastures. Our calculations draw on FAOSTAT and several corpuses of national statistics. The results show a fall of 10% in total NPP related to land-use changes involving forest conversion. Throughout the twentieth century, pasture was the most relevant among domestic extraction. Allocations of cash crops to industrial processing rose while the figure for staple crops for primary food consumption stagnated. The critical role of cattle throughout all periods and the higher yields of the industrial cash crops are behind this profile. This might also mean the start of a new trend of using pasture land for more profitable export crops, which establishes a new inner frontier of land-use intensification. Lastly, the article points out the phases of the socio-metabolic transition of biomass, explores the changes in biomass flows by looking at the history of the main drivers, and identifies the socio-ecological impacts of deforestation and industrial agribusiness.
Repository: Recercat: Dipósit de la Recerca de Catalunya