The tropical Andes offer a unique mosaic of physical and human environments. Since the pioneering field research of Alexander von Humboldt over 200 years ago, the Andean realm has been considered as a model for an intricate altitudinal zonation of climate, vegetation and agriculture. In addition to this, latitude, proximity to the Pacific Ocean or Amazon Basin, topography, hydrology and geomorphology enrich the variety of landscapes. In terms of agriculture and rural development, a corollary of other factors shapes the human landscape. Particularly significant among them are the ethnic affiliation of the population with their cultural heritage, the colonial and post-colonial imprint, land tenure, accessibility to roads and larger settlements, agricultural and non-agricultural opportunities, the access to and acceptance of innovations and modernization, and also the resilient capability of the rural population to adapt to climate change and to new cultural, social, economic, and political conditions. This chapter attempts to explore, in a summarizing fashion, the agricultural and rural archipelagoes of the tropical Andes in their horizontal and vertical dimensions. In a concluding part, the author critically examines some rural scenarios and postulates a “campesino-oriented development”.
Part of the book: Sustainability Assessment at the 21st century