Impacts of corporate agri-business on Bolivia's Indigenous Peoples: a case study of soya bean value chains in the region of Santa Cruz

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Politics


Bolivia, in particular, is known for its neoliberal history, that has benefitted the Soya Bean agri-food complex in the Santa Cruz region. Existing discourse provides a detailed account of how neoliberal policies paved the way for higher poverty levels for Bolivia's Indigenous Peoples. Eventually, in the early 2000s, these events resulted in social uprisings, culminating in the election of the former left-wing government, the 'MAS' (Movimiento al Socialismo) run by former President Evo Morales (2006-2019), who promised to break corporate power to improve indigenous peoples' livelihoods. Despite this, academics claim his policies have been neoliberal in nature, due to his political alliances with the private sector.

Beyond the situation in Bolivia, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), are regularly considered to be an effective strategy for Maximising Finance for Development (MFD) and improving development outcomes. Townsend et al., (2018) found that public investment alone currently falls far behind what is needed to be able to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), which is why private sector influence has been recommended to help manage public social enterprises more efficiently. However, little has been Researched about the possibility that President Morales may have been delivering on his promises in an unanticipated way, through PPPs.

The question underpinning the current investigation is as follows:With particular reference to the Soya Bean complex in Santa Cruz; What impacts may have PPPs had on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples?
1. Measurable impacts. First, this research will provide new alternative prospects on the effects of from the agri-food sector on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples via these PPPs.
2. Wider benefits of this work. Secondly, as PPPs are increasingly used as a policy instrument for development, the findings of this project will have implications for developing countries similar to Bolivia.
3. Long-term goals. Lastly, the results will be useful as a case study of how the private sector can influence developing countries through PPPs; significant for current policy and research carried out by organisations such as The World Bank.

The proposed project will make use of household surveys (2001-2018), which contain detailed information about factors such as health, education and standards of living of Bolivia's indigenous peoples. These are publicly available in the government's Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (INE) website.

I am going to consider poverty as a latent variable; assessing the relative validity of commonly used poverty indicators and constructing a summary latent variable with endogenously estimated weights, also accounting for measurement error. Unlike standard additive poverty indices, using an LTM is considered an innovative approach for development studies that has the advantage of not taking poverty indices at face value or assume that any of these are equally "valid" measures.

Secondly, the logical approach would be to use the difference-in-difference (DID) method to estimate the impacts of PPPs on the livelihoods of Indigenous peoples. In this approach, the 'treatment' will refer to PPPs, and the treated group would be the specific area of interest affected by PPPs, in this case being Santa Cruz. DID will be combined with matching methods in order to enhance comparability between the treated and control units. Two control units will be used for this study; other countries that share similar characteristics to Bolivia but where PPPs are not present (e.g. Chile or Peru), or regions in Bolivia
where Indigenous populations are present but have not yet been affected by PPPs.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2414094 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2020 20/09/2023 Maria Cristina Montero De Espinosa