Bordos and Boundaries: Sustainable Agriculture in the High Altitude Deserts of Northwest Argentina, AD 850-1532
Pedro M. Salminci, Pablo Tchilinguirian, Kevin Lane

Bordos were essential for the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the high altitude desert of Antofagasta de la Sierra in Northwest Argentina during the Late (AD 850 – 1480) and Inca Period (AD 1480 – 1532). Bordos were lineal humps of soil that stimulated the pedogenesis of the predominantly sandy soils of the area. Furthermore, they served as boundaries delimiting irrigation and cultivation fields. Therefore, bordos alongside other technologies were an efficient means by which viable farming was possible in an otherwise marginal agricultural zone. Besides explaining the role of bordos in the context of Northwestern Argentine agriculture this article describes the irrigation systems in place at Antofagasta de la Sierra throughout this period and compares it to the present state of affairs. Our results demonstrate that these late Prehispanic bordos and irrigation networks were well set out and organized such that use of water and soil was efficient, proportional and fair. The Inca do not seem to have disrupted these systems or local autonomy over them. In contrast, modern water and soil is characterized by a household-level decentralized management system. This situation leads to serious conflicts over water use allocations, wastage and flawed irrigation resulting in rising ground salinization.

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