Johannes Winter, Heiko Faust:
Integration as a Precondition for Socio-Economic Welfare of Rural Migrants in the Bolivian Oriente


Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Institute of Geography, Department of Social and Cultural Geography, Germany

Internal rural migration is a demographic phenomenon which affects the eastern Bolivian lowlands mainly in two different ways. On the one hand the migrations provoke a profound modification of the landscape by exploitation and potential degradation of the natural resources. On the other hand massive inflows of migrants cause the transformation of the local society. Intensity and dimension of those modifications depend on the level of integration of the individuals and groups which are involved. Consequently, the inclusion of the actors into the social system (social integration) as well as the relationship between the parts of the society (systemic integration) determine the societal as well as the ecological equilibrium.

An empirical analysis of the integration process of migrants from the Andean highlands was realised in the colonisation area of San Julián, Dpt. of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. One main aspect of the investigation focused on the rural poverty and different standards of living of migrant and local households. Empirical data were collected through semi-structured interviews as well as standardised interviews in two villages (98 households).

The results show a latent correlation between social integration and individual management of common natural resources. A high degree of personal integration about the four dimensions of social integration, which are ``cultural adaptation'', ``positioning'', ``interaction'' and ``identification'' (ESSER, 2001), encourages the sensitivity for common socio-economic welfare through specific livelihood strategies. The current situation in the research area is characterised by the fragile systemic integration of the colonisation area into the regional economy and society. This fact complicates not only social integration and intercultural living together between migrants from the Andean highlands and the lowland people, but also threatens the ecological balance of the region. Consequently, without the political and civil intentions to resolve the systemic disintegration there will not be a sustainable socio-economic development.

Keywords: Bolivia, Integration, Migration, Rural Poverty, Welfare


Contact Address: Heiko Faust, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Institute of Geography, Department of Social and Cultural GeographyGoldschmidtstraße 5, 37077 Göttingen, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004