School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

Document Type


Publication Date



This study investigates how self-organizing efforts by residents of informal settlements, primarily migrant and informal farmworkers, shape community resilience in Majes, a water-scarce irrigation district in the Atacama Desert of Peru. We collected 45 semi-structured interviews with residents and authorities in Majes and analyzed findings through a framework of self-organizing. Analyses revealed that self-organizing by residents of informal settlements incorporated the three components of White’s theory of Community Agency and Community Resilience, which contends that marginalized communities increase resilience by fostering a commons praxis, practicing a prefigurative politics, and developing opportunities for economic autonomy. We also found that residents self-organized into associations to increase access to resources, resulting in increased resilience. However, certain fees, corruption, and undemocratic decision-making processes can be detrimental to self-organizing. Results expand existing theories of self-organization and community resilience by highlighting how residents of informal settlements in agricultural spaces collectively organize to increase their resilience. Findings also begin to reframe narratives that describe migrants and farmworkers as powerless in the face of water scarcity, climate change, and other social-ecological risks.


© 2023 Erwin, Silva and Ma. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.