Wheat and Meat: The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chilean Agricultural Program

May 06, 2024 | by
  • Description

This paper offers a preliminary examination of the Rockefeller Foundation's agricultural improvement work in Chile, as I read through the Rockefeller Foundation's own archival collections at the Rockefeller Archive Center. Following the model set by earlier agricultural development projects in Mexico and Colombia, the foundation's Chilean Agricultural Program (ChAP) sought to improve methods for agrarian production in the South American country, starting in the mid-1950s and continuing through the mid-1960s. The program's ultimate goal, I argue, was to help make Chile more food secure, and to do so, foundation experts worked closely with Chilean agricultural scientists employed by Chile's growing agricultural state. Early collaboration centered around how to improve common varieties of spring and winter wheat—the raw input for widely-consumed bread products. However, over time, the Rockefeller Foundation's focus turned increasingly toward forage crops, with the hope that more nutrient-rich grasslands would form the foundation of a more modern and productive domestic beef economy. I suggest that an examination of this important example of inter-American agricultural cooperation raises important questions about both the social motivations and environmental consequences of mid-twentieth century agricultural modernization efforts.