The dominant vegetation types are grassy prairie and grass steppe in which numerous species of the grass genus Stipa are particularly conspicuous. “Pampas Grass” (Cortaderia selloana) is an iconic species of the Pampas. Vegetation typically includes perennial grasses and herbs. Different strata of grasses occur because of gradients of water availability.
The World Wildlife Fund divides the Pampa into three distinct eco-regions. The Uruguayan savanna lies east of the Uruguay River, and includes all of Uruguay and the southern portion of Brazil’s state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The Humid Pampas include eastern Buenos Aires Province, and southern Entre Rios Province. The Semi-arid Pampas includes western Buenos Aires Province and adjacent portions of Santa Fe, Cordoba, and La Pampa provinces. The Pampas are bounded by the drier Argentina espinal grasslands, which form a semicircle around the north, east, and south of the Humid Pampas.
Winters are cool to mild and summers are very warm and humid. Rainfall is fairly uniform throughout the year but is a little heavier during the summer. Annual rainfall is heaviest near the coast and decreases gradually further inland.
Rain during the late spring and summer usually arrives in the form of brief heavy showers and thunderstorms. Although cold spells during the winter often send nighttime temperatures below freezing, snow is quite rare. In most winters, a few light snowfalls occur over inland areas.
Central Argentina boasts a successful agricultural business, with crops grown on the Pampas south and west of Buenos Aires. Much of the area is also used for grazing cattle and more recently to grow vineyards in the Buenos Aires wine region. These farming regions (i.e., modified of disturbed Pampas) are particularly susceptible to flooding during heavy rainfall.
Rosas, dictator-governor of Buenos Aires (1829-53) gifted many large land farms to his political supporters and successive governments also made large land sales of the pampas, mostly to existing large landowners at low prices, to finance railway construction projects.
In pampas, two courses of settlement were followed. In the first place, limited arable colonization began in 1840, where pastoral farming had been developed. Second, with the ‘Conquest of the Desert’ (1879-83) war, the area of pampas was doubled. With the liquidation of Indians, the whole of the pampas became available for occupation and improvement, and by the end of the 19th Century, the wave of immigrant settlement had engulfed it all.
Immigrant farmers from Italy and Spain came to operate the tenant grain farms. However, North European colonization broke the standard pattern of large ranches with a network of small farms with mixed arable, dairy and other products.
Except in Santa Fe (a province of Argentina) where small owner-operator farms were in practice, generally pattern of a few large landowners and many small tenant farmers was the norm in the rest of the country.
Foreign technology improved steamships and refrigeration to the point where pampas meat could be shipped frozen to Europe, and mass textile industry created a demand for large quantities of wool.
To improve both meat and wool, supplies of pedigree stocks of Lincoln sheep were introduced from England in the 1850s and even later, good breeds of cattle were incorporated into herds in pampas.
To protect new breeds, fencing to protect stock and crops, the rotation of crops to include new feed crops for fattening cattle, better control of breeding and pasture rotation were adopted.
From an almost purely pastoral landscape in 1840s, the pampas acquired pre-eminence to be one of the world’s leading producers of cereals in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Wheat was the leading crop from the beginning of colonization and occupied 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the cultivated land.
It was initially grown to replace imports from USA, Chile and Australia. But by 1875, Argentina emerged the net exporter of wheat. By 1893, exports of wheat touched a million ton, which by 1904 rarely fell below 2 million tons per annum. Meanwhile domestic consumption per head almost doubled during 1880s.
Most of the flourmills were located in pampas and Brazil was the main market for Argentina flour. Thus, wheat, maize and linseed dominated the pattern of Argentina agricultural production and by 1914; around 60 per cent of cultivated land was used for these crops alone.
Exploitation of the potential of the Pampas – emerging from an external demand for its agricultural products, with low cost of production, immigrant labour and financed largely by foreign capital produced so much wealth in Argentina that the country ranked among the top 10 countries in per capita income from late 19th Century till the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.
The period 1852-1930, in – fact, marked the integration of both Argentina and Uruguay with the world economy.
British capital played a major role in land improvement, railways and port construction, and urban development. Available data suggest that in 1857, British investment was under ?3 million; the same rose to ?175 million in 1890 and exceeded ?290 million by 1910.
Foreign investment was mainly in infrastructure development (75 per cent), followed by trade, finance, banking, merchandising services and processing industries (20 per cent) and agriculture (5 per cent). Calculated indirectly around 8-9 per cent of the total foreign investment was directed solely towards the agriculture and its related activities.
Economic development in Argentina (1853-1930) did not only evolve around meat and cereals for world market, but also pushed the production of certain other commodities such as sugar, cotton and wine after the First World War. More so, the industrial growth was mostly geared to the processing of local agriculture produce to satisfy domestic demand.
Mostly these activities were organised and run by small-scale industrial units. Tariff protection was that by 1913, 71 per cent of goods consumed in Argentina were manufactured within the country.
Of these, 91 per cent of foodstuffs; 85 per cent of the clothing and 86 per cent of the printed material were locally produced; but only 38 per cent of chemicals, 33 per cent of metallurgical products and 23 per cent of the cloth consumed was of national origin.
This suggests that Argentina has already reached a reasonable level of industrial development, thanks to its development of pampas based on export-oriented production of commodities.
Traditionally immigration has been necessary for the expansion of the Argentina economy. Accompanying the first phase of European arrivals (1870-1930) was the large expansion of the agriculture sector oriented towards international market.
It was Argentina constitution of 1953 that encouraged European migration to increase the size of labour force since Latin American life size of labour force since Latin American life expectancy was very low around that period.
Available data show that between 1970 and 1914, over 3.4 million immigrants arrived in Argentina – quite a significant number in a country inhabited by 8 million in 1915. Further, a second wave of 1.3 million arrived between the inter-war years. Pampas alone attracted more than 50 per cent of the European immigrants and these five provinces were the most populated in the whole country.
In the phase of new export economy, Argentina witnessed considerable demographic transformation. During 1855-1914, the pampas witnessed phenomenal growth in population rising from 316 thousand in 1850 to 4.54 million by 1930.
While Greater Buenos Aries share rose from 8 per cent in 1850 to 26 per cent in 1930, the population of Santa Fe went up to 11 per cent from 4 per cent during the same period. However, the share of North-west, Cuyo, Cordoba and Mesopotamia in total population fell considerable in the above period.
The share of urban population in total population increased from 28.6 per cent to 52.7 per cent during 1869-1914. Expansion of Greater Buenos Aires along with prolific growth of Rosario (by ten times almost) was responsible for this massive shift of population from rural areas to urban centres.
Immigrants’ annual net inflow constituted between 2 and 3 per cent of the existing population of Argentina during the decades 1881-90 and 1901-10. Pampas attracted more than 50 per cent of European immigrants; these immigrants had a natural preference to remain in towns.
A relatively higher proportion of these foreign immigrants were working as tenants in rural areas, whereas in urban areas, over two-thirds of all industrial and commercial enterprises were foreign-owned and half of their personnel were immigrants. Urban concentration of immigrants, it is suggested, was due to diminishing opportunities for land ownership after 1890.
In more or less similar way, landowner-tenant relationship in Argentina was akin to what we have been familiar with zamindari system in India during the British regime. Tenancy contracts in Argentina depended on the type of crops, rents in kind; produce to be sold through landlord or agent.
These were more stipulated conditions imposed on the tenant than a partnership between the two. Further, the tenancy right was for a short period i.e., short-term tenant farming. Once the land was settled and improved, the tenant was evicted and was supposed to move, improve new piece of land or shift to urban centres.
Thus, ownership pattern did not change from that of colonial days and consequently, there was lack of incentive to adapt and change according to overseas market conditions. The occupation of humid Pampas was an exercise, which involved no cultural change and little technological innovations certainly none of local origin.