Social Sciences and the Environment

Stakeholders in the Arequipa region, such as pastoral and crop farming communities, mining economies, and urban sectors vary in their interests and impact ecosystems and social systems differently. For example, the use requirements for soil and water vary significantly with geography as small-scale farming, pastoral activities, and mining dominate the land use in the higher elevations, which is source for most of the water of Arequipa, and larger-scale, irrigated agriculture, as well as urban centers dominate the lower evaluations and coastal areas, The Center for Social Sciences and Environment (CSSE) crosscuts all areas of interest of the Arequipa Nexus Institute at UNSA, including, but not limited to, examining human dimensions of agriculture, water, urban development, mining, climate change, and the environment.

The overarching objective of CSSE is to identify potential strategies for facilitating research that addresses ecological, economic, and social factors of dynamic socio-ecological systems. The goal is to conduct and support research that facilitates the equitable co-existence of agriculture, mining, and regional development in the Arequipa Region, Peru as a whole, and throughout Latin America. A second, complimentary goal of CSSE is to facilitate social science and science-based decision making among stakeholders to address the social, economic and environmental challenges facing Arequipa. CSSE will directly engage questions that address diverse stakeholder groups and their socio-environmental relationships and needs.

CSSE also will address questions about water security, food security, and the health of local to regional populations. Desertification, soil erosion, and the disappearance of glacial source waters because of climate change are major and ongoing concerns in the region. Changing water rights and natural resource ownership regimes also affect communities and industries differently. Impairment of soil and water by metal contaminants from the extraction and erosion of mineral deposits has created water and food security challenges in some regions that causes a significant health risk and negative impacts to Arequipa’s agroeconomy.

Projects within CSSE will use cutting edge social science approaches, grounded in interdisciplinary socio-environmental research, to collect and analyze individual, household, and community data. In this way, CSSE will address the most pressing socioenvironmental challenges of the people of Arequipa and Peru related to extractive and agricultural activities, and food and water security.

Research within CSSE will be based on collaborative partnerships between UNSA faculty, students and associated academic networks, faculty and senior research personnel at Purdue, and key stakeholders in the region with a focus on engaging gatekeepers to communities across Arequipa. Such stakeholders may include but are not limited to the water basin councils, local water authorities, Regional Environmental Authority of Arequipa, Network of Rural Municipalities of Peru, major mining operations, and the regional Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman’s Office).

Engagement of stakeholders will be through community visits and annual workshops to present CSSE project plans and/or results, to seek help in interpretation of the results, and to brainstorm potential solutions to identified problems. This work also will help guide and focus Arequipa Nexus Institute activities toward impactful research for the betterment of Arequipa and Peru.

CSSE technical and programmatic infrastructure will support:

  • Knowledge about local communities and strategies to engage them in an equitable way
  • Empowerment of local communities through discussion, problem-solving, and self-organization
  • Enabling both stakeholders and local communities to identify opportunities for change and to reduce potential for conflicts over soil and water resources, pollutions, and other environmental issues in the Arequipa region
  • Exploration of tools and practices to help local communities to create a sustained, inclusive, agricultural development that improves income, water and food security, safety and nutrition


Tim Filley

Timothy Filley
Professor, Purdue University
Nexus Institute Director
Director, C4E
Phone: +1 765 49-46581

Gustavo Polanco

Henry Gustavo Polanco Cornejo
Dean, School of Process Engineering, UNSA
Nexus Institute Co-Director

Purdue University