The boom in extractivist industries since the 1990s has resulted in a concomitant increase in socio-environmental conflicts in Peru. In the southern region of Arequipa, the Majes Irrigation Project has transformed 15,000 hectares of desert to fertile land and has become a hub for economic opportunities. In the planned second phase of the project, a new dam will be built to extend the amount of irrigated land and foster large-scale export-oriented agribusiness. Contrary to the government’s promises about progress, modernity and employment, the planned extension triggers anxiety among the local farmers who fear privatization, corporate dominance and a neo-colonial return of foreign big estates. This article examines four different stories – both overlapping and contradicting – about Majes. The first story envisions expectations of growth and modernity, while the second focuses on hard work and sacrifice. The other side of the coin appears in the third story about debt, loss and vulnerability following from neoliberal deregulations. The final story concerns the lack of benefits for the local farmers and the growing inequalities, resulting in struggles for land rights and water justice. The stories reflect clashing local and global scales and tensions between private and public ownership and between individual and collective solutions. The farmers in the highlands are ambivalent about the project because in spite of dreams about progress, they have long-standing concerns with large-scale corporate dominance and lack of local autonomy.