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S.P.E.E.D.E.R. bLOg

Search Titles Subjects Organizations. The Process of Colonization in Central America 2. Colonization in Costa Rica 3. Colonization in Panama 4.

Colonization in Nicaragua 5. Colonization in Honduras 6. Colonization in Guatemala 7. A major aim of the project was to determine the ecological impact of pioneer settlement; specifically, which settlement patterns minimize the destructive effects on the environment. The project included an appraisal of the economic, political, and cultural factors bearing on frontier settlement, and an examination of the different interdependent variables involved from biophysical parameters to government action and policies- to discover which combination of these factors are likely to result in successful settlements.

The project included in its activities several international symposia and indepth case-studies of pioneer settlement areas in the humid tropics of Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Land Settlement Projects in Central America presents the findings of a study undertaken in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama of patterns of tropical land colonization and government policies and management practices regarding land settlement.

Spanish acronym for the Canadian International Development Agency. Agrarian Development Institute Instituto pare el Desarrollo Agrarioland reform and settlement agency.

Programa Centroamericano de Ciencias Sociales. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Franja Transversal del Norte settlement area. Ministry of Natural Resources. Programa Naciones Unidas Desarollo.

United States Agency for International Development. Foreword The phrase “colonization in Central America” generates a multitude of images, ranging from pioneering derring-do and righteousness to environmentalist anxiety and dismay, depending on who perceives it and in what context.

Colonization xecreto historical, political, economic, social, and ecological aspects. For the early Spanish colonizers, the land was “there to be occupied,” a feeling that is still prevalent among many people and particularly decision makers, regardless of the agricultural marginality of the land involved.

The rapid rate of occupation over the last years has not yet created an ,ey that land to be colonized is decretk The land is either unowned or in the government’s hands: To the large landowners who possess the best land, it is an effective way to distract land hungry peasants from their land and relieve – at least for the time being – what has become dedreto most annoying pressure on their “sacred private property.

It also opens possibilities for building roads, houses for the new settlers, and of course a whole array of land speculation opportunities. The image of a land hungry peasant family moving into a new colonization area, with initial loans, a new house, education and health services, is without question a very socially satisfying scheme.

Moreover, spontaneous colonization – as opposed to government directed colonization schemes- is a very old tradition and a socially accepted practice which has been documented over centuries. The ecological implication is perhaps the least studied or understood. The capability of land to be managed on a sustainable basis to support a family is a question seldom considered.

People are commonly heard to say “no hay sierra male; lo que no hay es gente pare trabajarla” there is no bad land; all that is missing are people to work it. Yet in most countries of Central America, almost all the land with adequate rainfall, moderate slopes – not to mention level land – and reasonable soils is already taken. It is not by chance that most directed or spontaneous colonization efforts nowadays are found in the humid areas of Central America, where conditions are usually marginal for sustainable agriculture.

More than 50 per cent of Costa Rica’s present pasture lands have recently been qualified by the national planning board as “mistakes in the conversion of forest to pasture” which should revert to forest.

S.P.E.E.D.E.R. bLOg

However, this sort of realization has not stopped the countries from continuing the opening of new land, usually primary forests, at lej alarming rate. This is not to say that there is no role for colonization, but that the present attitude to it must change.

Some areas with slopes or high rainfall may be farmed, but not with traditional techniques imported from other ecological areas, characterized by more level land, better soils, or drier or cooler conditions or a combination of any of these factors.

Colonization must become a carefully thought out process, and appropriate farming systems must be devised, understood, applied, evaluated, and continuously improved.

Agro-forestry, in which the United Nations University is deeply involved, may be a proper tool in some cases. In others, imaginative land use techniques must be devised. Traditional technical knowledge can be a most interesting guide to “new” or improved techniques. It is time for decision makers and planners, who have the fundamental power over land use, to make a careful assessment of present colonization schemes and, it is hoped, learn from past mistakes as well as from success stories.

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The present contribution by Dr. Jones, an assistant professor in the Program in International Development and Social Change at Clark University, is an attempt in this direction, and, in addition, fits well with the UNU’S fundamental objective to establish guide-lines for sustainable land use under satisfactory ecological and socioeconomic conditions.

Dangers of Misdirected Policies in Land Settlement Role of the Current Study The Colonization Areas Conclusion Global concern with social and environmental conditions in Central America in the s have raised the profile of the region for much of the world.


These higher levels of concern are a mixed blessing, since they invite both support and intervention from outside the region. Official eecreto assistance to Latin America has increased by 76 per cent in real dollars between andand by per cent for Central American countries, excluding El Salvador World Bank ; much of that 255636 is directed toward resource-related and potentially contradictory problems, specifically deforestation and agricultural development see esp.

The relationship between resource use for immediate needs and resource management for long-term benefits is nowhere clearer than in the land settlement process. Experiences from land settlement programmes in Central America provide insights into attempts to resolve resource use conflicts and demonstrate successes and pitfalls of different approaches.

Tropical lowland colonization has been a product of both national and international efforts at agricultural development.

The settlement dfcreto these lands has been a longstanding objective of Central American governments, and more recently, an unintended outcome of social reform efforts such as the Alliance of Progress, which poured money into “land reform” efforts directly through us government sources and indirectly through the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank Montgomery Simultaneous pressures for land reform and export-led development resulted in a pattern of financing forest destruction for new land uses, such as cattle ranching Parsons The growing evidence of impending environmental damage caused by these programmes has begun in recent years to spur a response on the part of donor governments see esp.

Congress and international organizations. International concern with deforestation has crystalized in a variety of forms, either as direct xecreto, political pressure through private sector groups, or “leveraged” environmental protection through debt swaps and other instruments Page Financing has been applied to fund conservation agencies or individuals, and even to the purchase of lands for conservation purposes Holder ; Barnard In other cases, attempts have been made to influence international markets to change patterns of incentives for forest clearance, as in boycotts of fast-food using Central American beef.

The objective of this study is to review Central American land settlement projects in the context of the two somewhat opposed objectives of development and conservation. Such a review cannot pretend to be exhaustive, but more illustrative of conditions and problems.

The description of the land settlement process and programmatic attempts to ameliorate environmental problems helps demonstrate both government concerns and domestic political and economic constraints which influence dereto. What emerges is an almost bewildering variety of strategies responding to the specific environmental and social conditions of each country.

While such variability does not easily lend itself to broad strategy recommendations for the region, it does demonstrate the rationale for promoting local involvement in the development of national and local strategies; that local concerns must be addressed to ensure observance of environmental policy guide-lines and to avoid the transformation of these policies into costly and counter-productive exercises in unpopular law enforcement see esp.

Cernea’s review of social forestry projects. On a more abstract plane, this study argues for a change in the perception of deforesting farmers in Central America, and possibly in all Latin America. Deforestation is often portrayed as an economic strategy, especially as a beef production strategy Parsons ; DeWalt ; Partridgea decretoo which is only half correct Edelman Deforestation is also a title establishment mechanism, in which cattle serve primarily to demonstrate active land use, and, I would argue, only secondarily as a source of income.

Farmer decision-making with regard to new land is driven by the process of establishing title within the usufruct framework common to all Latin America Hartshorn et al. From the perspective of forest resource conservation, the distinction is crucial, since it addresses fundamental concerns of the farmers, whose co-operation will be necessary to carry out environmental management in the region. Dangers of Misdirected Policies in Land Settlement International attempts to influence patterns of land use in Latin America have often had decrwto environmental decreot.

The promotion of land reform through the Alliance for Progress should have eased pressure on forest resources by providing alternative sources of livelihood for poor farmers; national and international political realities combined to turn “land reform” programmes into major forces for environmental destruction Bunker ; Moran Environmental initiatives have the same capacity for generating unintended consequences.


With the growing concern over tropical forest depletion, there has been a tendency to characterize deforestation as a struggle between multi-national fast-food chains and conservationists. Poor farmers are seen to be merely camouflage in a process dominated by wealthy, large-scale landowners tied to international markets. While such a formulation may correctly identify various actors in the causal chain, it often misconstrues motives and patterns of benefits.

The danger of this misinterpretation is policy development which harms small farmers, creates an unnecessary political antagonism between conservation efforts and poor segments of developing country populations, and which is ineffective in dcereto the problem of deforestation. Attempts to control deforestation through the elimination of the beef market are based on a flawed perception of the economic context of deforestation.

It is widely recognized that the undervaluation of forest resources is a primary cause of deforestation Guppy ; Repettoas land managment strategies seek to replace the “unprofitable” forest with more profitable alternatives.

However, the “unprofitable” nature of forest lry is due to prices which do not accurately reflect costs of replacement or “costs of production” for those products, since, as natural resources, no human effort was expended. The forest conservation strategy based on eliminating the beef market will save forest resources only if forest products are reasonably valued, and if beef production has expanded as a result of its over-valuation; if this is not the case, the end result may be increased environmental destruction, as beef producers shift to alternative profit-making strategies.

Cattle production in Central America presents an enigma. Detailed studies of production costs and returns on farms between 17 and ha report negative incomes to farmers from animal production in six of eight areas in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama CATIE Citing examples from Central and South America, Ledec and Goodland arrive at similar conclusions. These somewhat surprising results suggest a need to reassess the rol of cattle production in deforestation, and more specifically, motivations for let production.

It can be argued that the persistence of cattle production in the face of relatively low profits is tied to problems of land tenure.

The establishment of homestead title to land is tied to active use of farm land in forest areas. Interestingly, the usufruct principle extends even beyond forest areas; various authors Downing and Matteson []; Seligson [] argue that invasion and squatting on underutilized lands are a spontaneous land reform process in Costa Rica, and by extension, in Central America; de Soto’s discussion of land invasion in urban Lima suggests that this principle is generalized throughout Latin America.

A critical element in the selection of devreto to be invaded is the actual intensity of use; abandoned lands are prime candidates for invasion and difficult to defend legally from the usufruct perspective.

Animal production constitutes a relatively low-cost method for “actively” using land; animals keep lands clean, require little maintenance, and provide income to maintain the farm operation. The combination of constant use and the low number of permanent labourers who as tenant farmers might also constitute a challenge to the landowner is well adapted to the maintenance of title.

Changes in international beef prices eventually leu cause a restructuring of the land maintenance tactic, possibly eliminating cattle production as a preferred strategy.

However, the need for “active” land use will remain and may well lead to alternatives such as mechanized, extensive cropping strategies, possibly relying on extensive use of aircraft and herbicides to decgeto labour demands. The outcome may be the development of new, more environmentally destructive methods for extensive land management.

Time and effort spent in restructuring beef prices would be better spent increasing the value of forest products through legislation, marketing, research, or public action campaigns, thereby increasing the economic appeal of forestry. The development of effective strategies for the protection of Ldy American environments within the context of the countries’ development needs will require a clear understanding of motivations and strategies of the farmers using those environments.

Role of the Current Study Central Dereto land settlement programmes have evolved considerably over the past decades. The initial tendency to prescribe new land settlement as a generalized panacea for social, political, and economic ills of society has given way to a more circumspect decretl of the potentially negative economic and environmental impacts of these programmes Nelson In response, projects have incorporated new elements designed to alleviate environmental problems, address social concerns, and ensure economic viability.

While not always successful, these efforts have been instructive with regard to interactions of farmers and policy. New policy concerns which have emerged include 1 a more rational use of forest resources in colonization areas, leh the stabilization of the colonization front, and 3 an increased emphasis on the characteristics of the participants in settlement programmer.