|Colonization and Environment: Land Settlement Projects in Central America (UNU, 1990, 155 pages)|
|4. Colonization in Nicaragua|
The outstanding feature of all aspects of Nicaraguan agricultural development, and not only in the field of colonization and humid tropical development, is the lack of fixed organization. Offices, committees, and government agencies are in a state of change, and, as of this writing, plans and strategies had only begun to be sketched out. Projects seem to start at a low level, and there is a notable lack of coordination between different agencies.
Co-ordinating offices such as INETER and the Directorate of Humid Tropics were too new to fully exercise their functions, and project planners therefore generally proceed without consulting them. They face a major challenge in getting their recommendations to be respected by other agencies.
As a result, there is a tendency to focus on short-term rather than longer-term problems, and particularly on commercial production. An especially worrisome manifestation of this problem is in the area of colonization. While it was observed that the government takes an appropriate approach to development in the humid tropics in its selection of perennial crops over annual crops, there will be a minimal impact over five or even ten years, due to the long maturation period of perennials. The 20,000 mz which may be set aside for perennial crops in the envisioned projects are 2.5 per cent of the Nueva Guinea area (not to mention the rest of the Atlantic coastal area), and the few thousand families which may directly benefit form a small portion of the existing population. The effects of the large remaining population on existing forests and exposed soils could be disastrous.
The weakness of overall planning becomes especially critical when the lack of training and inexperience of project technicians and managers are considered. A tendency to focus narrowly on project objectives and ignore peripheral considerations, despite their potential importance for the success of the project, was observed.
There is a need for technical support in the following areas:
1. The training of technicians. The lack of trained and experienced technicians is a major bottle-neck in agricultural development. For tropical areas, there are virtually no technicians available for training or project execution.
2. The cacao project. This project was underway at the time of this report, but it was lacking in information with regard to management alternatives. Questions of varieties of shade, spacings, management practices, etc., had to be defined for the project area. There was also a need for integrated planning, including areas surrounding project areas, especially where this could help to control erosion or improve the water balance for the cacao.
3. Humid tropics programme. The MIDINRA offices specifically concerned with development questions in the humid tropics are in the process of formation. These offices have only recently been established. so their programmes are not yet formulated, but their planning at this stage indicates that they will require technical support in alternative production strategies, such as agro-forestry, as their programme develops.
4. Some provisions must be made for existing colonist populations. While it is clear that these farmers are a burden on the economy, unless they are given technical alternatives, they will continue to cause environmental damage in their efforts to earn a living. The long time required for the implementation of the permanent-crop programmes such as cacao mean that some interim solutions must be developed.