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
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