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close this bookColonization and Environment: Land Settlement Projects in Central America (UNU, 1990, 155 pages)
close this folder2. Colonization in Costa Rica
View the documentHistorical Perspective on Costa Rican Land Colonization
View the documentCurrent Management of Tropical Forest Areas in Costa Rica
View the documentCase-Study: Batán Regional Office of the ADI
View the documentConclusions


Several general conclusions emerge from this analysis of colonization in tropical forest areas:

1. National agencies faced with colonization questions do not have technical information, such as studies of land use potential, available to them which could guide them in making more efficient use of humid tropical lands.

2. There is a shortage of production recommendations which are feasible for small farmers. Productive activities which would be especially appropriate for the humid areas, typically forestry, do not have a structure of financial and technical support which would encourage farmers to enter into innovative production strategies.

3. In the cases where this information is available, there is a lack of incentive for farmers to use it.

4. Financial support is generally lacking for the implementation of activities which may help to ameliorate environmental problems.

5. There is no national environmental conscience capable of resisting local pressures for forest destruction.

6. The ADI is being forced into the position of regularizing ex post facto the illegal seizure of lands by both poor peasants and "professional squatters" and land speculators.

Agrarian Reform Problems in Tropical Colonization

The ADI is constantly faced with problems which involve forestry questions, but they have not been able to implement effective programmes which address these problems. ADI programmes do not generally have a forestry component built into them, and, in fact, forestry and environmental problems are generally ignored for want of appropriate planning and implementation mechanisms. As one clear example, the production of laurel (Cordia alliodora) in agro-forestry combinations has been an important source of income for farmers in Limón. in recent years where Monilia has reduced cacao income; combined with cacao or pastures, laurel provides a method of making multiple use of lands with appropriate local species and also helps to stabilize land and reduce problems of nutrient leaching and erosion (Rosero and Gewald 1979). Nevertheless, there is no clearly defined laurel component in either pasture or cacao production programmes in Neguev, and technicians were not even sensitized enough to the potential of the species to realize that the existing plantations could provide experimental data which might support further use of laurel.

Still on Neguev Colony, notably absent were plans for financing forestry activities of farmers. The ADI in fact had unconsciously adopted a purely exploitive view of forest resources. In an area with soil problems as serious as those of Neguev, forestry may well be one of the better economic alternatives for land use. In any case, farms are clearly lacking in income sources, and more attention could be paid to the enriching of forest, which, by law, must remain on the farm.

A major problem in the control of the colonization of tropical lands is the ADI's general reactive strategy. It seems that all colonization areas are selected by the invading peasants rather than the colonization agency. Once installed, the removal of the peasants is more costly (both politically and financially) than a more forward looking strategy which provides colonization areas which have been selected on the basis of technical evaluations. It is quite likely that this problem is one of financing, in which the ADI already has its budget committed to prior purchases and has no remaining funds to direct to further purchases, except where they are forced to by unavoidable political pressures. In any case, it is likely that in environmental and financial terms, it would be less costly to try to direct colonization to more appropriate areas, and that immediate investments in the ADI would be beneficial over the longer term.

Needs for Tropical Forestry Management

Within the NFD, the forestry reserve and protection zone programmes need to be strengthened. Increased staffing of forest guards has been demonstrated by the NPS to be effective, and presumably it would have the same effect in NFD areas.

The NFD needs to increase its capacity dramatically to produce management plans for protected areas. The most detailed plans now available generally come from student theses, but are sporadic in their development and slow in being produced. Either NED planning capacity must be increased or CATIE activities must be reoriented to provide a more complete coverage of forest areas with management plans.

Another need is to strengthen extension-type activities through the provision of technical support and credit, especially in the management of natural on-farm forests. The development of enrichment programmes or management and exploitation plans would be a positive step in generating farmer interest in forestry.

Necessary Investigations

In all cases of humid forest land occupation, there seems to be a clear lack of forestry implementation plans. Even in areas where forestry is obviously necessary, technicians are not making recommendations as to how to increase productivity of natural forest or how to best manage small-scale forestry or agro-forestry activities. Investigation must be implemented to provide answers to technical questions, and more effort must be directed toward communicating available information and the adaptation of forestry technologies to existing socio-economic conditions so they can readily be used by farmers.

It would be extremely useful to undertake more agro-forestry experiments in areas where they may be useful to farmers. The experiments can serve as demonstration plots, and a careful collection of local perceptions of the experiments can provide insights into technical improvements which will make adoption more likely.

More attention must be paid to soils. Although the problems of soils in high rainfall areas are generally known, there is insufficient information on alternative land uses or strategies for ameliorating known problems. Special attention must be paid not only to the discovery of alternative land uses, but to management strategies which generate income on small farms. Eighty-five per cent of all farms in Costa Rica are smaller than 50 ha, many of which are in areas of poor soils affected by high rainfall. Techniques for environmental management on these farms have a great potential impact in terms of both numbers of farms affected and on the larger environment.