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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop 8 Honduras: Population, Inequality, and Resource Destruction Billie R. DeWalt, Susan C. Stonich, and Sarah L. Hamilton The population of Honduras in 1989 was estimated at 4.98 million people, nearly double the 1970 population of 2.63 million. During the same period, the country experienced environmental destruction on a grand scale. Soil erosion, watershed deterioration, deforestation, and destruction of coastal resources occurred at alarming rates. Based on appearances, there seems to be a direct link between the rapid population increase and this nonsustainable utilization of land and water resources. The purpose of this case study is to examine the evidence concerning population increase and natural resource destruction to determine whether there is such a direct link. The accumulated evidence concerning southern Honduras is remarkably consistent in showing that environmental destruction is attributable more to the inequality of resource distribution and patterns of economic development in the region rather than to population increase. Although our evidence relates primarily to Honduras, it appears that these same processes have also been characteristic of other Central American countries and that they have played a major role in causing the violent conflicts and environmental difficulties that characterize the region today (see Williams, 1986; Leonard, 1987). HONDURAS: AN OVERVIEW With an area of 43,277 mi2 (a bit larger than the state of Kentucky), Honduras is the second largest of the Central American republics. Over 80
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop percent of the land is mountainous, a physical feature that contributes to the relative isolation of some areas of the country. Honduras is predominantly an agricultural country. In 1980, 60 percent of the population was directly involved in agriculture (World Bank, 1991:297), and in 1987 agriculture accounted for 83 percent of the value of merchandise exports. The major exports in order of importance were bananas, coffee and cacao, fish and shellfish, wood products, fruits, nuts, flowers, sugar, and livestock products. Southern Honduras is more dependent on agriculture than is the rest of the country. Approximately 70 percent of its population is directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. For this reason, changes in land utilization patterns in the region have an immediate and discernible effect. THE POPULATION SITUATION Although the total fertility rate for Honduras dropped from 7.4 in 1970 to 5.4 in 1989, and the annual growth rate declined from 3.71 percent (1981–1982) to 2.96 percent (1988–1989), the country's population continues to grow rapidly. Population density has climbed from 12.2 persons/km2 in 1950 to 35.6 in 1985 (see Stonich, 1986:145). This population expansion has occurred in a nation characterized by extreme inequality of wealth1 and one of the lowest per capita incomes in Latin America (Sheahan, 1987). Additionally, Honduras exhibits one of the highest rates of rural destitution in Latin America (57–75 percent, depending on the measures used, in the 1970s). Unequal distribution of resources between rural and urban populations and within the rural sector means that more than 70 percent of rural families lived on less than $20 per month in 1980 (CSPE/OEA, 1982). Honduras has been designated a "food priority country" by the United Nations. Per capita domestic food production has declined; Honduras has been a net importer of maize, rice, sorghum, and beans since 1976. In 1975, the prevalence of second-and third-degree malnutrition was 38 percent (Teller et al., 1979), and over 70 percent of children under 5 Years of age suffered from some form of protein-calorie malnutrition during the 1970s (SAPLAN, 1981). In the late 1980s, the average energy deficit in rural areas was approximately 20 percent (USAID Honduras, 1989a). 1 The top 20 percent of the population held 68 percent of the wealth in the 1970s, compared with 58 percent in Mexico and 50 percent in Argentina (Sheahan, 1987).
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop CHANGING LAND USE PATTERNS IN THE SOUTH Southern Honduras experienced a substantial expansion of commercial agriculture in the years immediately following World War II. The Honduran government became an active agent of development, creating a variety of state institutions and agencies to expand government services, modernize the country's financial system, and undertake infrastructural projects. This period of intensified public sector investments coincided with temporary high prices on the world market for primary commodities like cotton, coffee, and cattle. Large landowners in the south who had access to the good lands on the coastal plain had historically been unable to respond to favorable economic conditions because of the lack of necessary infrastructure such as transportation, markets, and credit. With the infrastructure in place these owners found it profitable to expand production for the global market. The Cotton Boom It was cotton cultivation that first transformed traditional social patterns of production in southern Honduras (Stares, 1972:35; White, 1977; Durham, 1979:119; Boyer, 1983:91). In the late 1940s and 1950s, people from El Salvador began commercial cultivation of cotton in Honduras.2 As in El Salvador and Nicaragua, commercial production involves considerable mechanization in land preparation, planting, cultivation, and aerial spraying. Cotton cultivation along the Pacific coastal plain also is dependent on 2 In 1969, the Government of Honduras expelled several thousand Salvadoran immigrants, many of whom had lived in Honduras for over a generation. El Salvador retaliated by invading Honduras. This so-called Soccer War (because it occurred shortly after the soccer teams representing the countries competed in World Cup qualifying matches) was widely attributed to "population pressure"—the competition of poor Hondurans and Salvadorans for increasingly scarce arable land. Many analysts concluded that a Malthusian scenario was being played out in which the population had exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. Durham's (1979) classic analysis of this situation demonstrated that it was the use and distribution of land, rather than its carrying capacity, that resulted in the problems of food production and the inability of families to meet subsistence needs. Durham found that the landless and land-poor agriculturalists unable to rent land in El Salvador made up most of the migrant stream to Honduras. Mostly renters and sharecroppers, the Salvadorans' access to land depended on the decisions of large landholders rather than on competition with Honduran smallholders. In fact, immigrants and poor Honduran farmers joined forces to challenge a large hacienda owner who attempted to incorporate national lands into his estate. Durham concluded that the land base of poor farmers decreased to the point of threatening survival only partly as a result of population increase. As he put it, "Land use patterns show that land is not scarce for large landholders" (1979:54).
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop the heavy use of chemical inputs (especially insecticides and fertilizers). The indiscriminate use of pesticides in the cotton growing regions remains one of the most pervasive environmental contamination and human health problems throughout Central America. Water from cotton growing areas shows heavy contamination from DDT, Dieldrin, Toxaphene, and Parathion (USAID, 1982), and the results of a 1981 study to determine the levels of pesticide poisoning in the area around the city of Choluteca revealed that approximately 10 percent of the inhabitants had pesticide levels sufficiently high to be considered cases of intoxication (Leonard, 1987:149). The land and water contamination from pesticides, as well as high levels of pesticide residues in food supplies, have had substantial effects on human health (Williams, 1986; Leonard, 1987). Following the boom and bust cycles of the international cotton market, the amount of land in cotton in southern Honduras fluctuated considerably between the late 1940s and the late 1980s. The major social effect of the cotton boom was to increase inequalities in access to land. Large landowners revoked peasant tenancy or sharecropping rights, raised rental rates exorbitantly, and evicted peasants forcibly from national land or from land of undetermined tenure (Durham, 1979; Boyer, 1983:94). Thus, one of the effects of increased cotton cultivation was to displace many poor farmers from the most suitable agricultural lands in the south. Cotton also, however, provided a substantial number of seasonal jobs during the harvest season. The long staple cotton grown in the region was, and still is, largely picked by hand. The Cattle Boom The expansion of the cattle industry has probably had the most extensive and devastating environmental impact (DeWalt, 1983; 1986). Between 1960 and 1983, 57 percent of the total loan funds allocated by the World Bank for agriculture and rural development in Central America supported the production of beef for export. During that same period, Honduras obtained 51 percent of the total World Bank funds that were disbursed in Central America—of which 34 percent were for livestock projects (calculated from Table 4-1 in Jarvis, 1986:124). These programs were all channeled into the region through the large landowners, merchants, and industrialists who made up the elites of the countries (DeWalt, 1986; Stonich and DeWalt, 1989). In a context of declining agricultural commodity prices, high labor costs, unreliable rainfall, and international and national support for livestock, landowners reallocated their land from cotton and/or grain cultivation to pasture for cattle. Cattle appealed to landowners in Honduras because it is a commodity that could be produced with very little labor. While it takes considerable human labor
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop Figure 1 Changing land use patterns: southern Honduras, 1952–1974. (All figures are percentages.) SOURCE: DGECH (1954, 1976). to produce sugar cane, cotton, melons, or coffee, with just two or three hired hands and extensive pasture it is possible to manage a herd of several hundred cattle.3 In Honduras, land reform programs ironically also encouraged the expansion of pasture for livestock. Landowners who feared expropriation of unutilized fallow and forest land fenced it and planted pasture as a way of establishing use of the land without increasing labor inputs (DeWalt and DeWalt, 1982:69; Jarvis, 1986:157). The main limitation to beef production is pastureland, and this is why there were such extensive changes in land use patterns in Honduras and the other Central American countries during the 1960s and 1970s. Expansion took place not only in the lowlands and foothills where cattle raising traditionally occurred, but also in the highlands where many of the wealthier peasant farmers augmented cattle production (Durham, 1979; Boyer, 1983; Stonich, 1986). Increased livestock production in the lowlands and the highlands also accelerated the expulsion of peasants from national and private lands (White, 1977:126–156; Stonich, 1986:139–143). Between 1952 and 1974, pasture in the region increased from 41.9 percent of the land to 61.1 (see Figure 1). Precipitous declines are evident in both fallow land and the amount of land in forest. This has resulted in significant increases in both soil erosion and deforestation. Honduras is losing its soils at the rate of 10,000 ha per year and, if current trends continue, ''the forest resource will be exhausted in a generation'' (USAID Honduras 1990:3). Many of the best lands in the country are 3 For example, it has been estimated that "coffee requires between 64 and 208 person days per year, while beef-cattle production requires only between 4 and 8" (Guess, 1979:48).
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop in pasture. The Central Bank estimated in August 1988 that 48 percent of the valley lands in Honduras—covering 31 principal valleys—are in pasture. Of these, 22 percent are located in the southern part of the country (USAID Honduras, 1990:10). While the livestock boom has ended in several of the other Central American countries, the number of cattle in Honduras continues to grow rapidly. Cantaloupe and Shrimp Because of a decline in demand for beef and falling prices, in the late 1980s capitalist investors in southern Honduras began investing in two new nontraditional export crops—cantaloupe and shrimp. During the 1980s, cantaloupe production expanded at a rate of 23 percent per year and shrimp production at a rate of 22 percent (USAID Honduras, 1990:2), and in 1989–1990 these two commodities contributed an estimated $25 million in export earnings to the Honduran economy (Meckenstock et al., 1991:4). These earnings have been offset by both environmental and social costs. The area planted in cantaloupe is projected to reach 9,000 ha by 1996. On the positive side, cantaloupe production provides a substantial number of temporary jobs in production and in packing for export. Accompanying the boom in production, however, have been escalating levels of soil degradation, aphid-borne viruses, and insect pests like leaf miners and whiteflies. Even with two to three applications of pesticides a week, crop losses in 1989–1990 were 56 percent of harvest projections (Meckenstock et al., 1991:5). Runoff of pesticides poses a threat to community water supplies ill the region as well as to the estuaries in the Gulf of Fonseca where shrimp farming has become a big business and where shrimp larvae already show relatively high levels of DDT. The area in shrimp farms increased from about 100 hectares in 1982 to 11,515 hectares in 1992. The expansion of shrimp farms has occurred in areas of mud flats, beaches, and mangroves that were once public lands used by the rural poor for hunting, fishing, and the gathering of shellfish. Government concessions to shrimp companies have effectively turned these areas into private property. Twenty-year concessions have been granted to companies for 4 lempiras (less than $1) per hectare per year. Fences are erected, armed guards installed, and local people excluded from areas they had once freely utilized. Parallels in the social process associated with the recent boom in shrimp mariculture and the earlier expansions of export commodities (cotton, sugar, and livestock) in the region are striking. Past "enclosure movements" in which small farmers were removed from relatively good agricultural land, often by force and with the compliance of local authorities, are being repeated on the intertidal lands. Intertidal land once open to public use for
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop fishing, shellfish collecting, salt producing, and the cutting of firewood and tanbark is now being converted to private use. Concessions, guarantees of occupancy, and titles have been acquired by the firms involved in shrimp production. Conflicts have arisen among the large foreign-owned operations, local medium-scale entrepreneurs, and campesino cooperatives over access to estuaries, lagoons, and mangroves. Three fishermen died in incidents involving shrimp farms in 1991 and 1992. Moreover, although development documents written in the mid-1980s stressed the importance of incorporating resource-poor households in the development process primarily through the formation and support of shrimp farming cooperatives (USAID, 1985), more recent reports conclude that only the larger, more intensive operations are profitable (USAID Honduras, 1989b). These large operations generate very few employment opportunities, typically employing fewer than one person per hectare (Gonzalez et al., 1987; cited in SECPLAN/DESFIL, 1989:179). The construction of shrimp farms has also exacerbated the destruction of mangrove forests along the coast. This may eventually become as extensive as the mangrove destruction that occurred along the coast of Ecuador in connection with development of shrimp farming in that country (LACR, 1989). Summary During the last 40 years, the restructuring of agriculture in southern Honduras has impoverished both the landscape and an increasing percentage of the population.4 The general trend has been toward resource oligopoly, patterns of exploitation and production that jeopardize future systemic sustainability in exchange for quick profits, wanton destruction of natural resources, and underemployment. None of these processes resulted, even indirectly, from population pressure. 4 A recent report by agricultural scientists reported that: "Since the 1950s, the agricultural economy of southern Honduras has been dominated by a series of boom and bust cycles of export commodities. Cattle, cotton, and sugar have each reached their zenith only to dissipate in the face of declining productivity and adverse world markets. Much of this instability has been self-inflicted through degradation of the natural resource base which has reduced productivity and profitability. At present, non-traditional export crops like melon and shrimp are experiencing the great expectations and up-swing of this cycle; however, signs of limitations and stress on production are becoming apparent" (Meckenstock et al., 1991:2).
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop SMALLHOLDER AGRICULTURE Until now, we have been talking about a relatively small percentage of producers, those with access to the best lands and the most resources. Indeed, as already implied, land distribution in Honduras is highly unequal. Table 1 compares the distribution of land in the municipality of Pespire in southern Honduras, and in the country as a whole.5 Landholding patterns are remarkably consistent across local, regional, and national levels. Approximately two-thirds of producers have access to less than 5 ha of land; this multitude share only 9–10 percent of the total land area. In contrast, the 10–12 percent of the population with access to over 50 ha controls more than 50 percent of the land area. These are the commercial producers on whom the previous section focussed. The question remains, what is happening to the small producers, the majority of the population, as large commercial concerns expand? Most small producers are concentrated on steep mountain slopes that are of marginal quality for agriculture (the brief descriptions below are based on three small communities we studied in the municipality of Pespire).6 Although large landholdings are relatively rare in the communities studied TABLE 1 Comparison of Inequality of Landholding in Pespire, in Southern Honduras, and in Honduras Size of Holdings (ha) Percentage of Farms Percentage of Area Pespire South Honduras Pespire South Honduras <5 63.4 68.4 63.9 10.1 10.3 9.1 5–9.9 15.9 13.6 14.5 9.9 8.1 7.7 10–19.9 9.8 8.8 9.8 12.2 10.4 10.2 20–49.9 7.4 6.0 7.8 19.6 14.8 17.5 50–99.9 2.2 1.7 2.3 12.8 9.5 11.5 ≥100 1.3 1.6 1.7 35.3 46.8 44.0 Total no. of farms 1,714 25,412 195,341 Total no. of ha. 19,383 304,462 2,629,859 5 This inequality of land distribution is also found in the other Central American countries (see DeWalt and Bidegaray, 1991:24). 6 See DeWalt and DeWalt (1982) for a report on the methodology and results of this research.
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop TABLE 2 Comparison of Land Tenure Characteristics in the Highland Communities Studied Research Communities Characteristics 1 2 3 4 5 Mean size of holdings (ha) 2.3 3.7 5.9 4.6 3.1 Maximum size of holdings 14 69 39 47 214 Percentage of landowners in community 63 27 46 72 — Percentage with holdings of less than 1 ha 10 24 49 29 40 Percentage that purchased land 41 19 44 31 — NOTE: Community 1 = San Antonio (Stonich, 1986); Community 2 = Esquimay (Stonich, 1986); Community 3 = Cacautare/El Naranjito (DeWalt and DeWalt, 1982): Community 4 = mean of villages in Langue (Durham, 1979); and Community 5 = mean of 7 communities (Boyer, 1983). (see Table 2), there is considerable inequality in access to land among smallholders. The mean size of landholdings for all of the communities is quite small (less than 6 ha). While the percentage of surveyed households owning land ranges from 27 percent to 72 percent by community (see Table 2), a large percentage of people in all communities are landless or have access to less than one ha of land. In the villages around Cacautare, 54 percent of the sample rented, borrowed, or sharecropped land, generally in quantities smaller than 5 manzanas (less than 3.45 ha).7 Most landowners had access to less than 7 ha of land. Only two individuals held more than 28 ha, with the largest being about 39 ha. In these communities, landowners and renters generally practice some form of shifting cultivation8 that involves interplanting maize and sorghum. 7 Similarly, 55 percent of sampled households in villages around Esquimay rent, borrow, or sharecrop land (Stonich, 1986:202). Durham (1979:144) reports that 39.4 percent of people in Langue rent land; he does not measure borrowing or sharecropping arrangements. 8 Although the type of cultivation that is practiced by small farmers in southern Honduras is usually described as slash-and-burn agriculture, the way that a field enters the cultivation cycle is more accurately described as a slash-and-mulch system. Here, the secondary forest growth is cut down, but rather than being burned it is left lying on the ground to serve as mulch for the grain crops that are planted.
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop The first year of cultivation of a plot of hillside land in Cacautare usually begins with a slash-and-mulch system in which maize or sorghum is planted. When planting maize, all brush, vines, and weeds are cut down in August.9 A digging stick is used to plant maize among the decaying vegetation. After the maize has germinated, the larger trees are felled and left in the field. When sorghum is planted, the seeds are broadcast-sown under second growth forest; then the trees, brush, and weeds are cut. In both cropping systems, the decaying vegetation is left in the field as a mulch. In the second (and sometimes third) year of cultivation, the now-dry brush and trees are burned in April and maize and sorghum are interplanted.10 In the past, much of this land would then be allowed to lie fallow for a long period of time to recover its fertility. Now, however, an increasing proportion of the land, especially among larger landowners, is being converted to pasture. As Figure 1 showed, the percentage of land in pasture in the south of Honduras expanded by half in only 20 years, and at the expense of forest and fallow land. Landless peasants provide the labor required to convert land to pasture in exchange for temporary but inexpensive land rental. Poor peasants in Cacautare had relatively little difficulty renting land in the early 1980s. The rental cost of 1 manzana of land in 1981 was only about $8, with the renter agreeing to leave the crop residue in the field. While haulm used for grazing animals in the dry season was worth up to $50 per manzana, rental costs still seemed relatively low. Landowners are willing to rent their land cheaply because the most expensive and labor-intensive aspect of hillside agriculture is clearing secondary growth forest. Rather than paying laborers to cut brush and trees, landowners rent their land to the landless for a year or two. Part of the rental agreement is that pasture grasses will be sown in the field between rows of subsistence crops so that the landowner will be left with a new pasture. We estimate that this arrangement saves the landowner at least $100 in labor costs for each hectare of new pasture (see DeWalt and DeWalt, 1982). Why are landowners more interested in growing pasture to feed livestock than in growing basic grains or export crops (cf. Parsons, 1976:126)? 9 This period is known as the postrera; it occurs after the end of the dry period (canicula) that often falls within the middle of the rainy season. 10 From an agronomic point of view this system seems odd because these plants compete for the same nutrients in the soil. From the farmers' point of view, however, the system makes a great deal of sense. The maize is a rapidly maturing variety that can be harvested in between 60 and 70 days (around the middle of July). This is the period of the year when the previous year's grain harvest has been depleted, and, although maize yields are small, they do sustain the farmer for a few months during the remainder of the cropping season. The sorghum intercrop is left in the field to mature and is not harvested until December.
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop The main reason is that the potential return on investment from 1 manzana of grain in the harsh, risky environment of southern Honduras is minimal. In the best case scenario (i.e., highest market price, lowest input prices), farmers are able to make a profit of only about $75 per manzana (DeWalt, 1985:177–178). This potential profit is not enough to entice most larger landowners to produce grain beyond what they require for their own consumption.11 For farmers with sufficient land, there is a much more lucrative option available in raising livestock.12 Several of the relatively well-off smallholders with whom we spoke in Cacautare reported that they had little interest in planting sorghum and maize because they were not profitable crops. They said that market prices were too low, labor costs had climbed, laborers no longer worked as hard as they did in the past, and the weather, insects, and other natural forces made grain harvests too unpredictable. Our calculations indicate that their average profit from selling one steer exceeded the total profit from several manzanas of grain. As a result, the 12 largest landowners in our sample had begun converting significant portions of their land into pasture.13 The environmental result of pasture expansion and land concentration is substantial pressure on the land-resource base and its degradation. Farmers in Cacautare reported that fields should be cultivated for only 3 years in a row (mean = 2.93, range = 1 to 5 years) and should lie fallow for at least 6 years (mean = 6.22, range = 1 to 15 years). Both Stonich (1986, in press) and Durham (1979) demonstrate a direct relationship between the size of landholdings and the amount of time fields lie fallow. Table 3 shows this relationship for the highland villages around Esquimay. Farmers with over 11 Those farmers with small landholdings or those who are landless do have an incentive to produce their own grain. Much of the investment put into the production of crops is their own labor; thus their own cash inputs are relatively minimal. In addition, if they had to purchase grain at retail prices, this would involve a significant outlay of cash. 12 The importance of cattle raising for farmers in the region, however, can be gauged from the number of sales of animals recorded in the year prior to our research by the 52 persons we sampled. Thirteen individuals had sold cattle, and 37 animals changed hands. These animals were sold for amounts ranging from 250 to 500 lempiras each ($125–250). Profits from selling even one animal thus exceed the total amount of profits that might be gained from cultivating several manzanas of grain. 13 Even some of the small landowners with whom we talked expressed fears about the government expropriating their land to be redistributed. One way that farmers felt they could be assured of retaining their land would be to demonstrate that they were productively utilizing it. Forest land, even if it is fallow and will be cultivated in the future, appears not to be in use. So some farmers reported that an additional incentive for planting pasture was that it showed that their land was being used in case another series of land reform programs were promulgated.
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop TABLE 3 Agricultural Practices by Land-Tenure and Farm Size in Southern Highland Villages, 1983 Type of Tenancy N Percentage of Land in Food Cropsa Percentage of Land in Pasture Mean No. of Cattle Owned (range) Length of Fallow (yr) Rentersb 74 95 — 0.17(0–4) 2.7 Owners <1 hac 23 80 — 0.22 (0–3) 2.7 1–4.9 ha 87 51 4 0.22 (0–3) 3.2 5–19.9 ha 15 23 21 2.5 (0–13) 3.8 20–50 ha 5 6 48 8.0 (7–9) 5.0 >50 ha 1 6 20d 50.0 (50) 6.0 a Maize, sorghum, and beans. b Mean area of rented land = 1.4 ha. c Of the owners, 51 percent also rent land. d The largest landowner rents additional grazing land in the lowlands. SOURCE: Stonich (1989:287). 20 ha allow their land to lie fallow for 5 to 6 years. Those with less land resume cultivation of their land after it has been fallow for only 2 or 3 years (cf. Durham, 1979:144–45). Boyer (1983) reports that in other communities in the south, a fallow period is no longer part of the agricultural system. Increasing intensity of land use means that yields are much lower, soil fertility is rapidly depleted, and soil erosion is exacerbated. Lack of vegetation on the hillsides also causes frequent landslides when torrential rains hit the region. For the land-poor, the expansion of pasture threatens not only the fertility of the land but also its availability. Their dilemma was succinctly expressed by one of our informants: Right now we have land available to rent, but each year you can see the land in forest disappearing. In a few years, it will all be pasture and there will be no land available to rent. How are we to produce for our families then? We see what is happening, but we have no choice because our families have to eat now. POPULATION GROWTH AND LAND USE CHANGES Southern Honduras is the most densely settled region of the country; it comprises only 5 percent of the total area of the country but contains approximately 11 percent of the population. Population density increased from 29.8 persons/km2 in 1950 to 63.9 in 1985 (Stonich, 1986:145). Popu-
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop TABLE 4 Population Density, Number of Years of Fallow, and Ratio of Length of Cropping Cycle to Total Cyclea, 1950 to 1990 Period Characteristics 1950 Mid-1970s Mid-1980s 1990 Western and eastern highlands Population density (inhab./km2) 63 99 110 130 Years of fallow 3 to 5 0 to 2 0 0 Ratiob .38 to .6 .6 to 1 1 1 Central highlands Population density (inhab./km2) 35 54 68 74 Years of fallow 15 to 20 10 to 15 2 to 6 0 to 3 Ratio .13 to .16 .16 to .23 .38 to .6 .6 to 1 a Total cycle = years of cultivation plus years of fallow. b The number of years the land is cultivated divided by the number of years the land is fallow. SOURCE: Stonich (1990). lation densities are as high as 160 persons/km2 in some counties (Stonich, 1989:277). Although the natality rate is higher than the national average, growth rates have not kept pace with the rest of the nation—due in part to an infant mortality rate that is 20 percent higher than the national average and in part to regional outmigration. In our research communities, the high regional natality rate is dramatically manifested. The community surveys record an average of 6.3 live births per woman, and many women had yet to complete their families. Table 4 shows the relationship over time between the increasing population density of highland communities and the number of years the land was allowed to remain fallow. Since 1950, the amount of time fields have been allowed to remain fallow has declined precipitously (Stonich, 1986; Boyer, 1983).14 As the population density of these highland communities has increased, there has been a corresponding increase in the intensity of land use. Yet simultaneous population increase is not a sufficient causal explanation for the intensity of land use, destruction of forests, soil erosion, or other ecological problems of the region. Inequality in access to land and the investment patterns of large landowners, neither of which depend on 14 Although Durham (1979) and DeWalt and DeWalt (1982) do not include comparable quantitative data on this point, their anecdotal evidence indicates a similar pattern.
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop population pressure, are much more important factors. As we have shown, the expansion of livestock and other commercial agricultural concerns has: (1) created ecological problems because of the heavy use of pesticides, destruction of mangroves in coastal areas, and the mining of land resources; (2) resulted in a continuing decrease in wage-labor opportunities in the region; and (3) removed the poor from access to the better lands; the displaced poor, in turn, have caused ecological problems through the overuse of steep hillside lands on which they are forced to eke out a living. Although the ecological consequences of commercial agricultural expansion are quite pronounced, it must be emphasized that the social consequences are even more serious. Rural unemployment averaged 62.2 percent over the annual cropping cycle in 1980 (CONSUPLANE, 1982); this figure underestimates unemployment, as women were not included. Since 1980, decreasing cotton and coffee production in the region has further limited agricultural employment opportunities. The result is that many households are unable to satisfy their most basic needs. The national planning agency (SAPLAN, 1981) estimated that 41 percent of all southern families did not meet minimum subsistence levels, and that families living in "semiurban communities" consumed even fewer calories than rural families (Stonich, 1986:152–154).15 Data that we collected in 1982 in nine highland and lowland communities showed that 65 percent of the children under 60 months of age were stunted (below 95 percent of the standard height-for-age recommended by the World Health Organization) and 14 percent were wasted (below 90 percent of the standard weight-for-height). Furthermore, in a region in which cattle production is so pervasive, only 3 percent of all the protein consumed by these villagers comes from meat. While most families had access to sufficient protein, half failed to meet energy requirements in some communities (DeWalt and DeWalt, 1987:39). Infant mortality averaged 99/ 1,000, and an average of 16 percent of all children born in the communities did not survive beyond the age of five. Both undernutrition and child mortality are directly related to the inability of farm families to gain access to enough land to sustain themselves (DeWalt and DeWalt, 1982, 1989; Durham, 1979). When families cannot survive on the land, they seek opportunities elsewhere (Durham, 1979). Thus, the problems plaguing the south are being exported to other regions of the country. Poor families increasingly engage 15 Average nutritional levels, for example, were lower in the late 1980s than in 1970; the average energy deficit in rural areas was approximately 20 percent (USAID, 1989a); and 38 percent of Honduran children under the age of five exhibited some degree of malnutrition (SAEH/INCAP, 1987).
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Population and Land Use in Developing Countries: Report of a Workshop in cyclical or permanent migration to the cities or depend on remittances from family members. Since 1974, out-migration from the Southern region has averaged 1.3 percent annually. Approximately half as many people leave the region permanently every year as are added to the population by both its high birth rate and in-migration. In the communities we have studied, 70 percent of male household heads and 20 percent of female household heads in Cacautare had migrated at least once to work outside the community. In villages around Esquimay, 39 percent of children over 13 years of age had migrated. Most of these migrants end up in the cities of Honduras. The urban population growth rate in Honduras was 5.8 percent between 1974 and 1980, and 5.4 percent between 1980 and 1987, a rate much higher than the population growth rate of about 3.5 percent (USAID, 1989a). The squalid slums on the edges of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula attest to the environmental problems caused by this rural-to-urban migration. Migrants from degraded areas in the south are also settling in Olancho and the vast, relatively unpopulated areas of the Mosquitia in northeastern Honduras—including the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. Similar to processes occurring in other areas of Latin America, deforestation has taken a heavy toll on the ecosystems as newly arriving colonizers clear forest for crops, cattle, and fuelwood. The cleared lands often end up in the hands of extensive cattle ranching interests as the colonists move further into the forest, simultaneously encroaching upon lands inhabited by the small remaining indigenous population. The consequences of land concentration and the expansion of environmentally costly commercial agriculture have been most severe for those who are powerless to alter the course of these events, but the economic and environmental sustenance of all of Honduran society is threatened by these processes. CONCLUSION The implications of this case study are clear: A decline in population growth will not have a major impact on slowing the rate of natural resource destruction in Honduras. In southern Honduras, environmental degradation and social problems often attributed to population pressure arise from glaring inequalities in the distribution of land, the lack of decent employment opportunities, and the stark poverty of many of the inhabitants. It is not the carrying capacity of the land that has failed to keep pace with population growth. Neither is population growth the primary cause of the impoverishment of the Honduran ecology and its human inhabitants. While the destruction caused by the poor in their desperate search for survival is alarming, it pales in comparison with the destruction wrought by large landowners through their reckless search for profit.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: