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It is now widely recognized that tropical lowlands require special agricultural strategies to guarantee their productivity and the sustainability of production. What is less widely appreciated is the difficulty of identifying productive and sustainable systems which are profitable for farmers. Farmers of Central America's lowland frontiers are endlessly creative in their testing of new crops and production strategies, and surprisingly undaunted by failure. Discussions of management strategies with farmers quickly elicit stories of ambitious failures, as well as a pattern of anxious searching and comparison of experiences with neighbours, experts, and visiting researchers. The image of the "traditional" Latin American farmer unwilling to innovate bears little resemblance to the reality of lowland settlement in Central America.
Most of the settlers in tropical lowlands come from drier environments, and they bring their food preferences along with their cropping strategies to the new lands. The production of annual crops such as corn and beans is widespread in tropical lowlands as a result. Farmers will be the first to point out that the new lands are inferior to their old lands for the production of these crops. New strategies are devised to permit the production of grains, and the farmers begin to plant new crops, such as roots and tubers. Unfortunately, the majority of the population in Central America shares the climatic background and taste preferences of the dry Pacific lowlands, so there is a low demand for humid tropical food crops. The one outstanding exception is plantain, and the land setlement areas of Panama and Costa Rica, especially, have become the major producers of plantain for the national markets.
Technically, there are a great variety of lowland tropical crops which are ecologically appropriate and sustainable. Tropical fruits exist in varieties and numbers bewildering to temperate consumers (Popenoe 1920). Many spices are native to these environments, as are food crops such as bread-fruit (Artocarpus sp.), peach palm (Guilielma gasipaes), yuca (Manihot sp.), taro (Colocasia sp.), sweet potato (Ipomaea sp.), malanga (Xanthosoma sp.), and others. Tropical environments have a distinct advantage over temperate environment forest production: woods of exceptional quality can be produced àt rates superior to those found in temperate zones due to the permanently warm and humid conditions of the tropics. Recent work has demonstrated the feasibility of agroforestry combinations as a strategy to maximize production of annual or perennial crops and guard against environmental problems in tropical environments.
Unfortunately, the successful identification of ecologically appropriate crops for the tropics has not been matched in the identification of marketing strategies. The tropical lowlands of Central America are filled with production experiences abandoned due to the lack of markets - including passion-fruit, pepper, heart of palm, tropical tubers, citrus and ginger, to name only a few. Research and extension personnel have observed countless cases of abandoned plantations, unharvested products, and the reversion to annual crops or pastures as ecologically appropriate alternatives are abandoned in a search for income-generating activities. Marginal success has been achieved with cardamom, but its initial success has inspired widespread imitation which threatens to swamp the world market. Otherwise, recommendations for ecologically appropriate strategies are made with the implicit assumption that farmers will accept less-profitable strategies in view of their increased ecological efficiency. Unfortunately, the ecological benefits of such strategies (e.g. watershed protection or maintenance of species diversity) are often so diffuse or so far removed geographically, that they have little if any impact on the farmers. Such strategies will only work if such diffuse "social" benefits are somehow returned to the farmers who produce them.
Although it seems contradictory, the achievement of long-term sustainability in the lowland tropics depends on the development of markets for products appropriate to that environment. As developing areas, tropical countries are continually searching for income-generating alternatives. Until recently, it seemed to be generally acknowledged that resource mining was the only way to obtain income from lowland tropical environments. Ecologically inappropriate products such as cattle, corn, and beans were introduced to respond to national and international tastes, despite their tendency to degrade land quality, while ecologically appropriate crops, especially timber, were eliminated due to their lack of market appeal. Recent environmental concerns have tended to confirm the view that tropical lowlands are a liability whose only function would be to serve as the "lungs of the earth" or a repository for (currently unproductive) genetic diversity. Both perspectives overlook the growing importance of tropical lowlands in an economic sense: as temperate soil resources become overburdened with demands for food and living space for growing populations, the tropics and new tropical products will be increasingly necessary. Improved international transportation promises to open new possibilities for marketing of even more delicate tropical fruits. It is self-defeating to make the error of identifying these new lands as inferior replacements for temperate lands. The key to the ecologically appropriate use of these lands is an integrated strategy which (1) addresses ecological and productive problems and (2) ensures that ecologically appropriate production patterns generate a livelihood for farmers. Efforts in the past have been much better at addressing production problems than the parallel problems of marketing and processing. The agrument that the formation of an organization of timber-exporting countries to maintain higher prices internationally would have a beneficial ecological impact is very persuasive and should be incorporated into plans for Central American forest management and conservation (Guppy 1984).
A fundamental refocusing of effort will be necessary to ensure a more rational approach to lowland tropical land use. More emphasis must be given to the identification and use of species and production techniques which are primarily suited to tropical lowlands, less emphasis to the adaptation of temperate, arid land production species and strategies to the new environment.
The suggestion that tropical forest lowlands be settled for commercial production presents obvious conflicts with a conservationist perspective. While ecologically appropriate and economically feasible strategies do address the problems of the carbon cycle and erosion for the lowlands, they do not address the problem of species conservation; deforestation for commercial crops will eliminate both plant species and animal species which may be of great potential use.
The most obvious solution to the problem of species conservation is the creation of parks and biological preserves where human activity will be legally limited. Unfortunately, this solution is of limited applicability in developing countries due to its costs. Reserved areas require direct government expenditure to maintain a staff and infrastructure to oversee the protected area. These areas also have "opportunity costs," the value of the production of lumber, animals, or agriculture foregone by protecting them. Developing country governments, with a few very notable exceptions, tend to favour production over protection and allocate most national resources to activities which promise demonstrable short-term benefits or avoid short-term disasters.
A number of innovative solutions to the conservation question are being implemented in Central America. Several of these solutions are strongly tied to international efforts. The best-known and best-documented one is the "debt for trees" swap, whereby international debt is "paid" by the debtor country's allocation of reserve lands. Funds freed by the debt forgiveness can be used to manage the reserved lands.
Another example of such international co-operation in conservation is the participation of non-governmental organizations in the collection of international funds to finance conservation activities. Such activities have been especially well developed in Costa Rica. One method is the outright purchase of land for conservation purposes. Guanacaste National Park is presently being formed entirely through international donations (Holder 1986). A complementary activity, and one of probably more longterm significance, is the establishment of the National Park Foundation (NPF) for the purpose of collecting operational funds for the management of protected areas. The NPF is tied operationally to national institutions, but is financially independent. Its funds may (or may not) be used to finance activities of government agencies such as the National Park Service or to contract independently for either personnel or infrastructural development within protected areas. The NPF began a project in 1987 which directly involved it in the establishment of agricultural "buffer zones" around parks; the theory behind such buffer zones is that parks can only be protected in the long run by ensuring that neighbouring farmers will not be driven by poverty into protected areas (Brown 1988; World Wildlife Fund 1988). A similar effort being undertaken but still in a growth phase is through the Asociación Hondureña de Ecologia. The AHE is involved in a number of conservation activities, especially the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in the Mosquitia of Honduras.
The relationship between a private organization and government agencies is fraught with difficulties, especially when the private organization has a much higher funding level than the government agencies. Jurisdictional disputes, jealousies, and policy questions continually arise and require able management to avoid escalation of these conflicts to a point of impairing overall efficiency. Despite the organizational inefficiency of such parallel arrangements, this structure results from international doubts concerning government agencies and financial management: donors are often dismayed by high levels of overhead costs in government services or by the problems in specifically targeting impacts for their funding. The private voluntary organization provides an institutional framework which permits a closer accountability for funds and, consequently, has been extremely successful in capturing international donations.
At the same time, innovative approaches to problems of conservation are being taken within governmental organizations and national legislatures. In Honduras, national legislation designed to increase institutional control over forest areas has had a negative impact on private forestry, due to the elimination of private incentives to manage forest areas. Virtually all forests are the property of COHDEFOR; little provision is made for plantations or individually managed forests. Farmers complain bitterly about COHDEFOR'S appropriation of forests. COHDEFOR has legal jurisdiction over both private and public property, and where farmers do not hold formal titles; COHDEFOR is not obligated to make any compensation; further, the compensation of usufruct-holding nonowners of public lands would probably be difficult to sustain legally. However, COHDEFOR is experimenting with the use of forest production contracts between farmers and the institution; these contracts recognize farmers' rights and obligations in tree production. Farmers must follow COHDEFOR technical recommendations for a specified period of years before they are allowed to harvest, but they will own all, or nearly all, of the production and be the sole owners in terms of harvest or sale decisions once they comply with production specifications.
Costa Rica's Regimen Forestal is a new forest management category which attempts to overcome negative incentives introduced by the usufruct land tenure law. Large landholders, and especially sawmills owning forest tracts, have in the past been discouraged in forest management by the possibility that forest lands would be invaded by squatters. This eliminated any incentive to invest in improved forest management, such as selective harvest, the maintenance of reserves, or the establishment of technically rational harvest rotations, since all investments could eventually be lost if the land was invaded. The Regimen Forestal provides a legal framework within which forest can be managed under loose direction by the National Forestry Directorate; inclusion in the programme requires certain management standards on the part of the landowner, but it provides immunity to land invasion, since the land is formally recognized as "utilized," despite the standing forest.
The Regimen Forestal follows a less successful attempt to provide fiscal incentives for forestry through the provision of tax certifications for companies or individuals who reforested. Unfortunately, no provision was made for the initial status of land to be incorporated into the fiscal incentive programme, and there were complaints that standing forests were felled to make way for plantations. This fiscal incentive strategy also presented deficiencies in the make-up of the participant population. Since relatively few Costa Ricans have tax liabilities which could be cancelled through the reforestation programme, the programme tended to become a fiscal tool for large corporations which otherwise had a minimal interest in land management or forestry production.
A number of apparently unsuccessful policy innovations can also be cited in the area of conservation. Honduras has experimented extensively with strategies to direct interactions between human populations and forests. One strategy used in Honduras as well as in other Central American countries has been the withholding of title from settlers for a specified period of time to discourage settlement for "speculative" purposes followed by further forest settlement. This strategy has not produced the desired results: settlements have tended to be poor and to transform themselves into jumping-off points into remaining standing forest. However, it would be valuable to do a careful analysis comparing the stability of settlers in spontaneous, usufruct possession colonies with that of settlers in schemes with impaired titles.
The Social Forestry System in Honduras represents another promising innovation. Pitsaw agro-forestry co-operatives present a method for motivating local residents to conserve forest resources by involving them in forestry income. Furthermore, these groups are characterized by certain technical advantages: Hand sawing offers finer cuts and so less wastage than mechanical sawing. The close control of COHDEFOR tends to discourage "high grading" of forest stands (i.e. extracting only the most valuable logs and parts of logs) and the destruction of low-grade or young trees. The focus on hand sawing may limit the rate of deforestation in the areas controlled by the agro-forestry cooperatives by keeping down the rate of processing and motivating co-operative members to help enforce COHDEFOR'S forest management laws. The co-operatives represent a limited success at best, since they are minimally involved in forest regeneration or longterm land management, but the model deserves careful study.
To date, the Costa Rican conservation experience seems to be the most promising. The combination of private innovations and a concerted government policy seems to offer the most hope for long-term success in conservation for tropical areas. The initiatives mentioned had only a tangential impact on new settlement patterns, but the positive advances in conservation and public awareness and involvement seem to lay a solid groundwork for the development of sustainable land management strategies in humid lowlands.
A fundamental question arising from the experience of land settlement is whether this process has contributed to a genuine social and economic development of the countries concerned or whether it has served merely as an escape valve for social pressures. A major critique of the land settlement efforts in Latin America arose out of the perception that these were promoted to comply with the letter of the Punta del Este agreement for continent-wide land reforms, without effectively redistributing the best lands which were then under cultivation (Domike 1970; Dorner 1972). Another objection to the process of land settlement was that it did not attempt to create new, more equitable agrarian situations, but merely recreated existing unequal distribution patterns in new areas. Both accusations are true to a certain extent and should be considered carefully.
In a fundamental sense, land settlement is not an activity for the poor. Although "free" access to public lands would seem to be highly egalitarian, the final effects of new land settlement have a tendency to favour the wealthy. The establishment of a farm in "virgin" territory is an expensive undertaking which is unlikely to yield economic returns over the short run. The earliest stages of farm development involve extensive infrastructural development, in both the clearing of land and the establishment of on- and off-farm infrastructure, such as houses, farm buildings, fences, and roads. Community development requires expenditures for the construction of public buildings and payments for the services of teachers, doctors, police, etc. Consequently, wealthier farmers in new settlement areas tend to be more successful than poorer ones, just because of the initial advantages of having working capital (James 1983; Bunker 1982). Similarly, both in Honduras and in Panama, wealthier settlers (be they individuals or logging companies) are reported to employ poorer settlers as land clearers, to the extent that the poorer settlers end up with no property rights, as they must dedicate nearly all their time to wage activities rather than to the development of their own farms.
Much to their credit, Central American countries have designed programmes which permit, and in many cases require, the participation of poor farmers. In most countries, significant efforts are made to ensure that wealthy individuals do not become beneficiaries in land settlement programmes, through a process of colonist selection and background checking. Flagrant violations of that principle seem to have taken place in pre-revolutionary Nicaragua, and examples can be cited in other countries in the region, but these seem to be exceptions. *
There is a generalized perception, especially in the international community, that lowland settlement has not been justified in terms of costs and benefits; the primary benefits are seen to be political, removing desperate landless farmers to remote areas of questionable agricultural value. On an individual level, the new settlements at times do not meet expectations and settlers quickly decide to return to their places of origin. At a national level, the broader implications of lowland development in terms of international markets and national environment problems have been cited as demonstrations of the futility of land settlement (LaFeber 1986). One can extend this analysis even farther, noting how colonization areas have become centres of guerrilla activity, suggesting that colonization experiences are extremely alienating and generate profound social discontent.
Nevertheless, various studies show that land settlement has been largely successful throughout Latin America in satisfying farmers' needs for a better life. Seligson (1980) found the majority of agrarian reform beneficiaries (many of whom had been relocated to lowland tropical zones) to be satisfied with their experience in the reform; Findley (1988) arrives at a similar conclusion for Latin America as a whole. Lowland settlement has lived up to its expectations from the perspective of Latin Americans.
The frontier experience has left a lasting imprint on the agricultural society of Central America. Stanley Heckadon Moreno's (1983) description and analysis of the "pasture culture" in Panama rings true for other Central American countries and seems to be echoed in the "perpetual pioneer" cited by Findley (1988) for Latin America as a whole. Heckadon Moreno's work illustrates how the "pasture culture" permeates Panamanian rural life, with individual worth being demonstrable through the capacity to clear land and personal goals being defined in terms of pasture land possession, independent of economic considerations. The attitude of these poor farmers is similar to that traditionally assigned to the Latin American upper classes, wishing to surround themselves with the trappings of gentlemanly grandeur through the possession of large cattle ranches. The attachment to the concept of agricultural grandeur is particularly ironic in Panama, where agriculture places far behind commerce and banking as a generator of wealth. While it cannot be denied that there are economic motivations involved in the desire to possess or create pasture, the special characteristic of the pasture culture is that it prescribes pastures even beyond the limits of economic or ecological rationality.
The process of social change in Central America has been accelerated. The ethnic stability associated with highland Guatemala is clearly the exception rather than the rule. Social and economic changes are introduced as part of national level policies, some of which are decidedly social welfare oriented. Omar Torrijos's efforts to change Panamanian society through restructuring of the agricultural sector are being recreated in Nicaragua on an even more far-reaching scale. Nevertheless, rural change is not restricted to "revolutionary" regimes; the deepening of the market economy in Central America brings with it fundamental changes, as "subsistence" farming vanishes in the face of growing markets for farm products and the near universal availability of commercial outlets (Barrett 1982). Population growth and resettlement have had an impact on even the most traditional populations (Carter 1969).
Strikingly, there is a constant effort to recreate the community in new settlement areas. Land settlement often attracts fellow community members or family members, who settle together in new areas (Carter 1969; Jones 1988). This re-creation of the traditional community has the express purpose of regenerating old social relations and patterns of mutual support.
In some cases, new communities are formed with a distinctly utopian objective. Most directed or partially directed settlement schemes promote communal organizations, in the form of either production co-operatives or paternalistic state-run "community enterprises" (e.g. the Bajo Aguán Valley in Honduras). A few of these utopian schemes have an expressly religious orientation, as was the case of Nueva Palestina in southern Honduras (Smith-Hinds 1980). This utopian orientation is highly reminiscent of the mission settlement organization of the early Christian orders in the New World, especially in the belief that a new moral order must be imposed on participating individuals to guarantee both personal improvement and economic success. Interestingly, this focus is not restricted to resettlement but has been applied to land reform efforts in most countries, especially in Panama, as mentioned above, and more recently in Nicaragua.
In the course of occupying new environments, Central American settlers have had to experiment with alternative crops and production strategies. These experiments have in the past, and may still in the future, serve as an orientation for agronomic research. Paul Richards's work in Africa (1985) and Gene Wilken's work in Central America (1987) demonstrate the depth of indigenous technical knowledge of local crops and the possibility of engaging this background knowledge as a basis for further, locally appropriate agronomic research. Although it might be suggested that the recent immigrants to Central America's humid zones would not have had sufficient time to develop a comprehensive indigenous knowledge system regarding the minute details of local conditions, a number of innovations can be observed.
One concept to come out of the humid areas is that of "minimum tillage." Fields are cleared and burned and crops planted with a dibble, used only to create holes to receive seeds, with no further cultivation. This strategy is only striking when compared with the European tradition of plowing to improve soil structure and control weeds. Early attempts to plow in humid environments were believed to represent a technical improvement over existing systems; it is now widely recognized that plowing tropical soils is destructive and inefficient and that variations on the local systems of planting are more appropriate given ecological conditions. More recently, attempts have been made to "improve" on minimum tillage through the introduction of chemical defoliants, rather than relying on fire, although there are still questions whether even this represents an overall improvement in the management of the ecological system.
Fertility enhancement techniques are of great interest in tropical areas, since soils often are deficient in their fertility maintenance capability. In Guatemala, settlers were found to use velvet bean to shorten fallow periods. This represents a significant departure from more common fallowing techniques which relied on natural regeneration and locally occurring species for their fallow vegetation. The use of this innovation seems to be spreading slowly throughout the north-eastern part of the FTN; Carter (1969) reported its use 20 years ago, but farmers in 1984 insisted that in their area the practice had been introduced only recently. Users of this technology emphasize another benefit, in addition to fertility maintenance, and that is its effectiveness in controlling weeds. Weed growth is a principal problem in lowland tropical areas; the absence of a "dead" season, in which weed growth is eliminated, means that weeds nearly always have an advantage over sown crops. Velvet bean eliminates all germinating weeds and prevents the setting of seeds and runners; farmers report that this characteristic, even more than its impact on fertility, explains how velvet bean fallows permit more frequent cropping cycles.
DeWalt et al. (1982) reports on a soil management technique which may be of significance for colonization areas. The technique is reported for the dry, well-settled region of Choluteca, but Choluteca is the source of many current migrants to humid colonization areas, and they may be expected to take this method with them. The technique consists of mulching as a substitute for burning brush from fallow periods. Such a technique presents obvious problems of fungus in a humid area, but it may be adapted to specific crops or areas even in a humid environment.
What may be a more significant contribution from the Central American tropics is agro-forestry. The concept of agro-forestry has existed for some time in the scientific literature (King 1968); the integration of tree crops with annual or perennial agricultural crops was thought to offer significant benefits in terms of sustainability and cost effectiveness. Central America is one of the first areas where economically viable agroforestry systems were described, and these systems were developed nearly entirely on the basis of local farmer experimentation and adaptation (Gordon 1969; de las Salas 1979). Agro-forestry was not invented by modern Central Americans; Spanish explorers commented on the extensive management of tree gardens, and the agro-forestry relationship of Gliricidia sp. to cacao has been immortalized in one common name for the species, madre de cacao ("cacao's mother"). The use of shade trees for perennial crops was extended from cacao to coffee in the nineteenth century and represents a highly sophisticated management technique which continues until the present. Recent research has been investigating the possibility of recreating now extinct agro-forestry systems as a tool for development of humid tropical areas (Gliessman et al. 1981).
An adaptation of the cacao-Gliricidia relationship is seen in the introduction of lumber species into perennial crop plantations. Of immediate interest is the use of Cordia alliodora for supplementary shade in cacao plantations in lowland humid areas (Rosero and Gewald 1979). A similar pattern can be seen in drier areas (Heuveldop and Espinoza 1983), and the pattern of migration from drier to more humid areas suggests the possibility that the two techniques are not entirely independent.
Cordia alliodora has also been used in combination with pastures in humid areas (Rosero and Gewald 1979). Until quite recently, Cordia was not regarded as an appropriate species for lumber, but appreciation for it has grown in recent years, and farmers responded by introducting it into their production systems.
One potentially rich source of indigenous technical knowledge for lowland settlement is that of the pre-Hispanic natives of the region. The combination of native depopulation and the Hispanic preference for temperate and semi-arid environments led to a virtual abandonment of the humid tropical zones of Central America, and the loss of the relevant technology. One technology lost was genetic: the abandonment of the Central American humid regions almost certainly resulted in the loss of plant varieties adapted to humid conditions. While it is commonly observed that corn and beans do not prosper in humid environoments, this observation most likely reflects the attempt to use varieties adapted to drier environments; humid lowland environments were major food producers at earlier times in history (GómezPompa 1980-1981). Another technology lost was that of lowland agricultural engineering; recent work has demonstrated the existence of extensive irrigation, mounding, and drainage systems in the lowland areas of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize (Pohl 1985; Gómez-Pompa 1980-1981). Modern agriculturalists tend to shun these areas as unmanageable, despite their high potential for production under proper management practices. The "rediscovery" of pre-Hispanic production systems may change perceptions of "appropriate" uses for lowland areas (Gliessman et al. 1981).
Farmer interest in commercial tree species has been noted throughout colonization areas of Central America and may represent yet another land use avenue to explore. In Guatemala, farmers tap copal to sell in the national market; it is used in traditional religious ceremonies. In Honduras, resin from the liquidambar tree (Liquidambar styraculfolia) has been tapped in settlement areas, although the practice has been inconsistent due to problems of price stability. Honduran colonists are very appreciative of forest lumber species, especially mahogany (Swietenia spp.), since many engage in logging, with either chain-saws or handsaws. A similar interest was expressed in Panama's Darién; university researchers are undertaking studies to promote agroforestry systems, with species appropriate for lumber. The integration of existing interest in forest species into economically viable agro-forestry systems will greatly contribute to the establishment of sustainable, environmentally appropriate systems in the future.
Finally, through their own determination farmers have developed strategies for fighting plant disease, even where scientific researchers have not been able to' The scientific response to sigatoka negra, a disease which affects plantain, was to attempt chemical control. The expense of this control led to the conclusion that there was no economically viable response to sigatoka, and it was recommended that farmers eliminate all plantain as a method for controlling the disease. Some farmers persisted in their plantain production, and have weathered the sigatoka storm, although they recognize that it affects their production negatively. Agronomic researchers have now begun to focus more attention on small-farmer strategies for control, since they appear to represent a method of "integrated pest management," involving limited use of chemicals and relying more on cultural practices and the selection of resistant varieties (MacMurray 1988).
It is difficult to conclude a study such as this. No conclusion is adequate to summarize the complex and sometimes contradictory process of land settlement. Environmental protection seems to require at least a temporary set-back for poor farmers of the region; nevertheless, environmental degradation will impose its own, possibly harsher, consequences on the population as a whole. In the spirit of pulling together threads to alternately inspire or incense other researchers, a few conclusions will be sketched here.
Although it may seem defeatist, it should be recognized that no institutional arrangements have yet been found to control land settlement, short of posting guards around forest areas and clearly indicating a willingness to enforce the law. The economic, social, and political costs of such measures make it unlikely they will be widely used. As indicated in the first chapter, settlers already have entered much of the remaining "dense forest" areas of the isthmus. Future efforts must follow the lead set by the Canadian International Development Agency's forest management plan for Olancho and Colón, where special efforts are directed toward farmers and production in an effort to engage them and direct their activities in ecologically appropriate directions. Another promising effort is that of the National Park Foundation in Costa Rica, which is working to address farmer production needs as part of a land management strategy involving agricultural buffer zones and public participation in environmental analysis and planning (World Wildlife Fund 1988).
As a complement to the above conclusion, it seems clear that there has been a fundamental misunderstanding of farmer management practices and motivations. Attempts to create alternative production arrangements, to divert farmer interest from land settlement, and to discourage the passage of land control from farmer to farmer, all have been quite unsuccessful. At the same time, farmers have in some cases developed their own, ecologically appropriate, management practices, although their primary motivation seems to be economic rather than ecological. A better understanding of farmer behaviour will offer a better opportunity to both predict policy failure and suggest promising policy or research orientations.
Finally, there is a need for redoubled efforts to discover and disseminate ecologically appropriate solutions to the problems of agricultural production in the humid tropics. Research should be directed so as to incorporate both ecological and economically viable strategies, to guarantee that new technology can be used by farmers independent of outside institutional or technical support. The importance of this effort can only be emphasized by the witnessing of affluent first world countries selling off natural resource reserves to raise income and lower government costs. If even the wealthiest countries cannot escape the economic pressure for environmental harvesting, poor countries would seem to hold even less promise.
There is still some hope for remaining forest areas in Central America, especially in view of the dramatic changes in public attitudes toward forests and conservation. Nevertheless, the ecological time bomb has continued to tick down to its last seconds; it will be a race against time to discover methods to defuse the bomb before the last second ticks away.
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