Land concentration and food security in Central America

In Central America lands means power: land tenure and land use remain pivotal for the region’s social, economic and political development.

Agriculture is the main economic activity and the rural population accounts for almost half the population, which is higher figure than in the rest of Latin America. In recent history, agrarian reform and land distribution initiatives have generally failed to achieve a long-lasting effect, and export-oriented agricultural models have led to further land concentration. The current agri-export model, which centres on the production of raw materials for biofuels, has led to a significant increase in the size of agricultural land while reducing access to land and food supplies. Moreover, the mass modification of land use leads to strong disputes, which are particularly violent in Guatemala and Honduras. Small-scale farmers are the largest producers of staple grains. Therefore, excluding this sector of the population from investment and agricultural innovation processes has serious implications for large part of the population. Given the growing dependency on foreign markets and their price volatility, along with the limited available land and water resources, governments are paying more and more attention to food sovereignty. This paper provides a study of the rural landscape and agrarian dynamics of the last decades in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, based on key elements such as agrarian structure, the use of land, the expansion of the agricultural frontier, and population trends. All four countries are witnessing the impact of the changes in the agrarian model, but the pace varies from country to country.

Eduardo Baumeister