AGRARIAN REFORM IN VENEZUELA: CASE STUDY OF A FUNDO ZAMORANO IN THE STATE OF MONAGAS
CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION Objectives and Organization Why Agrarian Reform? Rural Venezuela and the Marginalization of the Peasant Geography and Land in Venezuela Organization of the Thesis
Objectives and Organization After an unsuccessful agrarian reform (1960-2001) Venezuela is attempting to redistribute land to campesinos and agricultural production cooperatives. This thesis analyses the current agrarian situation of Venezuela and how the changes have affected rural Monagas and in particular the ember of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt.
Why Agrarian Reform Access to land has allowed individuals to support their families and provide food for a large number of people. In Latin America has throughout its history exhibited a high level of land inequality (Engerman and Sokoloff, 1997), remaining one of the most unequal areas of the world to this day (Franko, 2007) Agrarian reforms take advantage of the greater labor productivity ratio of smaller farm units (Rosset, 1999) Some reforms such as the Mexican revolution (1910-1917), the Cuban revolution (1959 to today), and the Bolivian agrarian reform (1952-1956) have been cited as having had the greatest impact in reducing inequality and successfully distributing land among the campesinos (Thiesenhusen, 1989; Gwynne and Kay, 1999, Deere and Leon, 2001). Agrarian reforms were implemented as a result of socialist reforms or under Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. Afraid of losing another country to a communist revolution in their backyard, John F. Kennedy promoted the introduction of agrarian reform policies in Latin America (Schoultz, 1998). Some reforms implemented under Alliance for progress were more successful than others, particularly Chile and Peru. The 1980’s agrarian reform in Nicaragua was also moderately successful. The implementation of neo-liberal policies in Latin America led to a decline in living conditions and a growth of poverty for various Latin American countries . The recent wave of democratically elected leaders have moved away from neoliberalism and some of them have promoted agrarian reform policies.
Rural Venezuela and the Marginalization of the Peasant Like other Latin American countries, Venezuela has retained a high level of inequality since its colonial period (Engerman and Sokoloff, 1997). Small famers were promised land during the War of Independence (1811-1823) as well as during the Guerra Federal (1859-1863) by the liberal party. Despite the victory of the liberals during the Guerra Federal, the following administrations did not implement policies which improved the conditions of the campesinos (Guerrero, 1962) Agrarian reform would not be addressed by subsequent administrations until the implementation of the Agrarian Reform Law in 1960. Venezuela’s land Gini coefficient in 1960 had a value of 0.91 (Soto, 2006) The 1960 agrarian reform brought limited changes. Benefiting primarily the medium-size capitalist farmer (Aldana, 1980). By 1998, Venezuela’s land Gini remained at a highly unequal value of 0.88 (World Bank, 1998). During the 1990s conditions for the lowest social classes in Venezuela progressively worsenned (Ellner et al, 2003; Gott, 2005; Guevara, 2005).
Geography and Land in Venezuela Venezuela has a limited amount of soil with agricultural potential (Soto, 2006). Venezuela has a total surface of 88,205,000 hectares, of which 54% are covered by forests. The 2001 Law of Land and Agrarian Development takes into account geographical differences in classifying what constitutes a latifundio in Venezuela. The lands of Southern Monagas are primarily composed of natural pastures suitable for cattle grazing.
Organization of the Thesis Chapter 1 – Brief Overview of the reasons for the introduction of this agrarian reform Chapter 2 – History of land ownership and distribution in Venezuela. History of the previous agrarian reform as well as cooperatives and the general economic situation up to the election of Chavez. Chapter 3 – Analyzes the current agrarian reform, its legal framework, the agencies, the administration of the reform, and the structure of the Fundos Zamoranos. Other rural development programs are also discussed to arrive a ta broad picture of the achievements of the reform and the cooperative movement. Attention is given to the current food crisis and rural violence Chapter 4 - Presents the case study of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt, including its history, organization, production, membership issues, problems, and achievements Chapter 5 – Concludes the study with an analysis of the impact of the Fundos Zamoranos on rural development.
CHAPTER 2 - LAND AND AGRICULTURE IN VENEZUELAN DEVELOPMENT Chapter Objectives History of Land Ownership in Venezuela Changing Demographics and Increased Oil Dependency 1960 Law of Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in Venezuela before the Chavez Administration Food Production before the Chavez Government Worsening Socio-Economic Conditions and the 1998 Election of Hugo Chavez Discussion and Analysis
History of Land Ownership in Venezuela Colonial System: Encomienda Repartimiento Land granted to nobles according to their “quality” War of Independence: Independence forces failed to appeal to campesinos José Tomás Boves, José Antonio Páez Landsawardedtothosewhofoughtaccordingtotheirrank ConservativeOligarchy 1830 – 1847 Páez – firstVenezuelanpresident Ezequiel Zamora rose up, arguedfordistribution of land and respectfor campesino. Liberal Oligarchy: 1848 – 1858 President José Gregorio Monagas President José Tadeo Monagas Awardedlandtofamily and friends and forpoliticalfavours Federal War 1859-1863 Zamora dies in 1860 butremains moral leader of the Federal Wartothisday. Liberalswinbutfailtoimplementagrarianreform Spoilssystem: Presidents amass large amounts of land during their term in office. Land concentrated in the hands of a few
Changing Demographics and Increased Oil Dependency Restructuring of economy Discovery of oil in 1909 purchase of cheap foodstuffs from abroad decline of domestic agricultural sector Oil comes to dominate economy at the expense of other industries Rapid rural to urban migration Strains government resources Formation of shanty towns around major urban areas Persistence of poverty, gradually worsens over the years Reliance on oil and dependency on food imports worsened in 1990s through implementation of neoliberal policies.
1960 Law of Agrarian Reform March 5th 1960: Agrarian Reform law signed by the leaders of the 3 major political parties (Romulo Betancourt, Rafael Caldera and JóvitoVillalba) Reform focused on integral rural development Promoted growth of capitalist medium sized producer, not communal or cooperative organizations. Aimed to: Modernize the agricultural sector Reduce rural poverty – distribute land, services and aid to landless campesinos Increase agricultural production Land awarded at no cost to landless campesinos, whereas medium-sized farmers were required to pay a fee Expected to coordinate rural development efforts with other government agencies but the actual level of cooperation was very limited 1960 reforms legally active until 2001.
Results of the 1960 Agrarian Reform There is considerable dispute among scholars about the exact number of beneficiaries and amount of land distributed under the 1960 reform. However, it is generally agreed that the reform: Distributed land to a large number of households Increased agricultural production Improved education Increased access to healthcare in rural areas Increased use of fertilizers and agricultural technology for medium sized producers BUT: Reform was limited in its extent High level of land concentration persisted – only a small change in the Gini coefficient Reform failed to eliminate the latifundio Reform primarily benefited medium-sized land owners Did not eliminate dependency on agricultural imports Total number of minifundios actually increased Limited improvement in the conditions experienced by campesino families Increase in rural poverty levels from 1975-1997 Credit mainly given to medium or large size capitalist producers Development of legal and illegal land market – According to 1997 agrarian census 90% of farmland distributed under 1960 agrarian reform has been recovered by larger landowners Corruption was widespread
Results of the 1960 Agrarian Reform Most noticeable changes, particularly with regard to land distribution, took place in the early stages of the reform (1960s and 1970s) After 1970s: focus shifts towards improving rural infrastructure Shift from advocating protectionist measures and an ISI development model to neoliberal policies including the reduction of trade barriers and the promotion of exports. Agrarian reform gradually slipped down the political agenda
Cooperatives in Venezuela before the Chavez Administration According to Articles 137, 138 and 139 of the 1960 Agrarian reform law cooperatives were to be provided with credit, training and markets. 1966: New law of cooperatives passed. However, only a few cooperatives were formed and most failed a few years after their formation due to inadequate administration, high operating costs, low educational levels of the campesinos a lack of organization One of the small number of rural cooperatives to thrive was CECOSESOLA (Central Cooperative for Social Services of Lara) Highly successful marketing cooperative One of the most financially successful cooperatives in history of Venezuela Criticized over its emphasis on profit
Food Production before the Chavez Government 1960s-1980s: agrarian reform had positive impact on agricultural production. During agrarian reform technological improvements increased most agricultural production yields Population growth – agrarian sector struggled to meet increased demand Producers import expensive machinery and inputs 1974 oil boom: overvalued currency – influx of imports Mid 80s: imports peak – Lusinchi devalues Bolivar Agricultural frontier expands by almost 50% Agricultural imports fall Debt crisis forces government to change policy Switch to neoliberal measures Reduction in protectionist tariffs Rise in imports and exports 1990s: neoliberal reforms – stagnation of agricultural production Elimination of agricultural subsidies Many food products experience decline or stagnation Increased emphasis on livestock industry over vegetable production. Relied on protectionist policies Did not implement intensive production procedures Could not compete with more productive countries – e.g. Argentina and Brazil Cattle production stagnated under neoliberalism
Worsening Socio-Economic Conditions and the 1998 Election of Hugo Chavez Corruption Ineffective management of the economy Increase in imports Widening gap between social classes Using international credit Venezuela continues to invest heavily in capital intensive industries and social programs 1980s and 1990s: 20 year decline in oil revenues State forced to cut back on social spending and distribution programs Rising debt crisis Decline in export revenues Rising expectations among Venezuelan population Government forced to devalue currency and cut back on spending on social programs Social conditions progressively deteriorated El Caracazo: February 27 1989 – neoliberal package raises gas prices and bus fares – riots break out 1992: Hugo Chávezattemptsmilitarycoup, stylinghimself as a champion of themasses Chávez imprisioned, releasedafter 1993 presidentialelections Decides topursuepoliticalgoalsthroughthe electoral system Chávez promisesto: reduce inequality and poverty Givelandtothepeasants Improve general living conditions Run up to 1998 elections; situation in Venezuela hadbecomecritical Chávez appeals as an outsider uncorruptedbythepreviouspoliticalsystem December 6th 1998: Chávez winstheelections in a landslide
CHAPTER 3 - CHAVEZ’S AGRARIAN REFORM Chapter Objectives Legal Framework Sources of Lands for the Agrarian Reform: National Lands vs. Expropriations Fundos Zamoranos and Their Organizational Structure Administration of the Reform and Rural Development Initiatives Achievements of the 2001 Agrarian Reform 2001 Special Law of Cooperatives Production Crisis – Shortage of Agrarian Goods? Violence as a Result of the Agrarian Reform Discussion and Analysis
Chapter Objectives Provide an overview of the different aspects of the current agrarian reform, including legal changes, its execution, organization, and achievements. Overviews the creation of the Fundos Zamoranos as well as the development of agrarian cooperatives. Analyzes some of the problems associated with the current agrarian reform process, including rising insecurity and food scarcity problems.
Legal Framework Constant reorganization and strengthening of the agrarian reform process. 1999 Bolivarian Constitution (Articles 305-308) 2001 Law of Lands and Agrarian Development (LTDA) Creation of the INTI, INDER, CVA 2001 Special Law of Cooperative Associations 2003 Bolivarian Misiones 2005 Reform Bill 2001 LTDA- Article 104 – Classification of land according to different agricultural vocations. Lands can be taxed if not meeting 80% of the expected production level. 2002 Supreme Court Decision Article 89 and 90 declared unconstitutional Article 90 was reintroduced after minor modifications in its text The government went around the unconstitutionality of Article 89 by issuing Cartas Agrarias. 2005 Reform Bill Land can be expropriated even if they are productive, if they exceed 5,000 hectares
Source of Lands for the Agrarian Reform: National Lands vs. Expropriations INTI has distributed 4,624,420 hectares of which 2,001,823 were held by capitalist latifundio owners. Land occupants are required to prove a transition of ownership of land going as far back as 1848. Only 1 percent of land has been challenged in court (Wilpert 2005). Government has paid restitution for most expropriations. According to the president of INTI, 90% of the lands brought to the government for titling belonged to the state (Tovar, 2009). Expropriations have increased since 2005, along with a redefinition of what constitutes a latifundio and modifications of the 2001 LTDA.
Fundos Zamoranos and Their Organizational Structure Bring about an integral rural development and an increase in agricultural production, while emphasizing socialist values of cooperation and solidarity. Major differences in size and number of cooperative members in different Fundos Zamoranos Differences related to geographical conditions Shared basic organizational structure Vocero, Casa Zamorana, Cooperative Members (Mision Vuelvan Caras)
Administration of the Reform and Rural Development Initiatives Creation of new institutions and reorganization of institutions. “Socialism of the 21st Century” INCES, CIARA, INIA, ZEDES, BAV, BANMUJER, FODAS, FONENDOGENO, FUNDAPROAL INTI, CVA, INDER, EPS Creation of new ministries From 14 (1999) to 27 (2007). Creation and expansion of government misiones. Expansion of the government has increased attention to previously overlooked social issues, yet it has also brought about overlapping jurisdiction between institutions and the need for reorganization. Consolidated Fundos Zamoranos were recently transferred for INTI to CIARA. Institutions such as INIA are currently reorganizing. High level of polarization has led to an increased distrust and fear of obstructionists within the different institutional administrations (Human Rights Watch, 2008). NDE and Fundos Zamoranos – Both created out of cooperatives formed from Mision Vuelvan Caras. Practically interchangeable. The conglomerates of cooperatives functioning adequately are designated as Fundos Zamoranos while those experiencing greater difficulties are designated as NDE. The current agrarian reform has been primarily top / down in nature. The lack of a major rural organization and the limited and unorganized rural population has increase the difficulties in organizing cooperatives. Acting as cash transfer programs. Mision Vuelvan Caras paid its participants $150 a month for participating.
Government Misiones Currently, there are 29 actives misiones in Venezuela. All of the misiones attempt to collectively improve conditions for the lower classes in Venezuela. The misiones deal with topics such as Education: Ribas, Robinson, Sucre. Health: Milagro, Esperanza, Jose Gregorio Hernandez, Barrio Adentro (I, II, III) CDI Reorganization of Labor: Che Guevara, Vuelvan Caras, 13 de Abril. Rural Conditions: Zamora, Arbol, Vuelta al Campo. Misiones have improved the conditions of the poor, among them the campesino. The Misiones have been criticized as clientelistic
Achievements of the 2001 Agrarian Reform Production (2000-2005) has decreased in certain crops – including: garlic, tomatoes, carrots. First years – 2001 to 2003 – There was a very small distribution of land. Since then, the pace of land distribution has increased. Particularly after Adan Chavez took over as the administrator of INTI. By 2008 – INTI had distributed over 4,624,420 hectares and 105,922 documents of production rights. Possibly benefiting over 400,000 families. The redistribution of land might slow down as quality idle lands become scarce and the development of infrastructure and consolidation of agricultural production units transforms into the focus of the agrarian reform. According to the Zamorano National Development Project (2007-2008), the government provided close to US $4.9 billion between 2002 and 2007 in financing. Reduction of poverty from 62.1 percent to 31.5 percent (2003 to 2008) Improvement in HDI from .69 in 1998 to .84 in 2008. Upcoming census results may indicate an improvement in Venezuela’s land Gini coefficient.
2001 Special Law of Cooperatives 1999 Bolivarian Constitution Promotion of cooperatives through article 3, 70, 117, 118, 184, 299, 308. 2001 Law of Cooperatives More than 5 persons per cooperatives Regulated by SUNACOOP Objective of utilizing cooperatives to reduce unemployment from 16 to less than 10 percent (Celis, 2004). Rapid expansion of cooperatives (1998-2008) 762 on 1998, 8,000 by 2003, over 108,000 by 2006. Agricultural cooperatives increased from accounting for 8 percent of the total number of cooperatives in 1997 to 30 percent of all cooperatives by 2005. Despite increase, there has been a decreasing number of members. From an average of 82 members in 1997 to 10 members per cooperative in 2005 There has been an increasing formation of ghost cooperatives (Garcia and Higuerey, 2005; Rojas, 2006). Vuelvan Caras Teaching a skill within 2 to 6 months. $150 dollars per month for participating This changes may have contributed to the improvements in HDI and other socio-economic indicators.
Production Crisis – Shortage of Agrarian Goods? Venezuela currently imports 70% of its food stuff, including some of the main staples of the Venezuelan diet (Becker, 2003) Despite a 728 percent increase in agrarian financing, the growth in the economic production between 2004 and 2007 was only 3.4 percent, while the aggregate growth in the economic value of agricultural production was 0.2 percent (Salmeron, 2008; Tovar, 2008). 2007 – Country experienced shortage of major food items in groceries and multi-purpose stores (Larsen, 2009). 2008 – 77% of Venezuelans believed the scarcity of goods had worsened. FEDECAMARAS blamed Hugo Chavez, while the government blamed the private agricultural producers for withholding goods from the market. 2009 – Government expropriated Cargill rice processing plants to recover tons of food products that were being stockpiled inside the plant’s storage units (Larsen, 2009) To private producers – the fears of price controls, expropriation and the shortage of agricultural workers led to the reduction in the growth of private food production. The effects of the agrarian reform on agricultural production are yet to be observed and debated
Mercal and Pdval The government created these two programs to deal with the decline of food stuffs in the private markets. These two programs offer goods at reduced prices to the general population Their prices are often below the government regulated prices. Pdval plans to install over 1,800 markets in shanty town by the end of 2008 Pdvsa dedicated $13 billion to social programs and helped diminish illiteracy, poverty, and other social crises through the government misions. Mercal has received an investment of over $10 billion. It has continuously increased its distribution 2008 - 62.9 percent of Venezuelans purchased in a Mercal Mercal increased its importation of production from 34% in 2006 to 70% in 2007. Mercal and Pdval have provided food to an increasing number of Venezuelans and serve as a major income distribution program, providing food at affordable prices to a large segment of the population
Violence as a Result of the Agrarian Reform The agrarian reform has generated a high level of polarization Some campesinos have been threatened while others have been killed From 2002 to 2005, over 150 rural leaders were killed (Wilpert, 2005) Having been marginalized for decades, the campesinos are ready to defend their lands by force if necessary. While the national government is on their side, the local police continues to defend large landowners. There has also been a rise in kidnappings of land owners in recent years, particularly across the border with Colombia. The government has done little to address this problem The disparity of wealth and class differences in rural areas had led to an intensification of the conflict. Some rural leaders advocate for the radicalization of government policy and the implementation of a “revolution within the revolution.” (Woods, 2005)
Discussion and Analysis Usufruct rights to land have been awarded to over 400,000 families in over 4 million hectares. There has been a sharp growth in cooperatives, particularly in agricultural cooperatives These cooperatives however have experienced problems in retaining members and some of them may be taking advantage of the funding provided by the government (forming Ghost or inefficient cooperatives with the objective of living of government funds). There are now 108,000 cooperatives in Venezuela and over 30% and agrarian production cooperatives Mercals provide basic commodities to 62.9 percent of Venezuelans. The current changes in Venezuela may serve as an example to other Latin American nations. Wilpert (2005) suggests five problems that are causing frustration and hindering the reform process in Venezuela. The legal framework, the general insecurity, weak peasant organization, poor infrastructure, and economic problems are slowing down and hindering reform efforts. While the 2001 agrarian reforms has improve living conditions for the majority of the population, they are not yet sustainable. During Chavez time in office, oil prices rose from US $18 to trading at US $116 a barrel. The rise in oil prices generated the government revenues for social redistribution programs. Oil revenues currently account for 94 percent of the foreign exchange earned by Venezuela (El Universal, 2008). However, despite substantial investment, from 1998 to 2008, the value of imports by Venezuela increased by 123 percent (El Universal, 2008).
CHAPTER 4 - CASE STUDY – FUNDO ZAMORANO “ALEJANDRO DE HUMBOLDT” Overview and Methodology History of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt Goals and Objectives of the Fundo Alejandro de Humboldt The Struggle against Capitalism and an Individualistic Mentality Organization of Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt Distribution of Land within the Fundo Membership Problems at Alejandro de Humboldt Government Administration of the Fundo Women at Alejandro de Humboldt Government Administration of the Fundo Women at Alejandro de Humboldt Reaching the Fundo – Location, Transportation and Road Conditions Terrain at Alejandro de Humboldt – Land Types and Classifications Social Conditions at Alejandro de Humboldt Agricultural Production at Alejandro de Humboldt Animal Production at Alejandro de Humboldt Conflict with Technicians Tools and Equipment Government Funding and Credit Cooperative Member Wages Summary
Overview and Methodology Using a grounded theory approach (Corbin and Strauss, 1990) – This thesis provides an insight into the recent changes taking place on the Fundos Zamoranos in the state of Monagas and how these changes benefited the campesino. Lack of case studies in the literature, despite general studies such as Wilpert’s (2005) and Soto’s (2006). There are no studies based on participant observation and independent studies about what is happening on the ground. This case study focuses on the state of Monagas. My interviews and participant observation uncovered and documented the changes taking place at the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt. Stayed two non-consecutive weeks at Alejandro de Humboldt Distrust of outsiders and the strained political relationships between Venezuela and the United States at the time limited the length of my research I formally interviewed 19 members of the fundo during their non-working hours.
History of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt Cooperatives formed in Mision Vuelvan Caras decided to invade the farm La Argentina during the fall of 2003, after it had been declared idle and unproductive by the INTI Located between two rivers, La Argentina contained 5,213 hectares of medium quality land. The Bermudez Association – were primarily absentee land owners who grazed a few heads of cattle at La Argentina under natural pastures, having no fences and a limited number of dirt roads. La Argentina collected revenues from the government for having a major governmental electrical installations running across its property. During the first year, the cooperatives requested the aid of the federal government, as they were continuously harassed by the Bermudez Association. To provide the campesinos with protection, the government stationed an army battalion on the lands of the fundo. In 2004, the Bermudez association agreed to reduce their land hounds from the original 5,213 hectares to 382 hectares, or 7.3 percent of the original holdings. After two years of existence, the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt was officially constituted on June 5th, 2005. 13 production units originally obtained cartas agrarias at Alejandro de Humboldt. This letters must be renewed every two years
Goals and Objectives of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt First Stage – (2005 -2008) – investing in vegetable production. The fundo is attempting to become sustainable and provide sustenance for the families of its members Second Stage (2009 -2013) – the fundo moved towards animal production, primarily cattle ranching, and continue to expand its vegetable production. Third Stage (2014 - 2020) – The fundo is to focus on expanding its production in order to fulfill Venezuela’s development goal of attaining agricultural self-sufficiency.
The Struggle against Capitalism and an Individualist Mentality Movement away from individualist values has been difficult. The fundo is attempting to move away from “el neoliberalismosalvaje”. According to the Vocero, Chavez’s socialism of the twenty first century includes the recreation of Che Guevara’s new man, an emphasis on cooperation between members, and the creation of cooperatives of agrarian production. Most of the members who attended Mision Vuelvan Caras had no previous experience in working in cooperatives or collective enterprises. In a six month period, participants of Vuelvan Caras learned to work in cooperatives and work as agricultural producers The short learning period led to problems within cooperative administration and member retention. The vocero has advocated the creation of classes to teach members and government workers how to better function within cooperatives and the goals of a socialist society.
Organization of Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt The fundo was composed of 14 different cooperative associations, three civil associations, and two independent producers. Civil associations: composed of producers or agronomists who join together to produce in a piece of land with no profit objective. Independent producers: are private enterprises who employ workers to bring a piece of land into production. Cooperative associations: were composed of either lanceros (graduates of Vuelvan Caras) or non-lanceros. The speaker of the fundo, or Vocero was attempting to consolidate the fundo as a cooperative of the second degree. Hired workers were utilized by every production unit, and some of them were interested in eventually becoming members of a cooperative.
Distributed of Land within the Fundo - Among the most productive cooperatives in the fundo, Lanceros Productivos, La Carcajada, Cruitupano, Rio Amana and Hidropónica Maturin had an average land holding of 173.5 hectares.
Membership Problems at Alejandro de Humboldt Membership has increasingly declined at Alejandro de Humboldt, from an average of 28 member per cooperative during 2005 to 9 members by 2008 (Vuelvan Caras Cooperatives). This rapid drop in membership is endangering the sustainability of the fundo, as cooperatives must retain at least 5 members to remain operative according to the law. Some of these cooperatives have retained members in their books in other to comply with the law despite the absence of these members from production for an extensive period of time.
Government Administration of the Fundo The government has recently created the position of head of the Comando Zamorano, to overview the needs of the fundo and administrate the different government agencies which interact with the Fundo Alejandro de Humboldt. The local MPPAT office is in charge of administrating the local Fundos Zamoranos Object 4-2 - Government Technicians Source: Field Notes
Women at Alejandro de Humboldt Women account for 35.5 percent of the members of the fundo Labor is gender stratified in most days. However, women help harvest and participate in labor intensive tasks when necessary. The rate of women per cooperative has remained constant despite de decrease in membership rates across cooperatives.
Reaching the Fundo – Location, Transportation and Road Conditions latitude 9 29’ - 9 35’ with longitude 63 20’ - 63 26’, at 80 meters above sea level, in the southwest region of the state of Monagas, in the district of Maturín. The roads to the fundo are in poor condition. To reach the fundo, it is necessary to drive in a truck or a powerful vehicle. – Wear and tear of the vehicles is noticeable There is a government bus which takes workers to the nearest town outside the fundo during the week. Every cooperative has a truck From June to August, the roads were particularly difficult to travel. Road conditions increase the risk of a possible accident, as the patient’s conditions could become serious while transported to a health facility.
Terrain at Alejandro de Humboldt – Land Types and Classifications Alejandro de Humboldt is surrounded by two rivers. Its land is primarily suitable for cattle. Surrounded by semi-dense vegetation, members of the fundo, particularly workers, hunted wild animals during the evenings.
Social Conditions at Alejandro de Humboldt Potable Water and Water Storage Water could be obtained from morichales Most of the Vuelvan Caras cooperatives had a working well and an Australian tank. Quality of Housing Housing was not much better than a shanty town. Some have began constructing block houses. All housing is self constructed Electrical Service Most production units had electric service, but it was highly unreliable. Food Consumption Food consisted primarily of chicken, tuna, sardines and any wild game they were able to hunt. Food was simple but abundant. First Aid and Health Conditions There is a lack of first aid facilities or means to rapidly transport an injured individual to a health facility.
Agricultural Production at Alejandro de Humboldt The fundo began primarily as a crop production unit. However, most of the first crops planted failed The reasons for failing included a lack of coordination with the government and mismanagement and neglect of production According to a producer, some production units have focused their attention on obtaining credits rather than their production levels. Other production units claim their inexperience has been the cause of the fundo’s initial failures and production will continue to increase as the fundo improve its communication and workers increase their experience The fundo is currently growing corn to meet the goals of the Plan Emergente and increase the fundo’s contribution to the country’s goal of becoming food self-sufficient. Some crops such as tomatoes and passion fruit were neglected or mismanaged by cooperative members. 150 hectares of peanuts were not harvested in time. The hectares of watermelon planted were used for internal consumption and did not reach the market. Most of the hectares of cassava were lost to a worm infestation. The corn is yet to be harvested. Soy has also been planted recently and crops such as pinapple, mangos and limes have yet to reach maturity and be harvested.
Animal Production at Alejandro de Humboldt During the second stage of its development, Alejandro de Humboldt has built fences and expecting to receive a total of 370 heads of dual purpose cattle from the government. The first houses which arrived at La Carcajada died as a result of negligence and abuse by a cooperative member. Commercial egg production at Hidropónica Maturin has been successful. They currently collect close to 60 flats or 1,800 eggs a day. Lanceros Productivos has increased its pig production and currently possess two pig pens. Pigs serve as a saving mechanism. They had 56 pigs during my visit Every cooperative raises chickens for personal consumption. Dogs and ducks are kept as pets by the cooperatives Dogs are used for hunting in the evening. Fighting cocks are also raised by some cooperative members. Cruitupano raises rabbit for sale and consumption.
Conflict with Technicians There have been a number of conflicts between technicians and cooperatives members primarily as a result of a lack of communication In one occasion, a worker from the INTI was kicked out at gun point from the fundo. Some members of the fundo felt some government workers were not working according to expectations. They seldom visited the fundo – “cometas” No extension agronomist stayed at the fundo Cooperative members felt some institutional workers were actively impeding the success of the fundo. Lack of communication has limited the efficiency at the fundo. The agronomists and other government workers have difficulties organizing meetings with the cooperative members. The vocero felt the Cuban workers were at times were not wholeheartedly interested in the success of the project. According to the head of the Comando Zamorano, there were also conflicts between production units and some production units were wary of lending items to other units. Further consolidating the fundo would greatly strengthen its sustainability
Tools and Equipment According to their inventory, production units at the fundo had received a sizable and readily available allotment of minor tools needed for farming. Each cooperative was awarded tools from the regional MPPAT. The machinery awarded to each cooperative included tractors, chisel ploughs, disk harrows, cultivators, and sprayers. To run the specialized machinery, the fundo would hire drivers from Curiepe where some of the local population had been trained in handling heavy machinery by the government. At first, the fundo received eight VENIRAN tractors. During my visit, four of these tractors had been damaged. Not having a mechanic nearby, if a tractor broke down, a mechanic had to come out from the city. Many of the tractors in the fundo that had been damaged have not been repaired. The specialized machinery had to be shared. As a result of negative experiences, some production units were reluctant to share their machinery. Some items such as diesel fuel and motor oil were not readily available, slowly down the rate of production. The fundo would benefit from a machine shop and a permanent mechanic as well as the improvement of infrastructure to diminish wear and tear in the vehicles. Better control over unauthorized use of trucks and tractors would prevent needless damage.
Government Funding and Credit The government has invested around US $7 to 15 million in the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt. The government has provided Alejandro de Humboldt with credit at a low interest rate of 3 percent to 4 percent payable in up to 20 years. Alejandro de Humboldt has obtained credits primarily from three government institutions: BANMUJER, FONDAFA, and FONDEMI. Most cooperatives in the fundo had more than one consecutive credit at the time of my visit. There may be an inclination towards requesting an increasing number of credits. The fundo received an initial investment of US $991,637 - The initial investment of the government to the fundo was a mixture of grants and loans. Regardless of their problems, the government has been lenient in accepting the production units’ justification for falling short of expectations and expenses were covered by the insurance. Fund mismanagement was an issue on various production units. The previous treasurer and president of La Carcajada disappeared after the government demanded to see their expenditures. The head of the Comando Zamorano emphasized the need for production units to improve their bookkeeping and accountability.
Cooperative Member Wages Wages in the fundo did not seem to be currently linked to the production units’ level production and acquisition of capital. The government provided for a five months wage of US $752 or $150.4 a month for every cooperative member in the fundo. Hired workers at Lanceros Productivos were paid US $97.7 a week plus food or US $390.8 a month. It is unclear how they were able to pay their workers a salary higher than their official salary according to the government production plans. As they had been remunerated for participating in the Misión Vuelvan Caras training sessions, the cooperative members were still functioning on a wage basis. Being part of a Fundo Zamorano, as cooperatives become self-sufficient, they may be required to reinvest in the community a greater share of their revenue than required by the law of cooperatives. During my visit, cooperative members complained about the high salaries of the government employees. The head of the Comando Zamorano earned over Bs $5 million or US $2,325.6 a month, while the INTI engineers earned over Bs $3 million or US $1,395.3 a month. During my visit, the fundo was still not expected to be self-sufficient. It was apparent that the fundo would collapse if the government did not provide financial support for the cooperative members.
Summary With over 5,000 hectares and with a government expenditure of 7 to 15 million dollars, Alejandro de Humboldt is a major government project in the state of Monagas and it has improved the lives of many previously landless campesinos. The Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt is a story of moderate success. The members of Alejandro de Humboldt experienced difficulties withstanding opposition from the previous land owners and transforming the land into an economically sustainable project. In addition, life at the fundo, without adequate housing, water supply and electricity has been difficult. Since its consolidation, living conditions in the fundo have improved Production has increased. Most cooperatives have gone through a reorganization process. If Alejandro de Humboldt serves as a microcosm of the aggregate changes taking place in Venezuela, the agrarian reform has brought about an increase in employment and a reduction in poverty but it has also experienced problems in management, efficiency, declining cooperative membership and productivity. Regional agricultural differences, different origins for cooperative members, and different levels of support from the government may account for substantial differences between the fundos. Analyzing a group of Fundos Zamoranos would permit a better evaluation of their impact throughout the country as observing some recurrent trends within the Fundos Zamoranos.
CHAPTER 5 - Conclusion Land Inequality Problems of Cooperative Membership Improvement of Living Standards Availability of Credit Conflict between Members, Production Units and Technicians The Fear of Expropriation Ideas for the Improvement of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt Further Research
Land Inequality During the 1960 Agrarian Reform period Venezuela continued to have one of the highest levels of land inequality in Latin America, according to the Gini Index Since the 2001 Law of Land and Agrarian Development this situation has improved dramatically The 2001 measure has benefited around 2 million people and reduced land concentration in Venezuela In both the case study and in other FundosZamoranoscampesinos and impoverished urban workers have obtained access to land previously denied to them under other administrations. The limits placed on the re-sale of land and the temporary nature of the CartasAgrarias represent an attempt by the government to prevent a re-concentration of land in the hands of larger producers in the future.
Problems of Cooperative Membership Retention of members – both in the case study and in other cooperatives Some cooperatives are close to the minimum legal limit Membership fell due to: Administrative breakdown of the fundo Initial living conditions at the fundo – buildings initially lacked electricity, running water, no basic services. Lack of infrastructure and remote location meant members found it difficult to retain other occupations outside the Fundo, and some were forced to leave Income problems among cooperative members – government was not always timely in awarding credit Strained family relationships – due to inadequate income and prolonged time away from families VuelvanCaras preparation is inadequate Leads to administrative breakdown Members have no previous experience in cooperatives and differing degrees of commitment Difficulties in decision making Misallocation of resources by the cooperative’s administrators Increasing reliance on hired labor To compensate for the decline in membership Is the decrease in membership numbers linked to the ability of members to continue their pre-reform income generating activities and the proximity of the fundo to an urban center? HOWEVER: having only a few members means cooperatives are able to work together better and reach the targets set out in the Plan Emergente The shift to cattle production will decrease the number of members needed in the cooperatives Cooperatives could also benefit by offering membership to some of the more experienced and efficient hired workers.
Improvement in Living Standards In FundosZamoranos close to Caracas the government has: built solid tile roof houses Provided individual houses with their own personal decorative gardens Provided electricity, refrigerators, gas kitchens, televisions, furniture, recreation areas and sometimes even cable television. Allocated a bus to transport the children to school In contrast, at the more productive Fundo Alejandro de Humboldt living conditions remain precarious The slow improvement in infrastructure has required the constant mobilization of the vocero and members of the fundo Some members of FundosZamoranos have improved their living conditions as a result of the agrarian reform whereas others are actually earning less than they did as salaried workers. The majority of members of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt were either unemployed or earned a small salary as a wage worker FundosZamoranos have provided employment to a substantial sector of the unemployed rural population in an effort to reduce poverty levels in the countryside. Sense of brotherhood and camaraderie at most of cooperatives – people work, eat, sleep, hunt and celebrate together as equals
Availability of Credit Benefited private and public producers Fundo Alejandro de Humboldt: Credits awarded for both animal and crop production Governmental credit institutions set low interest rates Are lenient in forgiving farmers if they are unable to repay their loans Government has increased rural investment and funding for credit institutions in the past few years Private producers said access to credit was the greatest improvement in the agricultural sector since Chávezcametopower Credit has beenawardedtosmall and mediumscaleproducers and allowedthemtopurchase vital inputs HOWEVER, thegovernment’s credit policy has been criticised for being too lenient in its distribution and follow up of loans Failures in crop production at the fundo have been excused by the government for an array of different reasons and loans have been pardoned. Misuse of government credits for personal enrichment Producers were confident government was improving accountability and would soon crack down on those who misused the system As of 2008, despite billions invested in agriculture there have only been limited returns in terms of agricultural production
Conflict between Members, Production Units and Technicians Conflict between different parties is common, not just in the Fundo Alejandro de Humboldt but in FundosZamoranos across the country Lack of an extension agronomist living at the Fundo = major cause for mistrust and misunderstanding High level of distrust of government officials and strangers due to intimidation from previous owners Lack of support from local police Delays in the implementation of measures promised by the government
Fear of Expropriation Chávez’s agrarian reform has increased fear of expropriation among both large and medium sized producers. The regime has increasingly moved towards socialism, sparking fears of expropriations among many medium sized producers who had obtained land under the 1960 reform. Fears about abolition of private property and the transformation of land titles into temporary usufruct rights of production. Many owners face difficulties in proving their legal ownership of land due to Fake land titles Inadequate documentation of their property Widespread feeling that government expropriations are arbitrary, and that the government could designate any land titles as illegal Uncertainty about land ownership and government price controls has decreased large land owners’ incentive to invest in their property Also difficulty in finding reliable workers Regional agrarian authorities have the final say about what constitutes adequate production levels Fear that these regional authorities will, in reality, mainly serve the interests of the central government
Ideas for the Improvement of the Fundo Zamorano Alejandro de Humboldt Have an agronomist or other government worker assigned permanently to the fundo. Some NDE and FundosZamoranos have a resident extension agronomist Having extensionists diminishes but does not eliminate communication problems between cooperative members and government workers. Improving road conditions is imperative for the adequate functioning of the fundo and coordination between cooperatives and government entities. A means of communication such as radio transmitters or improve cellphone reception would increase communication and reduce the number of hours lost by production units as they coordinate their efforts. A reorganization of the fundo a redistribution of land to active and functioning cooperatives as well as increasing cooperative membership numbers would increase the sustainability of the fundo. There continues to be a large amount of idle or unproductive land in the fundo, particularly, within the land originally given to currently inactive production units. Some cooperatives may be attempting to reconcentrate land at the fundo.
Further Research Need for further study of other FundosZamoranos A continuation and update of this study A new study of the Venezuela agrarian reform, taking into account the changes that have taken place since the most recent studies (Wilpert, 2005; Soto 2006). An updated study of the sustainability of agrarian production cooperatives in Venezuela.