Strategies and constraints for environmental protection in Nicaragua

Hawkesworth, Simon (2002) Strategies and constraints for environmental protection in Nicaragua. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Nicaragua faces tremendous problems in relation to environmental and social conditions as well as continuing conflicts over access to natural and economic resources. The loss of forests and other essential eco-systems, the extinction of unique species, the degradation of soils and farmland, poverty, ill heath, exploitation and great inequalities of wealth and power remain on-going processes and essential characteristics of Nicaragua. These conditions represent an environmental crisis that threatens the country's ecological and social well-being. The thesis considers the historical causes of the environmental crisis looking at the impact of the introduction of particular political and economic structures, the development of the dictatorship of Somocisnio in Nicaragua and the impact of US hegemony in the region. It further considers why the strategies adopted by successive administrations and international organisations have failed to adequately address Nicaragua's environmental problems. The need for radical political and economic change as a means to address the underlying structural causes of environmental degradation is investigated in relation to Nicaragua. However, the examination of the effects of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua is also used to reveal important insights into the impact of structural change on the environment and the necessity to include other, reformist components in any solution. Post-Revolutionary strategies and the current emphasis on NGO and community based sustainable agricultural programmes are examined in detail to evaluate the importance of this approach for environmental protection. In addition to an examination of the effectiveness of the strategies of the post-revolutionary state, a case study analysis of Programa Campesino-a-Campesfno, the most prominent and successful example of the new, community-based initiatives, is used to illustrate the generic problems and opportunities present in the new 'paradigm' of localism and sustainable agriculture. While these new initiatives may provide key components to a solution, the study considers whether by themselves, they have the capacity to
address the underlying causes of degradation. The study concludes that the environmental crisis is primarily a result of the
particular development model that has arisen in the region since the colonial conquest, and which has facilitated the development of a system based on the highly unequal distribution of resources and power. Consequently, the causes of the crisis are essentially structural in nature, requiring that radical changes be made to the political and economic structures of society. However, the lesson of Nicaragua's Sandinista Revolution, during which environmental degradation continued despite a series of structural and socio-political changes, indicates that structural changes do not of themselves, guarantee environmental sustainability. Equally, the limitations of programmes such as Campesino-a-Campesino reveal that a reliance on agroecological and community-based methodologies is also flawed. Therefore, progress towards social and environmental justice in Nicaragua requires a combination of radical changes to political and economic structures, alongside the use of ecologicalbased agricultural and land management practices. This means that inequalities in land and natural resource ownership are addressed in order to provide sustainable economic and ecological systems within which Nicaraguans can attempt the longterm management and protection of their environment. The introduction of these
new practices must include the participation and skills of local populations in any process of change. Redistribution of wealth and resources must be accompanied by a redistribution of power so that the control and development of these changes and
initiatives, develop from, and reside in, the hands of ordinary Nicaraguans.

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