The fate of the finca: Smallholders in the Hispanic Caribbean

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2008: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: University of Texas at Austin
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Gregory Knapp
University of Texas at Austin


  • Agronomic: sugarcane
  • Fruits: bananas
  • Additional Plants: coffee


  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    The primary goal of this research is to evaluate how modernizing smallholder farmers in the central region of the island of Puerto Rico stay in production using social networks and ecological services that may reduce costs. Current discourse on economic development and environmental conservation in Puerto Rico defines the small farmer as an inefficient producer. Further, scientists and politicians tend to agree that the land would be more beneficial under forest. It is hypothesized that farmers are efficiently managing the resources available to them by increasingly relying on informal resources, and that farming in the Caribbean has a net positive contribution to local economy and ecology. The research will directly address the questions of whether smallholder farmers can maintain their livelihoods, and should they maintain their livelihoods given the increasing population and land pressures in the Caribbean. The researcher will be adding to the body of knowledge on a space that is both developed and underdeveloped, but often overlooked. Theoretical contributions of this work include the bridging of both prolific sources of literature in developed and developing area studies by drawing from theories and methodologies of both. The research will take place between the Fall of 2008 and the Fall of 2009 in the Puerto Rican interior mountain regions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this research is

    1. To analyze how much of the farmers' current survival relies on a diverse set of social networks, by documenting sources of income, and estimating costs of labor and services not accounted for in the formal economy

    2. To analyze the history of land use and evaluate how rural space is used in Puerto Rico, and what changes are occurring in land management and the current concentration and ownership of land.

    3. Document ecological services and local knowledge that farmers identify as decreasing costs

    4. To analyze the potential benefits of small farm agriculture in the highly populated island of Puerto Rico.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.