Peasants, participation and productivity: an evaluation of Sandinista agrarian reform

Andy Thorpe, D. McGurk

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    Agrarian reform was central to the radical changes which emerged from the July, 1979, Sandinista uprising in Nicaragua. In 1978, before Somoza's fall, 0.4% of the economically active population possessed almost half of the country's cultivated area. The FSLN therefore inherited an economy with a modern, technically intense agro-export sector on one hand, and a traditional peasant sector producing food crops for domestic consumption on the other. Endowed with monopoly powers over banking and foreign trade as well as access to large tracts of ex-Somozista land, the FSLN pursued economic development through a statistic model of accumulation. Somoza lands were taken over by decree, credit and trade controls were imposed, and a single group was made responsible for communicating workers' demands. Policymakers later began to recognize the value and potential of peasant producers and reorganized production, procurement, and distribution in the agricultural sector in 1984 to increase their roles. The accumulation model of development was therefore maintained, yet pursued by individual peasant landholders. Official development strategy lost much import, however, in the ensuing 1988 macroeconomic crisis, the US trade embargo, the Contra war, economic mismanagement, and domestic overbureaucratization. In 1988, the cordoba devalued 5000% and the country experienced an inflation rate of 30,000%. Policies were implemented in 1989 which tempered inflation by 1990 and most likely helped the US-backed UNO coalition seizure an electoral victory in 1990. The authors hold that the future nature of development strategy swings in the balance as the FSLN remains the largest single political force in the country and the UNO majority is insufficient to reform the revolution's constitution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDevelopment perspectives for the 1990s
    EditorsR. Prendergast, H. Singer
    Place of PublicationBasingstoke
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Print)0333545664
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 1991


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