INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
IN THE REPUBLIC OF PANAMA
AND IMPLICATIONS FOR GENERATION AND APPLICATION OF
In the last ten years, Panama has formulated regional and area specific
projects the majority of which are of an integrated nature, including production,
social and infrastructure aspects. Several of these projects are described
A briefly in this report.
A. The Eastern Region (Darien) Integrated Rural Development Project
In response to a request made by the government of Panama to the Secretary
General of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Regional Development
Program of the latter, in cooperation with the Ministries of Planning and Economic
Policy, Public Works, and Agricultural Development carried out a study in the
extreme eastern portion of the country which borders Colombia and corresponds
to the province of Darien.
The planning activities were carried out by the Technical Unit of the
Darien project, located in the city of Panama, in the offices of the Ministry
of Planning and Economic policy, and were backstopped by field research, with
specialists from Panama and from the Technical Cooperation Mission of the OAS.
The leadership of the Technical Unit was shared by the head of the OAS Mission
of the National Director.
The work was carried out in three steps: First, between April 1975 and
July 1976, a survey was made of the region, zones were identified, and the
objectives, goals, and strategies of development were specified. The second
step, carried out between August 1976 and December 1977, dealt with the identi-
fication, development, and evaluation of various integrated investment projects
1/ Summarized translation from manuscript furnished by Alberto Perdomo, Panama
based on the proposed strategy, together with the development of a proposal
for immediate action. The third step, carried out between January and July
1978, dealt with the development and evaluation of additional agro-industrial
projects, with regional macro-economic evaluation, and with a more detailed
consideration of the impact of the proposed projects in the areas concerned.
The strategy and the proposed action in this project assumes the interaction
of physical, human and financial resources of the region, (emphasis in the
maximum utilization of all of them) toward the objective of completing the
construction of the Pan American Highway. This is important, taking into
account the fact that the region has a low density population, and poorly
utilized physical resources, such as soils and forests.
Sectorial investment programs and projects were analyzed in terms of
production, social considerations, and infrastructure. Included were agricul-
tural production, livestock development, forestry, fisheries, agro-industry,
a road system, electrification, telecommunications, storage of agricultural
products, housing, education, and health. Further, technical assistance programs,
and improved institutional operational capacity were developed. Finally, arrange-
ments were made for development of a colonization program which would facilitate
the implementation of the proposed programs and projects.
The project area itself occupies 938,380 hectares and has a population of
17,230 people representing some 76% of the total population of the province.
The area has 141,946 hectares of soils with a high agriculture-forestry potential,
but at the present time only 16% of this area is being utilized, and that under
Despite the fact that 85 Km of the Pan American Highway have been completed
in the territory of the province, it is not very meaningful since there is no
secondary road system.
The specific objectives of this area project are as follows:
1. Within the period of ten years to progressively increase the area
in corn to 4,075 hectares; within a period of three years to increase
cassava production to 2,340 hectares which would meet the needs for a
cassava starch facory; within five years to increase game production
progressively to 460 hectares; and in five years to increase plantain
to 1,920 hectares.
2. Develop a secondary road system of approximately 299 Km.
3. Construct and improve the services for health, education, housing,
electrification and agricultural technology.
4. Implement policies and programs related to the distribution and tenancy
5. Develop training programs and technical assistance in the administration
and management of production systems.
6. Develop a program for the management conservation and marketing of grains
and other agricultural products.
7. Develop agro-industrial projects for the prossessing of cassava, pigeon
pea, lemon grass, and "pizbae", as export crops.
B. The Las Minas-Los Pozos Area Development Projects
This project is located in one of the poorest parts of the country, has an
area of 88,900 hectares, and a population of 18,284 (21% of that of the Province)
located in 259 villages. This area does not contain suitable soils for agri-
culture since 98.7% are made up of classes VI and VII, and 1.3% of class IV.
The production and socio-economic support programs consist of:
1. Crops including 1,500 hectares for coffee, 800 hectares for reforestation,
and 400 hectares for cassava.
2. Livestock for establishment of a swine production unit made up of
100 sows with a projected annual production of 1,400 marketable swine.
3. Livestock to be developed in the Minas part of the project area.
4. Complementary nutrition for all of the people of the area.
5. Production of fish to help meet the nutritional needs of the inhabitants.
6. Improvement and construction of a road system.
7. Health, education and housing.
8. A relocation program directed toward the south of Ponuga and Tonosi areas.
9. Improvement in land tenure and technical assistance.
10. Training in agriculture.
11. Literacy for the adults.
13. Relocation of inhabitants.
C. Cafazas-Santa Fe Project Area
This project is also located in one of the poorest areas of the country
and is made up of 310,500 hectares. A population of 21,615 represents 14.2%
of the total population of the province. There are 432 villages in the area.
The area is characterized by low crop yields due to the traditional and subsis-
tence agriculture practiced by the majority of the people.
The production and socio-economic support programs consist of crops (basic
grains), livestock (milk and beef), reforestation, supplementary nutrition for
all of the inhabitants, aquaculture, improvement and construction of roadways,
health, education, housing, improvement in land tenure, technical assistance,
agricultural training, literacy training for the adults, agro-industry, and
D. The Orienti Chiricano Development Project
This project is located in the eastern part of the Chiriqui province
and includes three districts: Remedios, San Feliz, and Tol6.
The project area, identified as one of the poorest in the country, is
made up of 2,179 Km with a population of 34,335 people.
The production and socio-economic support programs include:
1. Agricultural production which provides the key food products for the
people that will work on the development of the mines of Cerro Colorado.
These programs involve production of the basic food grains (rice and
corn), vegetables and other crops. Regarding animals, there will be
swine, poultry, and livestock for the production of meat and milk.
2. Reforestation and restoration for development of an equilibrium
3. Aquaculture to help meet the nutritional needs.
4. Agro-industrial development which makes use of the agricultural products,
and products from the development of the mine.
5. Supplementary feeding program to improve the nutritional condition of
the population of the area.
6. Program for improvement in construction of access roadways.
7. Educational program.
8. Health program.
9. Land Tenure program.
E. The Donoso-Salud Area Project
This project, in the province of Colon, is made up of the Donoso and part
of the Chagres districts. It is characterized as one of the poorest area projects
in the country, consisting of an area of 1,922.6 Km2 and a population of 5,865
of which 1,812 are economically active. Of the latter, 83.5% are engaged
in agricultural activities.
In the agricultural area, the following is planned: Planting of basic
food grains, African oil palm, tuber crops (including cassava and name), swine
production, utilization and conservation of forestry resources, and fish pro-
duction and construction of a fish processing plant. Regarding infrastructure,
it is proposed to construct secondary roads, provide an electrical energy system,
develop storage facilities for agricultural production, and improve the land
In the social area, efforts will be made to improve housing, construct and
maintain schools and health centers, and carry out campaigns for vaccinations.
F. Mandinga Project Area
This is a project in the Colon province and is smaller than a district,
consisting of 99.6 Km2 with a population of 4,984 inhabitants of tribal origin.
In this project, it is proposed over a period of eight years to increase
the area under coconuts to 2,500 hectares, and to encourage the progressive
introduction of new varieties. Correspondingly, within three years, plantains
are to be increased to 800 hectares, rice to 250 hectares, corn to 200 hectares,
and other crops such as vegetables to increased areas.
A swine production center will be established with 15 sows.
A center will be constructed for the introduction of livestock production
which will also serve as a demonstration and training center for livestock owners.
Roadways will be improved.
There will be an improvement in education, health, electrification, training
and technology transfer.
Land tenure arrangements will be improved taking into consideration the
traditional practices of the area.
There will be an improvement in the populated areas to facilitate provision
of basic services.
G. The Costa Arriba de Colon Area Development Project
This project is located in the Colon province and includes the districts
of Portobelo and Santa Isabel. Again, the project area represents one of the
poorest rural areas in the country, consisting of 113,310 hectares and a popu-
lation of 3,130 inhabitants. The latter constitutes 2.3% of a total population
of the province and is located in 31 villages. There is relatively little
agricultural activity in the area which consists of subsistence type operations.
Further, this area is characterized by a marked immigration of people toward
the metropolitan area.
The development programs planned for the area include: Production of
rice, corn and plantains; renewal and development of coconut plantations;
livestock development; forestry development; fisheries development; improvement
and construction of a roadway system; electrification program; resettlement;
storage facilities; housing, education and health services; and training in
II. Implications for the Generation and Application of Agricultural Technology
All of the projects described include an agricultural component with the
objective of improving and increasing crop and livestock production. This has
the implication of generation or application of technologies to insure the reaching
of such objectives.
The foregoing reflects the overall objectives and goals of the regional
and area development activities as defined in the national planning system,
as well as the conclusions reached in the area surveys.
More specifically, the objectives and the goals of the production sectors
embody the intent to create a structured economic base stemming from the develop-
ment of the primary sector of the regional economy. Attainment of this goal
calls for a quantitative increase in the economically active agricultural
population, and an increase in productivity. Equally, an increase is proposed
in land productivity which will be verified by improved yields of agricultural
products through introduction of improved technologies.
Nevertheless, in the programs and projects of agricultural development,
while recognized that technological improvement is based on the use of improved
varieties, optimum plant population, control of weeds, and plant insect diseases,
in most cases, provisions are not made in program budgeting for agricultural
The Agricultural Research Institute of Panama (IDIAP), created recently
(August 1975, Law No. 51), has been organized and has designed a methdology to
focus on efforts in regions where most of these defined area projects are to
be developed. More specifically, it is directed to those areas where there is
already a high population density concerned with agriculture, where there is
access, and a potential for production of the basic food grains, livestock, and
other agricultural commodities.
The research methodology will deal with the predominant agricultural
production systems of the defined areas, whether they be concerned only with
crops, with cattle, or a mixture of the two.
Appropriate technology will be generated and tested at the farm level
with the participation of the farmers, backstopped by information developed
in experimental fields, or research stations, in order to develop alternative
technologies which can improve production productivity, and consequently the
net family income.