LAS CUEVAS WAIERSHED, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Team 7: 1. Jeffrey Coupe, Political Science
2. Manuel Vargas, Anthropology
3. Ricardo Pedelini, Agronomy
4. B.K. Singh, Soil Science
Dr. Peter E. Hildebrand
Professor of Food and Resource Economics
University of Florida
(ENtHAL SI ATEMENT
The government of the Dominican Republic has become quite
concerned about the Las Cuevas watershed area. Not only does it
provide water for the irrigation of Azua plain, but also serves
as a source of' bean seed for much of the country. As soil erosion
has been steadily increasing, more sediment has been washed into
the Sabana Yegua reservoir and is reported to be "shortening its
anticipated lifespan, and posing a significant threat to the Azua
plain irrigation project".
While USAID and the Dominican Republic have recently
completed a five-year, National Resource Management Project
marinaA), (which cost upwards of U.S.$22 million), our team
contends that more money and more local participation will be
needed to ameliorate both the agriculture sector and the natural
resource base of Las Cuevas. 1he solutions to those problems,
which have already taken five years to start, will require many
more years to complete, given the large risk and uncertainty of
this region and its vulnerability to tropical storms and
hurricanes. The MAHENA project was quite fortunate to have not
been hampered by serious hurricanes during its five year tenure.
It is hoped that the following report will provide an update
(though grossly incomplete) to the research of Espinal, Lohen,
The USAID MAHENA Project, Montanez and Antonini among others, and
will hopefully elucidate future steps which we feel must be taken
in the Las Cuevas region.
Ihis report is the result of a "Sondeo" survey conducted in
the Las Cuevas area from February 6-19, 1987. The basic
objectives of the survey were to describe the farming systems,
determine the agroeconomic situation of the farmers, define the
restrictions they face in crop and livestock production so that
any proposed modification of their present technology are
appropriate to their conditions, to orient the first year's work
in farm trials, and to acquaint the technicians with the area in
which they are going to work. In the course of the survey six
farmers were interviewed to provide general information on
agriculture, health, education, communication, trade and off-farm
employment. Some information were obtained by the direct
observations of the various farming activities in the area by the
multidisciplinary team members. A breakdown of the team members
activities during the Sondeo survey is presented in figure 1.
The cropping systems in the Las Cuevas area are complex and
Artr,.e e 2. 3 H 5 1 7 10 ii I2 / 1 3 /
R S'Po Eo7T
Activities of the Sondeo Team Visit to Las Cuevas,
February 6 19, 1987.
varies according to the slopes. On the gentle slopes planting of
the beans as a sole crop or in association with maize, cassava,
pigeonpea, and peanuts is quite common. Two rainy seasons allow
the planting of two bean crops a year. The first planting is done
in April followed by harvesting in July/Agust. The second
planting starts in September followed by harvesting in December.
Due to the scarcity of oxen to plow the land, the beans are
planted generally by hand making small holes with machete in the
soil and dropping to or three grains per hole. 'he use of
chemical fertilizers and pesticides are very minimal. Weeding
takes place one month after planting using machete. Ihe harvested
crop of bean is threshed in the field, cleaned and put in the
sacks. The production is usually sold to the merchants who come
to the fields, or stored in the household for the future use
either as staple food or for sale.
Un the medium slopes coffee is the most important cash crop.
But The plantation are generally over 30 years old and receive
very poor management which is reflected in the poor coffee beans
yield. The market price shows a large variation due to the
variation in the quality of coffee. Most of the farmers do not
have drying terraces and in order to get a good quality grain
once the coffee beans are picked, they have to go through
different process such as; pulp fermentation, washing, drying
and peeling. Most coffee producer in the area lack adequate
equipment and infrastructure to perform the activities of the
whole process. Some coffee farmers have a portion of land
associated with banana. Banana production is usually used for
The steep slopes are left as permanent pasture for livestock
grazing. These lands are usually at 6-8 hours walking distance
from the farm household. The grass species are indigenous and
under poor management.
Homestead (arden: 7
Few trees of banana, mango, orange, papaya, and peach are
quite common around the household. fhe fruits produced are for
the family consumption. The vegetable cultivation is very
Due to the acquisition of forest land for crop cultivation
the area under forest has declined dramatically. Ihe forest also
serves as the source of firewood and construction materials. Ihe
firewood collection is becoming a more time consuming activity.
Most of the agriculture activities are performed by human
labor. It is difficult to own oxen and/or mules because they are
expensive. Sometimes farmer rent oxen to plow their bean fields
but it is considered an expensive luxury. The population of
goats and cows are also very few. Five to six chicken per
household are quite common. But during rainy season most of them
die due to a serious disease which turns them blue and
subsequently leads to death. The livestock feed comes from the
bean straw and grazing in the pasture.
There appears to be several constraints as they relate to
the crop production. More marginal lands are being brought under
cultivation. The soil erosion problem is becoming severe and the
land productivity is declining. the fields are generally far away
from the household which limits proper supervision and crop care.
Ihe deforestation has created serious problem of firewood
availability. The farmers loose 2 out of b bean crops because of
draught which prohibits them to apply proper management inorder
to get if not maximum optimum production. One-half of the stered
bean is lost due to insect damage. timely availability of quality
seed is always questionable. If available the price is too high
or a farmer has to pay twice the amount of bean seed he obtained
during planting after he harvests his crop. The scarcity of labor
exists during weeding, planting, and harvesting. High rate of
chicken mortality in the rainy season is one of the major
constraints for the acquisition of more chickens. 'he government
agriculture research and extension activities are of none
existence. There is always a threat of serious hurricanes.
'he team has found a difficult socioeconomic situation which
is rapidly becoming untenable. The gravity of this situation may
be of chronic nature in decades to come. We note a decreasing
standard of living, decreasing health, declining nutritional
level and declining incomes. It is important in relating this
seemingly pessimistic viewpoint to the realities and reasons
behind these declines.
Division of labor: Our team substantiated Roberta Cohen's
findings that, on the average 7 members comprise the Las Cuevas
household. Most households are headed by males with all members
participating in the agriculture production, though in different
activities. Generally the male and boys are responsible for the
soil preparation, planting and weeding. One farmer interviewed
said that while his daughters all attend school, the boys work in
agricultural production. [he women of the household is
responsible for the household maintenance ( i. e. cooking,
cleaning ), the kitchen garden, the care of the fruit trees
surrounding the house, feeding the poultry and the care of the
other livestock. She also takes the family at the time of the
harvest and moves to the farm, to help with the cooking and the
field work. The daughters attend school (as do many boys) and
help with the household chores, especially with the laundry. The
marketing is mostly done by the men. (roup "convite" labor among
men is undertaken mainly in the peak agricultural seasons, and
not by everyone.
Income: Ihe main source of income for the people of Las
Cuevas is agriculture. Cohen found nearly 80% of the households
make their primary source of income through agriculture. Our team
would add that in many of the smaller villages, this number is
conservative. Of the farmers we talked with, agriculture was by
far the major source of income with secondary income coming from
other sources such as charcoal production, small business,
crafts, and public employment. One farmer had a son working for
the government in the city and regularly sent money back to his
Spinal's 1983 study noted on an average income in Las
Cuevas that was below national average, and more highly skewed.
Our Sondeo found suggestive results which confirms Espinal's
conclusions. One farmer interviewed confided in the team and
explained the system of credit in Las Cuevas. Ihe system could be
best described as a patron-client network in which money is lent
to. the farmer in the "bad" preharvest period, as is seed for
planting. Interest on the seed (mostly bean) would vary from b0
to 100 % of the amount lend. It was suggested that payback of
money may also reach a high level of interest, with some payment
in labor or on kind. These patron-client ties reinforce Espinal's
skewness findings and point to a wide gap in income levels.
Income level seem to be related to either: 1. the relative
position of an individual vis-a-vis the marketing chain, or 2.
the presence or absence of coffee or bean production, both of
which are export or cash crops. The presence of beans and coffee
correlates highly with additional tareas cultivated by the
household; pigeonpeas are the main staple crop and grown alone,
correlates with low household income. Bananas are also indicative
of income, yet not to the extent of coffee. Une farmer did grow
bananas for the market and reported an income greater than for
beans last year.
Market: Three crops are strongly related to the market:
bananas, coffee, and beans. In addition, charcoal and livestock
are sold in the market. From year to year, the varience of income
from each of these crops depends on the climatic conditions,
world market prices and government and local prices. Almost 100%
of the coffee grown is sold to middlemen who transport the coffee
to Padre Las Casa, Azua or San Juan. F-rom there, the coffee is
then transported to the capital where it is marketed by coffee
brokers (who bid on government quotas) to international buyers.
Beans are marketed twice each year. After the first harvest
in the summer the government is heavily involved in the marketing
of beans. Farmers may receive approximately 60% of the total
value of the crop at this time, with the middle man receiving 35%
of the profit, and the national government agencies (INESPRL and
the Ministry of Agriculture) receiving 5%. The government
(Department of seed) then treats the seed, as part of the
national bean program, at the major seed treatment plant in San
Cristobol. Ihe seed is then distributed nationwide for planting
during the traditional, long rainy season. At the time of the
second rainy season, the government is not heavily involved in
the bean marketing. In this case, the farmer earn approximately
68% of the total bean crop value, with 25 accusing to the
middleman and 7 % to the transpoter. I'his information was
circuitously obtained from a "wandering" anthropologist 5
kilometers outside of the Padre Las Casas.
Bananas are also transported by midlemen to the regional
cities of Padre Las Casas, Azua and San Juan where they are sold
Uncertainty and Risk: One is particularly struck with the
climate of uncertainty and risk present in the region of Las
Cuevas. Aside from the variation in the rainfall and crop yield,
farmer livelihood is further subject to variation in prices for
agriculture crops. Farmers have genuinely made their
uncertainties known to us in the course of the Sondeo. Variation
of these kinds are compounded in terms of the household meeting
their nutritional requirements and impacts on the amounts of
fertilizer and agricultural inputs they are willing to apply in
the field. Consumption items such as clothes, bread, rice, and
charcoal have increased in price over the past years as many
farmers have told our team. Ihe uncertainty is high and permanent
in Las Cuevas in the light of the threat of the drought,
hurricanes and natural resource depletion.
Government Services: Government services are not completely
absent in Las Cuevas, yet our findings point out an overall lack
of functional capacity. The farmers interviewed were unsatisfied
with such services as agricultural extension, health care,
education, road maintenance, market and water supply. Agents from
these ministries were either lacking the basic resources for
providing efficient services, or they were absent. Two doctors
staff the local clinic located in Padre Las Casas. Many of the
same farmers have neither seen the agriculture extension agent,
nor a veterinary agent. Roads are generally in poor shape, making
transportation nearly impossible, especially in the rainy seasons.
The lack of government services impact on the household budgets
of those living in the rural areas of Las Cuevas watershed. The
lack of infrastructure makes even the smallest agricultural
programs very hard to impliment.
Migration: Ihere was some evidence contrary to the findings
of Spinal and Secretariado lecnico de la Hrecidencia, which
purported a 2.5 % annual growth in the population of Las Cuevas.
One farmer indicated that he perceived population to be declining
in the region, especially over the past two years. Many farmers
have been moving to Azua where irrigation, yield increases of b00
', and quality of life are more attractive. Another farmer while
remaining in the Las Cuevas, had voiced his intention of wanting
to move out of the region, which leads this study to again
conclude that agriculture is becoming more untenable.
Water and Nutrition: Our team found sign of malnutrition
similar to those found by Mancebo, who noted that 71% of the
children ( between the ages of 6-59 months ) were suffering from
some level of malnutrition. Cohen noted that "households with
farming/business as income source have a high nutritional
status." Of the farmers we interviewed, none fell in to this
category of farmer/businessman, so the sondeo can only legitimate
the evidence of widespread malnutrition, particularly among
Farmers interviewed also complained oft-dirty water coming
out of the village tap systems. With erosion and run-off levels
very high, impurities are even present in the water. In addition
to the taps, water is taken from the river which is also subject
to contamination. Cohen found a significant correlation between
the level of nutrition and the drinking/consumption of boiled
water. The major catch to the health in this regard is that
scarce wood and charcoal are needed to boil the water. These
"health care costs" may not be affordable.
Religion: There are two basic strong faiths in the region:
Catholisism and Evangelism. Jhe Evangelist church in the village
try to obtain 10 % of the farmers income while producing some
level of social service aid, such as health care and education.
According to the one of the farmers interviewed, the Evangelist
church has a membership of 300 people. They shared labor within
the church for labor and building houses.
Many farmers have more than one wife, though those belonging
to the Evangelist church have only one wife.
As a result of the Sondeo, a list of major socioeconomic
constraints has been identified. All the constraints impinge on
the overall functioning of the farm, and display themselves in
varying degrees across the regional population:
1. Nutrition is poor in the population, which affects
the overall functioning of the farm including production.
2. The government services are also below adequate.
Ihese services include education, waters, road maintenance,
agriculture extension, veterinary and health care.
3. Credit is either non-available or extremely expensive
in terms of interest rate charged by "patrons." Many farmers
must borrow to make it through the year.
4. The agriculture inputs, especially fertilizer, have a
prohibitive price. This was the major constraint to fertilizer
5. Marketing of agriculture produce by both government
and midlemenseems to have a negative impact on the farmers of Las
6. Farmers must rent draught animals inorder to plough
their fields and transport their crops in many instances.
7. Low producer price at harvest time.
8. Distance to the field, market, government services is
a major constraint, especially with the lack of infrastructure,
and there are signs that farmers are utilizing and searching for
the land farther and farther away from the house.
9. Land tenure have been structured in such a way that
children are inheriting smaller parcels of land. Land prices have
concurrently increased as has land inavailability.
Recommendation for Improvement Strategies
1. Farmer-Managed Cooperative: A detailed, working scheme
can befound in figure 2. The team invisions improvements could
be obtained if farmers were able to benefit from a cooperative
marketing strategy. Lt is hoped that cooperative marketing would
a) increase farmer income, through higher producer prices, b)
facilitate the timely availability of credit and inputs at lower
cost, c) provide additional services non-existant in the
community at this moment (i.e. veterinary medicine, books
cooperative education), d) better link research and extension to
the farmers, and e) give farmers the opportunity to participate
in management and decision making.
Initial financing will be needed as a catalyst to start the
cooperative activities. Income generated from the marketing and
credit programs will serve in part to pay back the initial
financing. The cooperative will be managed by a cooperative
council of farmers and one person will be hired by them as the
The site for a preliminary cooperative would be located in
one of the isolated villages outside the three main towns. The
site will be representative of a domain which is highly prevalent
in the region: one which is inaccessible.
2. Improvement of Existing Cropping Systems and Natural
Resources: Ihe team has identified three major recommendation
domains which are based on altitude and slope (see figure 3). In
the first domain (gentle slope) where beans, pigeonpeas, casava,
maize, and peanuts are grown, we propose to undertake the
2.1. varietal and cultural practice trials of beans,
peanuts and corn as a sole crop and/or intercropped.
2.a. erosion control trials and agroforestry.
In the second domain (medium slope) where coffee, banana and
some pasture exists, we propose to focus our trials on these
Proposed Farmer-M~lanaged 7uulti-Purpose Cooperative
Las Cuevas, Dominican Republic
Figure 3: Recommendation Domains for Initial Farming Systems Trials
S.3. improvement of existing coffee plantations.
2.4. exploring new area to establish useable and/or
amelorated land for more plantations, forasts and improved
Our team has concluded that these medium-sloped areas are
extremely important to the livlihood of the farmers. It is an
area which has been largely deforested, increasingly put under
population pressure, increasingly cultivated and been
The third domain (steep sloped), especially suited for
pasture, will be the area for forestry (shrubbery) trials,
grassland trials, and the future study of livestock management
3. Insect and Disease Control: There are serious problems
associated with the bean storage and poultry. We propose to
conduct trials in conjunction with the farmers and the
cooperative which we hope will yield solutions in these areas.