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SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT IN RURAL NICARAGUA:
SELF-REPORTED HOUSEHOLD BEHAVIOR AND STATED MANAGEMENT
PREFERENCES IN SANTO TOMAS, CHONTALES
JENSEN REITZ MONTAMBAULT
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Jensen Reitz Montambault
This thesis is dedicated to my husband, my parents and my stepparents who have
provided unconditional love, patience and support on my journey through life and my
The implementation of this study and production of this thesis were made possible
by the immeasurable support of various individuals and institutions at the University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida. Before all others I am grateful for the constant guidance and
support of my advisor and mentor Janaki R.R. Alavalapati of the School of Forest
Resources and Conservation. My master's committee graciously provided the additional
insight and assistance necessary for a constructive term of study and quality research; my
thanks goes out to Tom Ankersen of the Levin College of Law and Tom Hammett of the
Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia. Invaluable logistic assistance and
administrative advice were also cheerfully afforded by Cathy Ritchie, Meisha Wade and
Stephen Humphrey of the School of Natural Resources and Environment; Scott Sager,
Cherie Arias, Sherry Tucker, Cale Batey, Marie Meldrum and Winnie Lante of the
School of Forest Resources and Conservation; and Hannah Covert and Wanda Carter of
the Tropical Conservation and Development Program in the Center for Latin American
This research was made possible by the generous support of the Tropical
Conservation and Development Program, Tinker Foundation and School of Natural
Resources and Environment. The material is also based upon work supported under a
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Any opinions, findings,
conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, or other
The success of this fieldwork is shared with my field assistant Juana Borge Cabrera
and many other friends and colleagues from Santo Tomas, Chontales, and the region.
Special thanks are extended to local delegations of the Ministry of Education, Culture and
Sports (MECD) and the Ministry of Health (MINSA), the Ministry of the Environment -
Juigalpa (MARENA), the Santo Tomas mayor's office, the Santo Tomas Roman Catholic
Church, Nicaraguan Red Cross of Santo Tomas, "Advances" Credit Union, Radio
Chontalefia, Municipal Environmental Commission (CAM), and the Cattle Ranching
Cooperative of Santo Tomas, "Rios de Leche." Additional recognition goes to the
dedication of rural school teachers whose assistance in the field was critical to the
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF TABLES .............. ........ ............... ........... viii
LIST OF FIGURES ........................ ........................... ix
ABSTRAC T ............. ............ ................. ........ ........x
1 INTRODUCTION ................... .................. .............. .... ......... .......
Theoretical B asis for the Study.......................................................................................3
Needs Hierarchy .............................................. ..... .. .4
Diffusion Theory ............. ............................. ....... .5
Nicaragua ................................ ......... ........ .. ................. 6
Perverse Effects of Nicaraguan Forest Policy .....................................................7
The Agricultural Frontier ........................... ..................... ...............9
Social Issues and Sustainable Forest M management ...........................................13
Research Questions................................ ........... .. ..15
Problem Statement and Rationale ........................................... 15
Research Objective and Questions ...........................................16
Thesis Overview ................ ...... ............... 16
2 STUD Y AREA ................... ............................................. ...... .. .............. 17
Physical and B biological D escription.........................................................................17
Ecological Understanding......................................... ......... 19
Socioeconom ic D description ................................................................................... 2 1
History ........................... .................... .........21
Econom y and Land-U se .............................................. ............... 24
3 METHODS .................................................27
D evelopm ent and Pretesting...................................................................... 27
Sam pling D design ............................ ..................29
............. ................ 2 7
Survey Q uestionnaire....... ............................................................ ...... ..... 27
D evelopm ent and Pretesting...................................................... ..... .......... 27
Sam pling D design .............................. ......................... ... ...... .... ..... ...... 29
D ata A n a ly sis ................................................................................................. 3 0
D dependent V ariables.......... ..... .............................................................. ...... ..... .. 30
H household B behavior Index ........................................................ ............... 31
R ationale for W eightings................................................................ ... ............ 32
Forest M management Preference Index..... .......... ....................................... 33
R ationale for W eightings......................................................... ............. 34
Independent Variables ....................... ......... ... ........ .................. .35
4 RESULTS AND DISCU SSION ........................................... .......................... 38
D escriptiv e R esu lts ........................................................................... .......... .. .. ...3 8
Socioeconom ic Characterization...................................................................... 38
H household B behavior .................. .......................... .................... .. 41
Stated M anagem ent Preference ........................................ ....................... 41
Bivariate Correlations ........................... .. .. .................. .. ...... 42
R egression A naly sis........... ................................................................ ......... .... 44
5 C O N C L U SIO N S ....................... .... .......................... ................ ...... ......... 48
G general Synthesis .................................. .. .. .. ...... .. ............48
R research Findings............... ........ .......... .......................................... .... .. .... 50
Comments on the Survey Questionnaire Tool .............................................. 51
Limitations to Self-Reported Behavior and Stated Preference Analyses............52
Index D evelopm ent ....................... .. .... ................... ...... .. ........... 53
D directions for Future Study ............................................... ............................. 53
A SURVEY OF THE SANTO TOMAS MUNICIPALITY INHABITANTS
ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ENVIRONMENT........................56
B ENCUESTA SOBRE LOS HABITANTES DEL MUNICIPIO DE SANTO
TOMAS Y SU RELACION CON EL MEDIO AMBIENTE...............................60
C VARIETY OF TREES SELF-REPORTED ON FARMS IN SANTO TOMAS,
CHONTALES .................. .................. ................. ........... ............... 64
D ON -FA R M TREE D IV ER SITY .................................................................................70
E DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS FROM QUESTIONNAIRE DATA..........................73
L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ......... ................. ...................................................................77
BIO GRAPH ICAL SK ETCH .................................................. ............................... 85
LIST OF TABLES
1-1 A timeline of generalized regimes and influences of the expansion of the
agricultural frontier. ........................................... .. .... ......... .. ....... 12
3-1 Response values used to calculate the Household Behavior Index..........................31
3-2 Bivariate and alternative values for response used to calculate the forest
management preference index. .......................................... ............... ............... 33
3-3 Expected coefficient signs associated with socioeconomic variables when
regressed against two dependent variables........ ................ ...................36
4-1 Data was sorted by rural and urban respondents and a student's t-test was used
to determine whether the detected variation was significant ................................39
4-2 Response values used to calculate the household behavior index..........................40
4-3 Response values used to calculate stated forest management preference index......41
4-4 Significant relationships between independent variables............... ...... ........ 42
4-5 Unstandardized coefficient signs associated with socioeconomic variables
when regressed against two dependent variables ..................................................44
D-1 Independent variables and their expected and actual effect on tree diversity..........71
LIST OF FIGURES
1-1 Graphic representation of the eastward progression of Nicaragua's agricultural
frontier....................................... .................................. ........ 13
2-1 Urban and rural areas surveyed in Santo Tomas, Department of Chontales,
2-2 Land vocation in Santo Tomas, Chontales........................ ................ 25
2-3 Actual land use in Santo Tomas, Chontales......... ......................26
5-1 Significant relationships revealed by regression analysis and bivariate
correlation can be synthesized into a single figure based on common links.........50
n be synthesized into a single figure based on common links............50
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT IN RURAL NICARAGUA:
SELF-REPORTED HOUSEHOLD BEHAVIOR AND STATED MANAGEMENT
PREFERENCES IN SANTO TOMAS, CHONTALES
Jensen Reitz Montambault
Chair: Janaki R.R. Alavalapati
Major Department: School of Natural Resources and Environment
The increasing human population exacerbates pressure on limited natural resources
worldwide. Rapid conversion of tropical forests to cattle ranching and agriculture results
in a legacy of environmental and economic problems at many scales. For example, the
municipality of Santo Tomas, Chontales, in Nicaragua, originally part of largest
Neotropical rainforest north of the Amazon and now 80% active/abandoned cattle
pasture, is currently experiencing widespread household water and forest product
shortages caused by deforestation/degradation. Nicaragua's current forest management
policy requires annual management plans too cumbersome for small-scale forests on
farms, indirectly contributing to continued conversion of forests to cattle pasture so that
Nicaragua now has the highest deforestation rate in Central America. Cattle ranching is
supported by the current sociopolitical climate but employs few people relative to
agriculture, forestry and industry and requires massive amounts of land causing severe
economic disparity as well as long-term environmental disservices.
Sustainable forest management is a goal of the Nicaraguan government, but is
clearly not being implemented on the ground. Forest policy can adapt to on-the-ground
realities by understanding existing household behavior affecting the environment,
examining public preference for sustainable management, and analyzing and adjusting
policy to reinforce sustainable management preferences with incentives for conservation
behavior. This study investigates the socioeconomic distinctions between groups of
respondents professing different preferences and household behaviors related to
sustainable forest management. This study used 100 survey questionnaires to develop a
household behavior index and forest management preference index in order to explore the
questions: What causes conservation behavior in households? How are behavior and
stated sustainable management preferences related?
The results of this study suggest that younger people in Santo Tomas tend to favor
more sustainable forest management practices. This may be due in part to the fact that the
limits of Nicaraguan forest resources are much clearer now than for previous generations.
Alternatively, young people tend to be more educated and have households in urban areas
and so may have more confidence in securing alternative livelihoods. In addition, the
sociopolitical history surrounding the 1979-90 Sandinista revolution and ensuing civil
war may influence older residence to be more cautious in adopting innovative practices
for managing forest fragments on private land. Larger households, on the other hand,
tended to behave in less sustainable ways, possibly out of necessity. Rural households
strongly favored conversion of forest to cattle pasture and differed significantly from
urban households in terms of lower education and employment and larger household size.
The dilemma of human population growth and the finite natural resources on this
planet has troubled philosophers throughout the ages. Specific applications depend on
physical delineations, temporal scales and the subjective measures of quality of life.
Developing countries such as Nicaragua have traditionally relied on vast expanses of
territory to relieve social pressures caused by increased population, natural disasters and
political crises1 (Utting 1993). Sustainable management of forest resources, 2 once
considered limitless, currently challenges both tropical and temperate countries. Global
interest in collective benefits from environmental conservation has also made sustainable
management a priority in countries receiving significant amounts of foreign aid. 3
Expansionist attitudes popularized during the "Green Revolution" are giving way to a
mantra of sustainable economic development and environmental conservation.
The increasing human population exacerbates pressure on limited natural resources
worldwide. The human population currently stands at 6.15 billion and is projected to
grow to 7.18 billion by the year 2015 (UNDP 2003), while forest cover is decreasing at a
1 Recent crises include Hurricanes Joan (1988) and Mitch (1998) as well as restitution to Sandinista and
Contra fighters and repatriated wartime refugees (Ortega 1991), some of whom continue to lobby the
government for land grants to this day.
2 Although precise definitions of sustainable forest management are open to debate, the term here refers to
the definition by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), "a set of objectives and outcomes
consistent with maintaining or improving the forest's ecological integrity and contributing to people's well-
being both now and in the future." Definition by the Nicaraguan government appears later in this chapter.
3 The latest available figure indicated that in 1990 Nicaragua's official development assistance comprised
30% of the Gross Domestic Product (UNDP 2003).
rate of 0.38% annually (FAO 2003). General equilibrium models have shown that limits
to economic growth and prosperity may be based on renewable and non-renewable
natural resources (Ricker 1997), warranting concern for sustainable growth based in
natural resource management.
In Central America and the Brazilian Amazon region increased human pressure has
manifested itself primarily as conversion of vast expanses of rain forest to cattle pasture
(Buschbacher 1986, Kaimowitz et al. 2004), in many cases irrevocably interrupting the
forest ecosystem functioning on a local and watershed level (Maass 1995). Large-scale or
industrial agriculture operations (e.g., soy) limit soil recovery potential while under-
developed infrastructure makes chemical nutrient replacement impracticable
(Buschbacher 1986). Pasture reclamation techniques represent imminent concern for the
region's environment and depend on technological and socioeconomic factors, especially
government subsidies and price controls (Serrdo and Toledo 1992).
Rapid conversion of tropical forests to cattle ranching and agriculture, however,
also results in a legacy of environmental and economic problems at smaller scales. For
example, the municipality of Santo Tomas, Chontales in Nicaragua was originally part of
the largest contiguous Neotropical rainforest north of the Amazon and is now 80%
active/abandoned cattle pasture (PEP 2001). As a result it is currently experiencing
widespread household water and forest product shortages caused by deforestation and
forest degradation. A context for effecting change to these watershed-level problems can
be established by examining household behavior and attitudes toward sustainable forest
management practices. Existing public policies, both "explicit" and "implicit", 4 also
4 Johnston and Lorraine (1994) portray explicit policies as "laws, regulations and technical standards"
giving examples such as: pesticide subsidies, protected area demarcation and declaration, idle land tax and
influence how heads of household perceive the importance and feasibility of forest
conservation. This chapter discusses household behavior and stated management
preferences in rural Nicaragua in the context of global and regional natural resource
conservation and the theoretical structure supporting the tenuous connection between
people's self-reported actions and expressed preferences.
Theoretical Basis for the Study
The extent of moist tropical forests disappearance for economic development has
been well established (e.g. Brooks et al. 2002, Faris 1999, Kaimowitz et al. 2004).
Although the conundrum of integrated conservation and development projects has been
addressed by non-governmental organizations, regulatory agencies, as well as academics,
deforestation for cattle ranching continues to be the primary source of biodiversity and
forest cover loss in Latin American biodiversity hotspots (Brooks et al. 2002). Schmink
(1987) argues that while an impoverished country, such as Brazil, destroying its greatest
natural assets appears irrational from a long-term planning perspective, the small
institutional steps resulting in massive deforestation are actually state policies responding
to constituent pressure, corporate interests combined with the impoverished masses. This
phenomenon appears to be widespread in Latin America (e.g., Collins 1986). The rational
result of the state satisfying large corporations that need sizable tracts of land to be
economically profitable and assuaging the wrath of the disadvantaged are to permit the
immediate exploitation of forested land. Resolving the environmental conservation versus
economic development conundrum in particular developing country sites requires
a minimum diameter for trees harvested for timber. Implicit policies, on the other hand, are described as the
"absence of a policy, practice or institutional characteristic [or a] value." Examples of implicit policies
include generally accepted agency corruption, law enforcement permitting "squatting" or poaching (trees or
animals) on an individual basis by and the attitude that "natural resources are plentiful and unlimited" or
that "poor people need and deserve land."
"creative problem solving" on the part of policy-makers (Seely et al. 2003). Current
Nicaraguan forest policy has been criticized for neglecting on-the-ground realities
(Elizondo 1997, Larson 2000). Considering these realities within the following
theoretical frameworks may help prescribing policy changes to better achieve both
conservation and development goals.
Poverty has been strongly linked in many recent studies to natural forest
degradation (Nduma et al. 2001, Swinton and Quiroz 2003). Therefore, a theoretical
understanding of need-based human behavior is pivotal to dissecting the complex
relationship between humans (i.e., residents of the Santo Tomas municipality) and
sustainable management of forest resources. Maslow, in his classic work Motivation and
Personality (Maslow 1970), describes the difference between basic needs, higher needs
and self-actualization. This scale can be applied on a personal level where an individual
is concerned with survival needs such as food and shelter, and has higher needs such as
serenity in the road to self-actualization. Several studies have addressed the link between
asset levels, household behaviors and natural resource results (e.g., Bahamondes 2003,
Parkins et al. 2003, Swinton et al. 2003). These note that policies to alleviate poverty and
encourage biodiversity conservation not addressing these links often have perverse
effects. Maslow argues that attitudes are often influenced by a cumulative satisfaction or
frustration of these needs fulfillments.
Countries or societies can also be placed on this scale, as well. A country's
available fair-market capital and combined basic necessities for survival of its human
population drives the distribution of wealth, often leaving a small group with a
disproportionate amount of wealth and a large group frustrated with less than what would
be their equitable share (Solomon and Richmond 2001). Previous mentioned arguments
for the rationality of converting rainforest to cattle ranching in developing countries are
an example of this theory put into practice. A government with sufficient infrastructure to
deal with social problems or a long-term vision for development will likely find
wholesale deforestation a less attractive national option. As Maslow's hierarchy of needs
presents the situation, individuals or countries must satisfy their basic needs and then may
have steadily increasing concern for the future. Many of the behaviors and preferences
exhibited by respondents in this study might seem irrational in their socioeconomic
context, but are rational given the state of insecurity faced by citizens of Nicaragua and
other developing nations.
The diffusion of innovation has been developed and refined by Everett M. Rogers
over several decades (see 4th edition Rogers 1995 and Rogers 2004 for a retrospective
analysis), which dissects the process of a new concept being accepted or adopted by an
individual, community or country. First introduced by anthropologists to study effects of
modern tools and other innovations on traditional societies, the theory was applied by
rural sociologists to the spreading use of hybrid corn by farmers in Iowa (Ryan and Gross
1943 as cited in Rogers 2004). Now diffusion of innovation is used to describe the
dissemination of and acclimation to new ideas in a variety of fields including policy
analysis, marketing and public health, making it transferable to the study of sustainable
forest management practices.
Sustainable forest management on a household level can be considered an
innovation in Santo Tomas because the culturally accepted norm in the agricultural
frontier region of Nicaragua has been to conquer nature (Guerrero and Soriano 1992,
Nygren 2004a). One of the key elements in the diffusion of any innovation is
"heterophily" or "the degree to which two or more individuals who interact are different
in certain attributes" (Rogers 1995). While communication tends to be easier between
two people or groups that are more homogenous, information must flow between groups
that are different for innovative ideas or practices to be diffused. Understanding what
scocioeconomic factors differentiate groups who accept and do not accept different ideas,
preferences or behaviors is a critical step in formulating a strategy to successfully diffuse
the innovation throughout the community. A goal of the Nicaraguan government is
sustainable forest management (Nicaragua 2000), but this is clearly not being
implemented on the ground (Elizondo 1997, Faris 1999, Larson 2000, Nygren 2004b).
This study investigates the socioeconomic distinctions between groups of respondents
professing different preferences and household behaviors related to sustainable forest
management. Under the diffusion of innovations theory,5 understanding these distinctions
may be key to achieving Nicaragua's stated goals.
Nicaragua's current environmental conservation policy has unintended effects
(Alves Milho 1996, Larson 2001) because it fails to take into account on-the-ground
realities (Elizondo 1997). New forest laws requiring annual management plans for all
5 Another perspective is found in psychological studies addressing the theory of planned behavior, which
addresses the power of attitudes to predict behavior (Ajzen 1988). Kaiser, Wolfing and Fuhrer (1999) use
this theoretical framework to discuss why individuals appear to behave inconsistently with respect to
behavior that would support sustainable environmental conservation. The authors propose that factual
knowledge about ecological behavior contributes to attitude, which then competes with social norms to
create "behavior intention" in an individual, or household, which then leads to actual behavior. This
application of the theory of planned behavior complements the diffusion of innovation theory by showing
the connection between "knowledge awareness", acceptance and implementation. While some individuals
might believe in or understand the importance of sustainable forest management, the social costs may be
too high for them to change their behavior.
forests on private land intended to ensure sustainable use are so cumbersome for small-
scale landowners that they inadvertently encourage landowners to convert forests to cattle
pasture. This is important in the context of both Nicaragua's environmental and economic
sustainability. Because cattle ranching employs few people on a per acre basis as
compared to agriculture and industry and requires massive amounts of land, severe
economic disparity is created between those that own cattle ranches and those that do not.
In addition, long-term environmental disservices are caused by loss of forest ecosystem
functions (Maass 1995). Deforestation nationwide has produced a severe lack of
fuelwood, watershed-level ecosystem degradation due to erosion and wind, as well as
diminishing biodiversity (Sabogal 1992). Policy initiatives intended to address
sustainable forest management have created certain perverse effects.
Perverse Effects of Nicaraguan Forest Policy
Policies implementing sudden forest management planning requirements and
logging bans have been documented throughout Latin America as counter to sustainable
forest conservation and management (Pool et al. 2001). In the case of the large-scale
forestry operations, rules intended to ensure that timber extraction complies with
environmental protection principles involve a bureaucratic process with newly developed
and under-funded agencies making full compliance practically impossible in Nicaragua
(Larson 2000) and other countries in Latin America, notably Peru, Bolivia and Brazil
(Pool et al. 2001). Once adherence to laws is effectively compromised, there remains
little incentive to implement any of the sometimes costly, time-consuming measures. In
addition, many developing countries ignore the benefits of forests conservation on lands
of small-scale producers although they represent a quarter of the total forest lands in these
countries, tend to have higher product diversity and more efficient utilization of the
under-employed labor force and marginalized land (Scherr et al. 2004). Required forest
management plans are often too cumbersome for the reduced-scale and while large-scale
operators might circumvent them through cronyism or bribes, these options are rarely
available to farmers with small landholdings (Scherr et al. 2004). Therefore, in cases
where sustainable management of forest areas are effectively discouraged by policies
emphasizing these bureaucratic regulations, private landowners would rationally chose to
convert the land to simpler, more productive agricultural use, such as cattle ranching.
Nicaragua's current forest law (Ley para el Desarrollo y Fomento del Sector
Forestal) declares that:
"Sustainable forest management is a forest classification system intended to obtain
sustainable production of diverse timber and non-timber forest products into
perpetuity with the involvement of stakeholders in design, implementation,
evaluation and distribution of costs and benefits, in addition to the policies and
actions inherent in their rights." (Nicaragua 2000, author's translation)6
Implementation of this sustainable forest management is described in Articles 23-
25, establishing that landholders also have the rights to their forest cover and derived
benefits, provided that they comply with regulations for creating an annual forest
management plan created or approved by the National Forest Institute (INAFOR).7
Article 39 confers vigilance, control and protection of forests as described in the forest
law to municipalities, in collaboration with INAFOR. Article 41 explicitly states that only
those conforming to INAFOR's forest management plans as delegated to the municipal
government will be eligible for any benefits derived from forests on their land. This
6 This legislation was probably intended to address crises such as occurred when the state of Nicaragua
approved a large-scale forest concession in the Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni community in a case that
was argued at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Unclear tenure rights for this indigenous
community were determined to be the cause of the issue (IACHR 2001).
7 Article 102 of Nicaragua's constitution states that natural resources represent national heritage and their
conservation and rational exploitation is a right of the State.
delegation of national goals to under-funded, under-staffed and under-trained municipal
governments has led to the same nearly complete disregard for forest laws on a local
level throughout Nicaragua (Larson 2000).
Landowners are then left with the option to illegally, yet possibly still sustainably,
exploit their forests at the risk of being penalized. On the other hand, forested areas could
remain unexploited by the landowner and permitted to serve the ecological functions of
watershed and biodiversity protection noted in the text of forestry law (Art. 40), yet little
incentive besides personal altruism exists to follow this path. Finally, a landowner might
choose to convert the forest to cattle pasture.8 If this can be accomplished without
attracting the attention of authorities, such as through wildfire or in season where the
roads in the countryside are impassible to motor traffic, the landowner can then extract
legal monetary gain from this terrain. When the bureaucratic process of legitimate forest
management is such a cumbersome option, the rational choice for a landowner is to
illicitly log or burn the remaining forested areas on their land and convert them to cattle
production. A perverse effect of Nicaraguan forest policy is to facilitate the eastward
progression of the agricultural frontier.
The Agricultural Frontier
Nicaragua's agricultural frontier development and expansion has been closely
associated with political movements and has been summarized in Table 1-1. Nicaragua's
"old" agricultural frontier (see Figure 1-2) is primarily located in the central region of the
country and was integrated into the agricultural and market system in the decades
8 The rationale for this choice being that in small-scale operations, the profit from cattle ranching, even
with a one-time penalty for illegal deforestation, may still exceed the profit from forestry with its
continuous costs of an officially approved annual management plan.
between the 1940s and 1960s (Maldidier and Marchetti 1996). In contrast, the "new"
agricultural frontier is located primarily in the Atlantic region (Maldidier and Marchetti
1996) and agricultural encroachment into forested areas actively continues to this day.
The municipality of Santo Tomas spans both epochs of new and old colonization,
although most of the municipality has been converted to agriculture and remaining forest
is fragmented.9 Although most of this activity took place fairly recently, the easterly
movement of Nicaragua's agricultural frontier is based in the political and cultural
structures established throughout the Spanish colonial period from 1524-1821 (Romero
2002), specifically industrial exploitation and the concentration of landholding rights into
the hands of few (Deininger and Chamorro 2004).
Exploitation of the country's vast forest reserves began as early as the mid-
eighteenth century when British settlers began extracting timber from the Atlantic Coast
(Vilas 1989, Ambrogi 1996). In 1777 alone, one million cubic meters of mahogany were
exported to London (Ambrogi 1996). The Atlantic region was considered a British
protectorate from 1762 to 1860 when the gradual withdrawal of the British from this
region was completed, bowing to United States pressure (Incer 2000). Capital investment
by the United States soon followed and including Bragman's Bluff Timber Company (a
subsidiary of United Fruit) from 1921 to 1931, Nicaragua Long Leaf Pine (NIPCO) from
9 The Santo Tomis delegation of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECD) has observed a
phenomenon of encroachment and annexation in which Santo Tomis still has an active role in the eastward
movement of the agricultural frontier (Bricefio J, personal communication). Colonists from Santo Tomis
are reported to move into the neighboring departments, which do not pertain to Chontales, but rather the
Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region, known as RAAS (Regi6n Aut6noma Atlintica Sur). This
encroachment into the forest resources of RAAS for cattle ranching has been so widely documented that it
is termed the "Chontalization" of the Atlantic region (Incer 2000). Once families have settled in this area,
they begin to petition the Santo Tomis MECD, as well as the Ministry of Health (MISNA) and municipal
government for services such as schools, clinics and roads. In some cases, anecdotal evidence demonstrates
attempts to legally annex the territory into Santo Tomis (Bricefio J, personal communication).
1950 to 1963, then the Atlantic Chemical Company (ATCHEMCO) from 1968 to 1990
(Nuiez Soto 1996), which were substantial enough to influence national policy decisions.
For example, in 1925 Bragman's had the largest number of salaried employees in
Nicaragua (Vilas 1989) and its investments played a major role in United States' decision
to invade and subsequently occupy Nicaragua from 1909 to 1933 (Connell 2001).
Dictatorial governments (1936-1979) reaped significant benefits from the continued
exploitation of the forestry sector; Nicaragua's last dictator Anastasia Somosa, for
example, was reputed to have received 10% of the profit from all timber and mining
exports (Vilas 1989).
What is now known as the "old agricultural frontier" includes Chontales and was
colonized in the 1920s and 1930s for wood and rubber, and later converted to cattle
pasture after World War II (Maldidier and Marchetti 1996). While the 1979 Sandinista
revolution nationalized the forests, along with other natural resources, contra insurgent
fighters persistently ambushed timber transports and sawmills (Nietschmann 1990)
crippling the sector's infrastructure that has yet to rebound. Reduced access to
international markets and cancellation of existing harvest concessions on government
forest lands further weakened the forestry sector (Hammett et al. 1999), leaving
agriculture the only economically viable land use.
Fighting, however, in the Chontales area and other "frontier" regions led not only
to decreased timber transport, but also to a decrease in cattle ranching as many rural
people moved to the relative safety of cities and ranchers sold or butchered their animals
before they were confiscated by either armed force (Nietschmann 1990). By the late
1980's, the government agrarian reform policy resettled marginalized peoples from over-
crowded regions of the Pacific coast to abandoned agricultural frontier lands to the east
(Nygren 2004a, Vilas 1989). This was followed by a wave of settling repatriated wartime
refugees from such diverse backgrounds as former national guard, those not accepting the
Sandinista government and those who fled for economic reasons (Ortega 1991). At the
same time, many former cattle ranchers were returning to their traditional lands placing
additional pressure on remaining forest resources (Marin and Pauwels 2001).
Table 1-1. A timeline of generalized regimes and influences of the expansion of the
Date Dominant Regimes Effects on the Agricultural Frontier
Pre-1906 Colonial and Political movements of this time promoted
"Conservative industrial exploitation and the concentration of
Republic" landholding rights into the hands of few.a
1906-1979 U.S. military A government-led effort organized the
occupation and consolidation of large-scale private land holdings
dictatorships to increase agricultural exports.b
1979-1990 Sandinista Agrarian reform made former haciendas
revolutionary communal property later informally redistributed
government to families. Many ranchers retreat from farming to
the relative safety of urban areas.d
1990- Electoral democracy Sandinista and contra fighters granted land for
present subsistence. Farmers displaced by fighting also
attempt to return to frontier lands. Neoliberal
government policies favor national production
over dispute resolution.g
a See Deininger and Chamorro (2004) and Romero (2002).
b See Gibson 1996.
' Shocks to the economy created by Sandinista government policies were augmented by
the negative burden of the Contra insurgency covertly sponsored by the U.S. who also
enacted a trade embargo against Nicaraguan exports (Connell 2001, Gibson 1996).
d See Nietschmann (1990).
f See Gonzales (2000) and Ortega (1991).
g Interest payments on the accruing national debt equaled 124% of exports in 1996 posing
a risk of placing creditors in charge of environmental and development sustainability
(Gibson 1996). The debt remained three times the nations GDP with service payments of
half the nations exports in 2004 (Mora 2004).
D. Established agricultural zone
N1 Western edge represents the line of the
"old agricultural frontier" (pre-1979)
Western edge represents the line of the
"new agricultural frontier" (post-1990)
Figure 1-1. Graphic representation of the eastward progression of Nicaragua's
agricultural frontier (see Chapter 2 for more specific maps related to the
study). The Santo Tomas municipality is outlined in the southern central
region of the country.
The convergence of people from disparate social and political backgrounds, each
with what appeared to be legitimate claims to the same land led to many and occasionally
violent land tenure disputes. As previously discussed in the section on perverse effects of
forest policy, legislation created by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
(MARENA) have made it often more profitable to deforest and raise cattle than exploit
forest resources (Larson 2000) and ambiguous land tenure makes potential investors
uneasy (Castilleja 1993). As a result, those cultivating the land had very little real
incentive to implement any sustainable forest management practices on their property.
Social Issues and Sustainable Forest Management
Nicaragua's government forestry sector has developed a set of guidelines for
monitoring and evaluating forest management on a nationwide scale, but clearer and
more attainable policy goals are needed (McGinly and Finegan 2003). Of the Central
American countries with significant forest cover (Bermudez Rojas 1996), Nicaragua has
by far the lowest population density (CIA 2003), yet despite high per capital natural
resources, the country remains the second poorest in the western hemisphere (UNDP
2003). In an attempt stimulate the Nicaraguan economy the recent Aleman and Bolahos
administrations (1996-present) have focused on increased productivity and land titling10
rather than equitability issues (Nygren 2004a). Inadvertent results of this unqualified
development emphasis have included increased disparity of wealth in cattle ranching
regions and disregard of forest services in terms of environment and microeconomic
contributions to society.
The Gini index11 (or disparity of wealth, 0 being perfect equity and 1 being perfect
inequity) on the agricultural frontier is 0.81, indicating that resources are concentrated in
the hands of a few (Vilas 1989). In a 2000 study of nearly 2,500 Nicaraguan households,
land with forests was highly significantly correlated (p<0.01) with lack of secured tenure,
as compared with land entirely under agriculture (Deininger and Chamorro 2004). This
suggests that forested areas do not fit into the national land-tenure scheme. This thesis is
further supported by the fact that Nicaragua's forests suffer from the highest rate of
deforestation in Central America (Romero and Reyes Flores 2000), the primary cause of
which is clearing land for cattle pasture (Bermudez Rojas 1996). While many engage in
cattle and agricultural enterprises to expand economic prospects, 50% operate on land
better suited for forest especially in Chontales and neighboring Boaco (Alves Milho
1996). Natural forests and forest remnants, as opposed to plantations, however, still
10 Land titling in Nicaragua has been linked to on-farm investments and land tenure security (Deininger and
1 The Gini Index is the standard statistical measure used by development agencies to demonstrate how far
the average household income distribution differs from perfect equality; the Nicaraguan national Gini index
was 0.63 as of 1998 (UNDP 2003).
provide fuelwood, fence posts, and construction materials to most people in the tropics
(Fredericksen and Putz 2003). Both the macro-economic potential of industrialized
forests and the micro-economic role of forests on a household level have been largely
disregarded in favor of the traditional cattle ranching production.
The Chontales region has a long tradition of cattle ranching (Guerrero and Soriano
1992). A study recently carried out in the neighboring department of Rio San Juan
indicated that if presented with higher income, the majority of the representative group
surveyed preferred to invest in more cattle and clear more area since increased cattle
ranching is a cultural symbol of wealth and affluence in the central region of Nicaragua
(Faris 1999). This suggests that forest conservation is a fairly new innovation in this
society. Therefore, its adoption can be examined using Roger's theory that attitude and
behavior are influenced by communication between groups with different socioeconomic
characteristics. Understanding the complex factors determining household actions and
preferences helps isolate implicit and explicit policy failures and guide future policy
Problem Statement and Rationale
Exploring human population and limited natural resources constitute a global
concern, one manifestation of which is the conversion of rich lowland forest reserves in
the rural Neotropics into cattle ranching and commercial agriculture operations. Existing
explicit sustainable forest management and conservation laws combined with implicit
enforcement policies and circumstances have failed to control deforestation in Nicaragua,
leading to biodiversity loss and localized basic needs crisis as water and fuelwood
become increasingly scarce. Understanding behavior and attitudes toward forest
conservation through self-reported behavior and stated preference for management
options will enable policy makers to adapt incentives and penalties to better fit natural
and economic realities.
Research Objective and Questions
The primary research objective is to investigate the socioeconomic distinctions
between groups of respondents professing different preferences and household behaviors
related to sustainable forest management. This objective was broken down into two
specific research questions most applicable to the study site:
* Which socioeconomic factors influence household behavior in a forest and
environmental conservation context?
* What is the relationship between households exhibiting certain behavior and stated
sustainable forest management preferences?
The present chapter outlines the theoretical basis for this master's thesis and
develops the research problem statement in a global, regional and philosophical context.
Rationale and justification for the study is provided along with a brief history of
Nicaragua's forest conservation policy. The next chapter represents a biophysical,
economic and cultural overview of the study site. Chapter 3 covers the data collection
and analysis methods, the results of which are then presented in chapter 4 along with
detailed interpretations. The final chapter draws conclusions suggested by research
findings and details potential directions for future study.
The Atlantic coast of Nicaragua is part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot,1
the largest tract of contiguous Neotropical forest north of the Amazon (Mittermeier et al.
1999). The immediate threat facing the many endemic species in this area is
deforestation, especially for cattle ranching (Brooks et al. 2002). The municipality of
Santo Tomas is located within the Department of Chontales and is typical of cattle
ranching regions on Nicaragua's agricultural frontier (see Figure 2-1).
Physical and Biological Description
The municipality of Santo Tomas, Chontales is located 180 km from the national
capital of Managua on the eastbound highway known as the Rama Highway (Figure 2-1).
The municipality covers an area roughly located between the longitude 8446' 18"W and
85009'47"W and latitude between 11058'06"N and 12'16'08". Active and abandoned
cattle pastures occupy approximately 80% of the land area with 15% of the land in
primary and secondary forests and the remaining 5% devoted to the urban area and
subsistence crop fields (PEP 2001). Major watersheds include the Escondido River and
its primary tributary the Mico River. Micro-catchments, especially important for
household water supplies are the Bulun and Quipor Rivers and Matagua and Caracol
Creeks (Anon 2003).
1 The biodiversity "hotspots" concept was originally published by Norman Myers in the late 1980s (cited
and discussed in Myers 2003) and was revised by Myers et al. (2000) as a priority-setting tool for
conservation biologists and organizations. The basic argument is that limited conservation resources should
be focused on areas with a high numbers of endemic species (those which do not appear elsewhere in the
world) and high risk of being destroyed soon.
Uni TED STATES
r... sun .
Ce'n ta i Ame .
C 1' :' r',r LT
HONDURAS /, ,
r ;,L ,1A -
R C o56ni S*l" -i, *
Santo Tomas, Chontales
Figure 2-1. Urban and rural areas surveyed in Santo Tomas, Department r bahontales,
Nicaragua. Central America and Nicaragua maps from CIA 2003, Santo
Tomas map created by the author based on maps in PEP 2001 and those
provided by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MEDC).
The urban center is located at an elevation of 400 m above sea level (INAFOM-
AMUNIC 1997). The remaining territory, however, encompasses a variety of elevation
from peaks of over 700 m to valleys below 200 m (INITER 1989a, 1989b, 1989c) and
rainfall zones from 1,400 to 3,000 mm (INITER 1990). The Santo Tomas municipality
also includes five distinct vegetation zones and crosscuts three of the four distinct
ecological regions in Nicaragua (Salas Estrada 1993). These factors combined with the
convergence of brown latisols, black and brown tropical soils and lithisols (Taylor 1963)
make the area hospitable to a high number of floral and faunal species. The agricultural
frontier advancement through this region followed the 1966 completion of the Rama
Highway infrastructure (Nurinda Ramirez 2000), which linked the Pacific and Atlantic
coasts for the first time. The road provided ranchers with a ready transportation to milk
and beef markets, indirectly resulting in severe forest fragmentation. Studies of similar
cases in Central America show that these networks of forest fragments can be expected to
harbor remnant biodiversity (Matlock et al. 2002, Pither and Kellman 2002). As
deforestation continues to advance nationwide at an unprecedented pace, the remaining
forests in Santo Tomas may be expected to contain samples for flora and fauna
representative of a large part of Nicaragua. Understanding the ecology and
socioeconomics governing the management of these remaining forests is critical step to
conserving the natural diversity of the region.
The ecology of the Chontales region has not been thoroughly assessed since
observations made by the ecologist and mining engineer Thomas Belt in 1874 (Belt
19852), but this area is considered to be a point of ecological transition (Incer 2000).
Chontales, along with all of Nicaragua, was subject to a remote sensing vegetation
analysis by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) using data
2 Reprint edition.
from 1996 and 1999 (MARENA 2003). Characterization of the vegetation by Salas
Estrada (1993) indicates a high diversity of flora due to the rainfall and elevation
gradients. Geoscientific investigations indicate that the main and secondary watersheds of
the Escondido River are among the most contaminated in Central America due to
upstream mining operations (Mendoza 2003), and laboratory tests of the Mico River have
revealed cyanide and mercury deposits in the sediment (INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997). This
localized combination of high biodiversity and severe threat makes the area a strong
candidate for conservation efforts. However, like most of Nicaragua, baseline biological
information for conservation effort is lacking (Gillespie 2002).
Recent surveys in the nearby Indio-Maiz biosphere reserve have revealed new
species of plants (e.g., Taylor 1999), however, only general anecdotal evidence is
available for the flora and fauna of Santo Tomas (INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997, PEP 2001).
An anecdotal list of trees derived from 100 survey interviews and additional expert
contributions for the Santo Tomas region was compiled during the course of this study.
The list, found in Appendix C, includes 155 tree species known to exist on farms in Santo
Tomas as presented by indigenous knowledge. While indigenous knowledge of trees
within farming systems has been shown to be comparable to scientific and laboratory
tests (Walker et al. 1999) and has been used to develop species accumulation curves
(Kristensen and Baslev 2003) and in conducting rapid biodiversity assessments (Hellier
et al. 1999), formal taxonomic and ecological studies including baseline inventories of
the flora and fauna in this area are still strongly recommended. An analysis of on-farm
tree diversity can be found in Appendix D. The clear diversity and unstudied nature of the
site indicates the importance of these baseline studies in this area where anthropogenic
activities are the primary shapers of the landscape.
Dairy farms have been part of the Santo Tomas region for over 150 years (Guerrero
and Soriano 1992). Recently, however, deforestation for new cattle pasture has led to
shortages in fuelwood, fence posts and construction materials. This has prompted local
interest in and forest conservation largely because natural forests, as opposed to
plantations, still provide these products throughout the tropics (Fredericksen and Putz
2003). Farmers and townspeople alike are concerned about the connection between
increased deforestation and drying perennial streams, which are the primary water source
for both rural and urban residents (PEP 2001). The practice of burning over cattle
pastures has been blamed for widespread loss of soil infertility in Santo Tomas (Anon
2003) and has been documented to spark wildfires destroying lowland forests in eastern
Nicaragua (Romero and Reyes Flores 2000). As socioeconomic indicators are often
strongly correlated with the interrelationship of environmental behaviors and attitudes,
the following provides a general context for the research objectives.
Prior to Spanish occupation, the municipality of Santo Tomas was settled by the
Chontal indigenous group with its capital seat located in Lovigiuisca, 12 km from the
current urban center in the rural district now known as Los Mollej ones (Guerrero and
Soriano 1969, INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997). After a series of resettlements by the colonial
government, the Nicaraguan republic officially founded the town of Santo Tomas in its
current location in 1861 (Guerrero and Soriano 1969, INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997).
Because cattle, unlike most other natural resources and commodities, was neither
taken over by dictators, nor nationalized in the communist Sandinista era (Romero 2002),
development in Santo Tomas has remained relatively steady since the late 1800s. Highly
significant events included the construction of Rama Highway in 1966 (Nurinda Ramirez
2000) bringing large-scale commercial exploitation and individual transit into the region.
The 1979 Sandinista revolution3 and ensuing conflict which fcrced many to temporarily
give up cattle ranching and farming (Nietschmann 1990). Hurricane Juana/Joan, which
struck Santo Tomas in 1988 reduced forest area, introduced refugees from the Atlantic
region and set off an economic recession (PEP 2001).
Since Violeta Chamorro's 1990 presidential election, Santo Tomas has responded
to the decentralization process with booming economic growth due in part to increased
traffic of the Rama Highway and also to increased safety in former military zones
permitting farmers to expand cattle ranches and production into more rural areas. As the
economy improves and infrastructure develops, more people immigrate to Santo Tomas
and more young people remain rather than seeking employment in cities such as Juigalpa
(the department capital) or Managua. The increased population has led to greater pressure
on diminishing forest and water resources (PEP 2001). In addition, the value of land near
Santo Tomas has increased as more people desire to live near its schools and commercial
3 Unprecedented environmental education campaigns through schools and extension programs were also a
product of the Sandinista era. In addition, a 1988 decree gave the RAAN (Regi6n Aut6noma Atlantica
Norte) and RAAS (Regi6n Aut6noma AtlIntica Sur) a degree of political autonomy and the ability to elect
their own governments (Incer 2000). These areas, formerly known as Zelaya, are also home to the three
remaining indigenous groups, Miskito, Sumu and Rama, that comprise 2.7% of the total Nicaraguan
population (Incer 2000). While these territories and reserves belonging to these indigenous groups are quite
a distance from Santo Tomas, the municipality does share a border with RAAS. The lack of organization in
the RAAS government, tensions between mestizo, indigenous and Creole (English-speaking descendents of
African slaves) groups and distance from its capital in Bluefields facilitate the encroachment of cattle
pastures into the remaining primary rainforests of RAAS.
center during prosperous economic times. Many farmers have sold parcels of land at high
prices and purchased greater amounts of forested land farther east for conversion to cattle
pasture (Borge R, personal communication). This "Chontalization" of the remaining
forested region (Incer 2000) exacerbates forest and water resource shortages and creates a
need for more information on sustainable forest management practices.
It is important to understand the demographics of Santo Tomas as compared to the
rest of Nicaragua to understand how socioeconomic factors influence sustainable forest
management preferences and self-reported behavior. The total population in Santo Tomas
in 2001 was recorded at 19,778, 64% of whom live in the urban center while 36% are in
rural areas (PEP 2001). While there are nominally more women in urban areas (51%), the
opposite is true for rural areas (PEP 2001), a discrepancy probably due to the need for
manual labor on farms. Children under the age of 15 comprise 47% of the total
population (Anon 2003), a phenomenon common to developing countries in Latin
America. In urban areas, approximately 53% of school-aged children attend primary
school, dropping to 45% in rural areas where the adult illiteracy rate is estimated at 61%
(PEP 2001).4 The 1996 census reported that 85% of the economically active population is
employed, a figure that excludes housewives and students, and 53% percent of these
economically active individuals hold a formal salaried position (Anon. 2003).5
4 The Nicaraguan national average is 33% adult illiteracy (UNDP 2003).
5 On a national level, youth (aged 18-24 years) have a 20% unemployment rate (UNDP 2003), and although
directly comparable figures are not available, the employment level appears to follow the national average.
Economy and Land-Use
Cattle ranching economy: Deforestation for cattle ranching is the leading cause of
biodiversity loss in this region, yet dairy cattle are also the basis of the economy
(INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997). The location of the Santo Tomas municipality facilitates
commercial trade between the natural resource rich Atlantic zone and the majority of
Nicaragua's population located in the Pacific region. Milk production fluctuates between
10,000 gallons/day in the wet season and 2,000 gallons/day in the dry season from an
estimated 30,000 head of cattle in the region (Anon 2003). Of these animals, 30% are
used exclusively for milk production, 20% exclusively for beef and the remaining 50%
utilized for both purposes (INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997). At least three-quarters of the land
used for cattle ranching in Santo Tomas is better suited to other purposes (see Figures 2-2
and 2-3)(PEP 2001), which is higher than the national average of 50% (Alves Milho
1996). Over half of the land in Nicaragua cleared for cattle ranching and agriculture that
is suitable for reforestation is located in the Departments of Chontales and Boaco (Alves
Milho 1996, Nufiez Soto 1996).
Other economic activity: Commerce, foreign aid and agriculture comprise much
of the remaining economic activity in Santo Tomas. Commercial districts include a
variety of cottage industries such as small stores, carpentry shops, mechanics, tailoring
and jewelry workshops. Foreign aid to Santo Tomas in 2000 was approximately four
times the income from other sources. The largest donations are from Japan, Spain,
Finland, Taiwan and France, in order of decreasing contribution (Anon 2003). On
average, 5% of farmland is dedicated to agriculture, except in the rural district El Alto,
where 20% of farmland is in crops (Anon 2003). The percentage of cultivated area
devoted to each crop is as follows: rice (2%), beans (14%), corn/maize (33%) and
plantains/bananas (51%) (INAFOM-AMUNIC 1997). Due to rising transportation prices
and deteriorating roads, farmers are increasingly reluctant to plant crops for cash sale,
relying on sales of cattle and milk as primary income (Borge R, personal
Cattle ranching 0%
Figure 2-2. Land vocation in Santo Tomas, Chontales (PEP 2001).
Forestry: According to the mayor's office, there are no public forests (parks or
productive) in the Santo Tomas municipality (Garcia J, personal communication).
Household level forestry does exist, but as demonstrated previously, there is an
incongruity between the appropriate and real land use. Although private forest reserves
were reported in a Participatory Rural Appraisal conducted by the mayor's office (PEP
2001), many of these areas had already been clear-cut at the time of this study and the
mayor's office indicated that no formal protection schemes were planned by the
municipality in the near future (Garcia J, personal communication).
Other r 0%
Figure 2-3. Actual land use in Santo Tomas, Chontales (PEP 2001).
Most trees in Santo Tomas exist, therefore, within forest fragments and as
individual multipurpose trees on private property both in small urban lots and on rural
farmland. The decision to grow trees on private land, which trees and how many, is a
personal decision made by individual landowners in this area. As such, household
socioeconomic variables, including gender, age, education level, household size,
household income and outside employment might be a deciding factor (see Appendix D
for a more detailed discussion of on-farm tree diversity). The primary challenge to
policies encouraging sustainable management is the lack of information about what
factors would influence individuals to choose sustainable management and why. This
information gap will be addressed by this study.
The primary tool utilized to elicit information from households about sustainable
management was a survey questionnaire. It was administered to 100 voluntary
respondents selected through a randomized, stratified and quota sampling design.
Preliminary aggregated results were reviewed by focus groups to identify potential
biases. Student's t-test, bivariate correlation and multiple linear regression analyses were
conducted using the interview data to detect significant relationships between variables.
Development and Pretesting
The survey questionnaire tool was developed at the University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida, USA using sample surveys from similar studies in Central America
and other developing countries (e.g., Albertin 2002, Harvey and Haber 1999). A sample-
size of 100 was determined to be appropriate.1 Field tests of the survey were made to
include a sample of>15 volunteer respondents from a broad background to identify
obvious problems with the survey and modify accordingly before translation into Spanish
and submission and approval by the University of Florida Institutional Review Board
(Protocol# 2003-U-414). Once tested with additional volunteers in the study site, final
refinements were made. The questions presented in the survey fall into four general
1 A sample size of 100 produces a 92% confidence internal, while a sample size of 411 would be required
to raise the confidence interval to 95% (UFSRC 2002). A four-fold increase in sample size would have
required costs far outweighing the benefits to this study and was logistically infeasible for this project.
categories, socioeconomics, biodiversity, actions and preferences (See Appendices A and
B for English and Spanish versions of the full survey, respectively).
Socioeconomics: Questionnaires commenced with a series of general
socioeconomic questions including gender, age, education level, household size and
make-up, total household income and contributors, whether anyone in the household had
outside employment and amount of fuelwood used in the household. Specific questions
about each household property (if applicable) covered land area, tenure and acquisition.
Finally respondents were asked whether or not they had received environmental
education and through which venues (i.e., via the radio, word-of-mouth, school, church,
government or non-governmental organization).
Biodiversity: Each respondent owning land was asked an open-ended question to
list woody tree species and animals occurring on her or his property. Unfortunately, no
scientific lists were available for this region; therefore a preliminary list was created
using a focus group and then presented to respondents.2 Information compiled on trees is
available in Appendix C.
Actions: The survey elicited self-reported household behavior with respect to flora,
fauna and water resources. Options included harvesting fuelwood, timber and other forest
products for household use and sale. Hunting wild animals for household use and sale,
leaving trash and cutting fuelwood in riparian zones when going to the river to wash were
also investigated (see Table 3-1).
Preferences: Participants in the survey were asked to express their opinions using
a Likert scale (1 = agree, 3 = no opinion, 5 = disagree) on a series of questions about
2 This list was added to as individual respondents mentioned more tree species, therefore, later interviews
had a more extensive list to prompt a present/absent response than earlier surveys.
sustainable forest management practices relevant to the remaining forest fragments in the
Santo Tomas municipality. General topics included whether the following activities
should be permitted in the remaining forest fragments in Santo Tomas: harvesting
fuelwood and timber for household use or sale, harvesting non-timber forest products,
hunting wild animals, exploring for gold and silver, deforesting new land for cattle,
maintaining forest reserves for the future, as well as recreation, conservation and
educational activities (see Table 3-2 for a complete list of topics).
Some data collected was not used in this analysis. Full descriptive statistics on
survey responses can be viewed in Appendix E.
A total of 100 person-to-person surveys were conducted by the author and field
assistant, stratified over urban (50%) and rural (50%) inhabitants. While the actual
population of nearly 20,000 is distributed over 36% rural and 64% urban habitants (PEP
2001), the equal division permitted direct comparison of responses from urban and rural
areas. These two sectors are demographically distinct as rural areas have a much higher
illiteracy rate, lower employment rate and the largest forest fragments (see Chapter 2 for
more details). Rural areas are divided into 12 comarcas or districts and urban areas into
10 barrios or neighborhoods. Only nine of these comarcas were accessible during the
study period due to the deteriorating condition of the road. Using information provided
by the Santo Tomas delegation of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA), the
number of interviews per accessible comarca or barrio was made proportional to the
actual population distribution in each area. Urban residents were selected randomly
within barrios using the electronic address lists provided by the mayoral cadastral
system. Key informants coordinated by the Santo Tomas delegation of the Ministry of
Education and Culture (MEDC) assisted in rural participant selection based on
availability and representation of community views within designated geographical
regions. Surveys were conducted between mid-May and early-July 2003. A local field
assistant accompanied the researcher implementing the interviews in Spanish to ensure
that questions and answers were fully understood. Participation was voluntary and limited
to heads of household 18 years and older; information collected on individual surveys
was kept confidential.
Each survey was assigned an interview number and data were transcribed into an
Excel spreadsheet, giving number values to categorical data. The transformed data were
then imported into the statistical analysis package SPSS, v. 12. Frequency and descriptive
statistics were run for all variables. A student's t-test was applied to urban vs. rural data.
A standard multiple linear regression analysis and bivariate correlations were performed
for the variables described below. Results of the analyses are presented in the following
The dependent variables were selected to address the principal components of the
research questions raised in Chapter 1: behavior and attitude. A household behavior index
was developed from answers to specific questions about household actions.3 A stated
management preference index was used as a second dependent variable examining the
3 The number of tree species reported for the property (tree diversity) is used a dependent variable for rural
households only as a proxy for forest conservation behavior. The results of this analysis are presented in
heads of household's stated preferences with respect to specific forest management
policies that may or may not support conservation.4
Household Behavior Index
Each question used to compile the household behavior index elicited a binomial
(yes/no) response (Table 3-1), and was given a value of 1 if this action supports
conservation policy or 0 if otherwise. The answers on each survey were transformed and
averaged to create a continuous value between 0 and 1 used as a dependent variable.5
Each element of the index was also used as the dependent variable in separate regression
models to test whether the relationship represented by the index was actually driven by a
Table 3-1. Response values used to calculate the household behavior index.
Does your household... Response
... maintain trees on the property for household consumption? 1 0
...unregulated hunting of wild animals? 0 1
... harvest fuelwood along river/stream/spring? 0 1
... throw trash when visiting river/stream/spring? 0 1
An alternative weighting scheme was also implemented to account for the
difference between circumstance determined and active choice behavior. Hunting and
4 The index is a tool to compare levels of a complex concept in disciplines as diverse as environmental
science and psychology. The Pollutant Standards Index, for example, uses the levels of five air pollutants to
assess air quality and then relate the index value to potential negative health effects (for a discussion see
Wark and Wong 2003). Similarly, the Self Esteem Index (SEI) uses 80 self-response items and a Likert-
type scale to assess self-esteem problems in school-children who may require counseling (see Ferrer et al.
2003 for a recent analysis of this method). The household behavior and forest management preference
indices consolidate different patterns within answers to behavior and attitude questions to facilitate
isolating the socioeconomic factors contributing to a household, or head-of-household, acting or thinking in
a way that supports forest conservation scenarios.
5 Another possible approach analysis would be developing a logit analysis. This would use the mean or
some other natural breaking-point to divide the continuous variable into either "high conservation
behavior" and "low conservation behavior". The dependent variable would then be re-coded 1 and 0,
respectively. This would be effective in cases where there was insufficient variation in the original
continuous values, but much of the information contained within the continuous variable would be lost.
harvesting fuelwood may be for survival and maintaining trees on the property may be a
decision made by the landlord or size of the property. Throwing trash into the stream,
however, is a conscious choice. Therefore, this response was assigned an arbitrary6 value
of four times greater than the other responses to test the effect of the active choice vs.
circumstance determined motivation. These alternative results are also presented in the
Rationale for Weightings
Maintaining trees on property for household consumption: Keeping trees on
the property for multiple-use purposes either by planting or not cutting is a conscious
choice made by the household.
Hunting wild animals: Although two hunting clubs exist in Santo Tomas who
publicly claim to follow nationally recognized hunting guidelines, focus groups indicated
that most hunting is done on an individual basis without the permission of landowner's or
regard for season or bag limits.
Harvesting fuelwood and littering in riparian zones: These questions were
addressed to households routinely washing clothes in the river (73%), a clear majority.
While the decision to wash in the river is largely a matter of necessity, the subsequent
decisions to cut fuelwood in the riparian zone (as opposed to elsewhere) or throw trash in
the stream (as opposed to carrying it home) have significant conservation impact and
could be easily avoided.
6 The value of four was chosen arbitrarily. Additional iterations could be completed by varying this
number, but initial tests with the number four revealed no significantly different results.
Forest Management Preference Index
The Likert scale (1-5) used in the questionnaire was collapsed to simply agree or
disagree. In the same manner as described for the household behavior index, response
values were tallied and averaged, assigning a continuous value between 0 and 1 to each
individual survey. The answers on each survey were transformed and averaged to create a
continuous value between 0 and 1 and used as a dependent variable. Each element of the
index was also used as the dependent variable in separate regression models to test
whether the relationship represented by the index was actually driven by a particular
Table 3-2. Bivariate and alternative values for response used to calculate the forest
management preference index.
Should the following activities be permitted in Bivariate Alternative
the forests remaining in Santo Tomas... Agree Disagree Agree Disagree
...require maintaining forest reserves on private 1 0 1 0
... gathering fuelwood for household use? 0 1 0 1
...harvest timber for household use? 0 1 0 1
... gather non-timber forest products for 1 0 1 0
...hunt wild animals? 0 1 0 1
...harvest timber for sale? 0 1 0 4
... deforest additional land for cattle pasture? 0 1 0 4
Note: Half of the respondents were asked their preference on burning pastures since
wildfires are a major concern for forest maintenance. The results were not included in the
index, but can be found in Appendix E. This was of special concern because the
Department of Forestry (INAFOR) in Juigalpa was attempting to implement a ban on all
agricultural burning at the time of this study.
As with the household behavior index, an alternative-weighting scheme was
developed. Harvesting fuelwood for household use is often the only energy available for
cooking, especially in rural areas without good roads to bring in alternative fuels such as
propane tanks or electricity for ironing or cooking. An arbitrary number of four was
assigned to responses in favor of to harvesting timber for sale and deforesting for
additional cattle pasture, as these represent a more active disregard for the environment.
Rationale for Weightings
Require maintaining forest reserves on private lands: Trees maintained on
private lands can provide public environmental services such as run-off control and
Gathering fuelwood for household use: Deforestation and forest degradation due
to cutting fuelwood for household use is considered to be the greatest threat to forests and
biodiversity in Nicaragua (Van Buren 1990). Often the petroleum energy used to
transport the wood material is greater than the energy value provided by the wood itself.
Eighty-three percent of those interviewed use fuelwood at least to some extent in their
household, largely out of necessity.
Harvest timber for household use: From the perspective of forest conservation,
timber harvests for household use have no regulation or monitoring for sustainability.
However, it is primarily carried out to escape purchasing substitute materials such as
cement and iron, which must be hauled in from Managua and great cost and petroleum
Gathering non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for household use: Studies in
the neighboring department of Rio San Juan indicated that gathering NTFPs would not
significantly affect tree growth or biodiversity (Salick et al. 1995) and raises people's
appreciation of the forest, therefore this activity would be considered benign from the
perspective of forest conservation.7
Hunting wild animals: As discussed in the section detailing rationale for the
household behavior index.
Harvesting timber for sale or export: Illegal or unmanaged cutting of timber for
sale is one of the most serious problems facing Nicaragua's forestry sector.
Additional deforestation for cattle pasture: The cattle ranching cooperative Rios
de Leche has studied the farming practices of ranchers in the area and concludes that it is
unnecessary to cut the remaining forests to maintain current levels of ranching, or even to
expand significantly if land use is made more efficient through technology adoption
(Miranda A, personal communication).
The following independent socioeconomic variables are expected to influence
behavior and attitude based on similar studies discussed in Chapter 1. Typical social
characteristics of respondents (heads of household)8 included age (AGE), gender
(FEMALE), years of formal education (EDUCATION) and whether or not the respondent
had been exposed to environmental education (ENVIEDU). Household characteristics
expected to be influential were income level (INCOME), outside employment
7 A recent comparative study of Brazil nut harvests does indicate that unregulated and persistent harvests
may lead to a forest producing too few juvenile trees to sustain the population (Peres et al. 2003). The
central Nicaraguan NTFP markets do not approach the historical or special extent of those in Brazil and this
particular constraint is probably not a concern. This study should, however, serve as a caution to those
organizations interested in further developing NTFP markets in Nicaragua and other regions.
8 Heads of household were determined by asking the potential respondent if she or he would consider her or
himself the head of household or "household decision-maker". While some individuals did decline to be
interviewed because they would not classify themselves as the head of household, there is still room for
error. Some households may make decisions as a group, or decisions about the house may be made by a
different person than decisions about the land and trees.
(EMPLOY), rural location vs. urban (RURAL), owning vs. renting (TENURE) and
number of people living in the household (HHSIZE). A Pearson's bivariate correlation
analysis was applied to these independent variables to ensure no multi-colliniarity
(Tabachnick and Fidell 1996 as cited in Pallant 2001).
Different socioeconomic variables are expected to influence each of the dependent
variables differently. The apriori results of each analysis are presented in Table 3-3.
Table 3-3. Expected coefficient signs associated with socioeconomic variables when
regressed against two dependent variables (signs are expected to remain the
same under binomial and alternative weighting schemes).
S Household Behavior Management
IndependeIndex Preference Index
EDUCATION + +
INCOME + +
Note: In the original survey, the area of landholding was also collected. This was not
included in the independent variables because it did not apply to all households.
Additionally, the cadastral system was currently in the process of being implemented and
individuals' understanding of real land boundaries was highly unreliable.
Because older people were raised and established their households when the
Nicaraguan government was actively encouraging the settlement of the agricultural
frontier through deforestation, it is expected that the household behavior and management
preferences exhibited by this group would be less supportive of conservation. There are
no apriori expectations about how gender and outside employment may affect the
dependent variables, although other studies have shown them to be significant in the past.
Education and income are both expected to have a positive influence on all of the
dependent variables since these respondents would be higher up on Maslow's hierarchy
of needs. While environmental education should have a positive affect on respondents'
sustainable forest management preferences, it may not have a significant affect on
behavior dependent variables because many of these questions are circumstance
determined. It is likely that rural respondents will have a lower score on the behavior
index due to subsistence activities such as hunting and fuelwood collecting, but an
undetermined effect on preferences. Finally, larger households will use more natural
resources and therefore the behavior index should be negative, while the preference
might depend more on other socioeconomic factors in the individual family.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The data from 100 survey questionnaires was subjected to a series of analyses.
Descriptive and frequency statistics provide an overall picture of the municipality
through averages and ranges of socioeconomic variables. A student's t-test was used to
compare responses from urban and rural samples. Bivariate correlation analyses reveal
significant relationships between variables. Multiple linear regression analyses assess the
relationship between a dependent and independent variables by controlling for other
variables and an overall relationship between a set of independent variables and a
dependent variable. Detailed interpretations of the analyses results are discussed.
The sampling design was stratified 50% urban and 50% rural. Of these
respondents, 60% were women and 40% men. Ages ranged from 18 years old to 82
(mean age 41), while education level ranged from no schooling to university degrees
(average education level was completion of 4th grade). An impressive 82% of the
respondents reported that they had received some type of environmental education,
whether formal training through governmental agencies or non-governmental
organizations, or by word-of-mouth, the church or the radio. Descriptive statistics from
the complete data set are presented in Appendix E.
Households ranged from one person to 14, with an average size between six and
seven, including a mean value of 2.59 children (ranging from no children to 9). Although
household income spanned all categories, the average income was low at approximately
1,000 C6rdobas (US$66) monthly,1 with an average of 2.3 people assisting with
household income (includes remittances). Among those surveyed, 43% of all households
had a member with outside employment.
Table 4-1. Data was sorted by rural (n=50) and urban (n=50) respondents and a student's
t-test was used to determine whether the detected variation was significant.
Numbers not followed by a percentage symbol are averages.
* Significant at a = 0.1
** Significant at a = 0.05
The average respondent had lived in the present property for 18 years, but answers
ranged from 0 to 76 years. Only 15% of those interviewed were living on inherited land,
but 83% said that they owned the property where the household was located.2 The survey
design was stratified between rural (n=50) and urban (n=50) residents, and several
significant differences were revealed between these respondents. Socioeconomic
1 The Nicaraguan C6rdoba was valued at approximately C$15 to US$1 at the time of this study.
2 A 2000 World Bank study of 2475 Nicaraguan households indicates that approximately 80% of farmers
with agriculture production land and 70% of households with little land have formally registered
documents of land ownership (Deininger and Chamorro 2004). The study notes, however, that some
respondents may have misunderstood the questions distinguishing between titles recognized by the current
administration, those issued by the Sandinista regime and informal documentation.
information and final index results were sorted over these two categories and subjected to
a student's T-test in MS Excel. The results are reported in Table 4-1.
A significantly lower percentage of women responded to the survey in rural areas.
Rural heads of household also tended to have fewer years of formal education and have
larger households. Urban residents, on the other hand, are much more likely to have a
household member with formal outside employment, but were much less likely to have
received environmental education. This is probably caused by the importance of the radio
in rural life and recent outreach programs broadcast by Nicaragua's Ministry of
Environment (MARENA) intended to reach the rural public. In summary, rural residents
are generally less educated and living in larger households with less income and fewer
possibilities for outside employment than their urban counterparts. These aspects also
contribute to a tendency to continue clearing remaining forest fragments in the hopes of
satisfying basic needs.
Both index results were also subjected to bivariate correlation analysis with
individual independent variables. There was no significant difference between the
household behavior index results, however, there was a highly significant difference
between the results of the management preference index between rural and urban
respondents. These results will be discussed in more detail in the following sections.
Table 4-2. Response values used to calculate the household behavior index.
Does your household... Response
... maintain trees on the property for household consumption? 85% 15%
...hunt wild animals? 15% 85%
... harvest fuelwood along river/stream/spring? 23% 77%
...throw trash when visiting river/stream/spring? 29% 71%1
The questions selected to determine the household behavior index elicited a variety
of responses. Most people maintained trees on their property, in both urban and rural
areas, for household fruit, fuelwood or timber consumption. Fifteen percent hunted wild
animals and approximately one quarter of the respondents reported littering and
harvesting fuelwood. This number is probably under-reported because some participants
may have been aware that these actions are regulated and may be illegal.
Stated Management Preference
Most heads of household surveyed favored permitting the harvest of household use
of forest products such as fuelwood, timber and non-timber forest products. Many
respondents specifically commented that forests, even on private land, should be used for
subsistence, but not for profit ventures. Less than half of the participants supported
harvesting wood for sale or export, hunting wild animals or deforesting additional land
for cattle pasture. Support for policies to maintain forest reserves on private land was
substantial, however the option was presented without potential trade-offs (i.e., would
you agree to this policy if overall production in the region were to decline a
Table 4-3. Response values used to calculate the stated forest management preference
Should the following activities be permitted in the forests Response
remaining in Santo Tomas... Agree Disagree Opinion
... require maintaining forest reserves on private lands? 96% 1% 3%
...gathering fuelwood for household use? 85% 14% 1%
...harvest timber for household use? 68% 31% 1%
...gather non-timber forest products? 88% 8% 4%
...hunt wild animals? 26% 71% 3%
...harvest timber for sale or export? 9% 91% 0%
... deforest additional land for cattle pasture? 29% 70% 1%
The bivariate correlations are intended to highlight relationships between
independent variables that are significant. The rural/urban dummy variable had a large
number of significant correlations justifying its use as a stratification mechanism. Rural
areas had significantly lower levels of education, but higher exposure to environmental
education, more people in the household and limited outside employment. As previously
mentioned, fewer women were interviewed in rural areas. The women interviewed
overall were likely to be younger than the men, represent households with lower income
and have less exposure to environmental education than men. These households were
more likely to have a member with formal outside employment.3
Table 4-4. Significant relationships between independent variables used in regression
Characteristic Significant Correlates and Signs
RURAL FEMALE (-), EDUCATE (-), ENVIEDU (+), EMPLOY (-), HHSIZE (+)
AGE FEMALE (-), ED UCAT (-), INCOME (-)
FEMALE AGE (-), ENVIEDU (-), INCOME (-), EMPLOY (+), RURAL (-)
EDUCAT INCOME (+), RURAL (-)
ENVIEDU FEMALE (-), RURAL (+)
INCOME FEMALE (-)
EMPLOY TENURE (-)
HHSIZE RURAL (+)
Respondents with higher education also reported heading households with higher
income. Those who owned land generally had less of a chance of having a member with
fulltime employment, probably because landowners tend to work on the property either in
ranching or a cottage industry. Years of formal education decreased in rural areas and for
older people, but increased in higher income households. Most of these results suggest
3 These surveys are ones in which the female head of house hold was available and willing to be
interviewed and does not indicate the female is the only head of household.
that Santo Tomas is a typical rural community in a developing nation and highlight some
of the real challenges to forest conservation. In addition, the fact that outside employment
in rural areas is lower than in urban areas, creates a strong economic incentive to continue
Respondents who preferred clearing forested lands for additional cattle pasture also
tended to favor policies that would permit cutting timber for export and sale and hunting
wild animals. This indicates a set of participants who strongly favor the exploitation of
natural resources. Those who preferred clearing forested lands significantly differed from
the average population in that they were primarily older.
Respondents who agreed with harvesting fuelwood for household use also tended
to be those who agreed with harvesting timber for household use. These respondents
varied significantly from the general population in several ways. They tended to be more
urban and have received less environmental education. A possible explanation is that
urban dwellers generally live farther from the fuelwood source and have to pay
transportation costs and use public roads rather than footpaths. Woodfuel, therefore, has a
greater monetary value for town residents than rural residents, and since road traffic is
more susceptible to inspection and enforcement than foot traffic, urban dwellers might
face heavier penalties if customary collection rights were regulated. The correlating lack
of environmental education is more likely an effect of environmental education reaching
the rural community via radio programs, rather than a relationship between
environmental sensitivity and woodfuel use.
The goal of the regression analyses is to test the relationship between
socioeconomic characteristics and the behavior and attitude of respondents. Two
dependent variables were used to test these research questions: the household behavior
index compiled from self-reported habitual household actions and the management
preference index compiled of responses to forest management that can be interpreted as
either sustainable (given the value of 1 or higher)4 or not sustainable (given a value of 0).
Independent variables used in both regression analyses were age, rural/urban, gender,
household size, years of formal education, income level, outside employment, owning
household property and having received environmental education.
Table 4-5. Unstandardized coefficient signs associated with socioeconomic variables
when regressed against two dependent variables.
Household behavior index Management preference
Independent Predicted Actual Sig. Predicted Actual Sig.
FEMALE + +
EDUCATION + + + +
ENVIEDU + + + +
INCOME + + + +
EMPLOY + +
TENURE + +
* Significant at a = 0.1
** Significant at a = 0.05
The results of the regression analyses are illustrated in Table 4-5. All of the signs
for the unstandardized coefficients were as expected. Household size was the only
4 The weights of certain activities were manipulated higher than 1 to determine if weighting had a
significant effect No significant effect was observed.
significant factor for the household behavior index (at a=0.1, p=.090), resulting in a final
model with a very low adjusted5 R2 of 0.014:
Household behavior index = .862 .011 (HHSIZE)
The household behavior supported sustainable forest management more in smaller
households. It is logical that larger households would inevitably impact the sustainability
of forest use in Santo Tomas as they use more fuelwood for cooking6 and ironing. Larger
families also generally indicate more young children under less supervision who might
engage in detrimental practices such as littering or hunting without obeying regulations.
The management preference index was used as the dependent variable for a
regression analysis using the same independent variables as the household behavior index
analysis. Given the strong correlations cited in the literature between ecological behavior
and attitude (Ajzen 1988, Kaiser and Keller 2001) a similar model might be expected.
Indeed, age was a significant independent variable (p=.062) accompanied by the rural
location dummy variable (p=.033), rather than household size. The resulting final model
with an adjusted R2 of .210 is as follows:
Management preference index = .857 -.003(AGE) .103(RURAL)
There are several reasons why households with younger decision makers might
prefer more sustainable behavior. It has been documented in other parts of the
Nicaraguan agricultural frontier that the pioneering or "conquer nature" spirit promoted
5 The adjusted R2 accounts for the effects of multiple independent variables isolating the influence of only
the significant variables and more accurately reflects the model fit than the unadjusted R2.
6 This survey found that 85% of all household use fuelwood for at least some of their cooking energy. Most
heads of household commented that beans, if nothing else, were cooked over a wood fire. This is probably
due to the time necessary to cook beans thoroughly and the relative cost of propane gas. Larger families
would generally use more beans, a staple food throughout Nicaragua, and the use of fuelwood would be
in the 1950s and 19060s Green Revolution is more prevalent among older residents of the
region (Nygren 2004a). The bivariate correlation between age and education also showed
that older people in this sample group had a significantly lower number of years of
formal education. In other areas of Central America, household surveys have shown that
years of education have direct correlates to preservation of old growth forests and
sustainable forest management within an agricultural setting (Godoy et al. 1998). This
may be partially due to traditionalism complicated by a political polarization of
conservation and sustainability issues in Nicaragua. Household size may not be as
influential since preference represents an ideal state without necessarily considering the
realistic demands of a large family. The respondent's stated preference tended toward
sustainable management with not only younger, but also urban heads of household.
The time-preference theory offers another possible explanation for why age is a
factor in both household behavior and sustainable management preference. Time-
preference describes the phenomenon of changing behavior based on an individual's age
and relative capacity for enjoyment of goods now as compared to the future. Although it
has long been held that older people have learned the importance of saving resources for
the future, recent econometrics research indicates that tendency to save money is
negatively correlated with age, suggesting that the probability of instant and loss of saved
resources death steadily increases with age (Senesi 2003). Another study used empirical
7 In Nicaragua, in particular, environmental education was first introduced by the Sandinista regime
following the 1979 revolution creating a gap between those growing up pre- and post-revolution. Younger
heads of household educated under the Sandinistas may have been exposed to conservation and
sustainability values, but many older farmers were embittered by the collectivization of private lands and
state control of agricultural prices (Nygren 2004a, Vilas 1989). Since forest conservation and sustainable
management rhetoric are associated with the Sandinistas, older residents may still react against their
adoption on principal. This challenge exacerbates the inherent difficulty of changing traditional farming
evidence to propose that people perceive their ability to enjoy goods and services as
decreasing with old age, and therefore they actually accelerate their use patterns as they
age (Trostel and Taylor 2001).8 Current time-preference theory offers an explanation why
younger households seem to favor sustainable forest management more strongly than
those households led by older decision-makers.
The previous discussion on rural vs. urban household concluded that rural people
were less educated and poorer overall. For these reasons, rural respondents may be lower
on the overall hierarchy of needs, still focusing on basic survival such as food and shelter.
Even those who have accumulated enough wealth to not only survive, but also begin
investing in the future may not be so far up on the hierarchy of needs that they would
consider sustainability over immediate gain. This potential explanation has been
supported by empirical studies in neighboring Rio San Juan where the majority of rural
household surveyed indicated that they would invest in expanding cattle operations if
they had an increase in income (Faris 1999). Investing in cattle in considered a solid
fiscal option in rural Nicaragua from a cultural (Guerrero and Soriano 1992) and realistic
from a financial standpoint. In a country where wages have been frozen for five years
while utilities have being privatized as part of the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC)
Debt Initiative (Mora 2004), it may be more rational for those already involved in
agriculture to invest in cattle than in banks. Since trees are technically property of the
state until a cumbersome management process is followed, it is unsurprising that rural
households might express a preference for short-term rather than sustainable forest
management, given the historical and current political economy of the region.
8 Trostel and Taylor (2001) also suggest that previous research showing opposite trends were biased
because the studies excluded the infirm, an increasing percentage of the aging population.
Several robust socioeconomic influences on self-reported household behavior and
stated preference with respect to forest management and conservation in Santo Tomas,
Chontales are indicated from the survey data analysis. These significant factors are
synthesized in the following section followed by general policy implications suggested
by the data. The many lessons learned through the process of administering surveys and
focus groups, as well as developing indices are compiled here to assist those who might
apply such research methods to address their own questions. In addition, although some
questions were addressed during this process, many more were created. Directions for
future research both in Nicaragua and on thematic questions are also suggested.
The results of this study indicate that socioeconomic factors influence self-reported
household behavior and stated sustainable forest management preferences in the context
of forest conservation. Older respondents' overall management preference index
decreased significantly away from sustainability and conservation. In particular, further
analysis indicated that deforestation to convert land into additional cattle pastures was
strongly favored by this group. As a policy, deforestation for cattle pasture was affiliated
with the exploitation of timber (for profit) and hunting animals (for household use).
Younger respondents, however, were those more inclined to prefer hunting. In addition,
younger people were potentially driven by subsistence rather than profit motivation since
hunting was only for household consumption and was also significantly correlated with
the number of people in the household.
Although rural areas had received overwhelmingly more environmental education
than urban area (predominately via the radio), necessity and custom probably urged these
households to state a preference for timber harvest for household use. These households
typically had also lived in their current location longer, contributing to the adherence to
traditional building materials. Factors related to tradition probably also contributed to
rural people's preference for deforestation for additional cattle pasture. In addition,
formal planning requirements of current forest policy1 make deforestation a more rational
economic choice for some rural residents. Figure 5-1 represents a synthesis of stated
preferences organized by their significant socioeconomic independent variables.
The significance of age and strong correlation between several activities that
impact conservation potential reveal a more complex situation. Young people may be
likely prefer more sustainable forest management options because the limits of
Nicaraguan forest resources are much clearer now than for previous generations, reflected
conversely in the preferences indicated by older respondents. Younger people also grew
up in a socio-political environment that endorsed sustainability and conservation of
forests as a national heritage. On the other hand, they have higher education and are more
employable, which may make them less dependent on and less connected to forests. Both
implicit and explicit policies in Santo Tomas should consider these relationships for
1 See Chapter 1.
/^~~~ -. -.^.,
/ Higher conversion of For-profit timber
I forest pasture harvest Subsistence
S, Harvest timber i hunting
Lower sustainability for household /
preference use ,. ..
t --y- t
Older Respondents Rural Respondents Younger Respondents
Figure 5-1. Significant relationships revealed by regression analysis and bivariate
correlation can be synthesized into a single figure based on common links.
Data from this study demonstrate that certain policies might affect sustainable
forest management in Santo Tomas. A strong relationship exists between increasing age
and decreasing preference for sustainable forest management. Households with older
decision makers also exhibit behavior less conducive to sustainability. This may be a
product of the sociopolitical context surrounding the older people as compared to
younger people in this area. The research suggests that increasing adult and rural
education might alter the general tendency of older heads of household causing them to
prefer and act of the preference for more sustainable management practices. Appropriate
venues for adult education should be carefully considered since the average member of
the population may not be initially predisposed to participating.2
Increasing household size was a significant factor in whether or not households
behaved in a manner that supported sustainable forest management. These results imply
2 See earlier discussion on older residents, especially cattle ranchers' prejudices against concepts introduced
by the Sandinistas. This would likely include adult education and outreach in addition to environmental
education. Technical assistance and agricultural extension may be more readily received.
that advocating family planning now could impact the way the average household
behaves toward forest remnants in the next 10 to 20 years. Smaller households use less
energy to cover basic needs and often can afford more education for children, and both of
these factors are likely to increase sustainable forest use. Because larger households were
also associated with increased hunting, family planning policies could benefit wildlife
populations, as well.
Rural residents exhibited a much lower preference for sustainable forest
management. Some of this reticence may be related to lower education levels in rural
areas, suggesting that increase rural education, which has been shown to have positive
effects on conservation elsewhere in Nicaragua (Godoy 1994), and might address some
of the discrepancy between urban and rural preferences. Additionally, there may be a
perceived disconnection between predominantly urban policy makers and enforcers and
the rural families largely responsible for implementing sustainability measures. As
discussed in the introductory chapter, the annual forest management plan requirement for
forests and forest fragments on private land creates an undue burden on small-scale
landowners. This is especially true for older, generally less educated farmers accustomed
to managing their land without governmental interference. Enforcement authority
delegated to municipal governments in unlikely to raise confidence in the rural farming
community. Addressing the perverse effects of well-intentioned conservation laws may
help bridge the gap between urban and rural residents, making sustainable forest
management a more plausible possibility.
Comments on the Survey Questionnaire Tool
The survey questionnaire tool was an effective way to generate replicated
information for quantitative results. One of the challenges implementing any study,
however, is the temporal factor: many of the confusing aspects of the survey were ironed
out with practice, so the experience of the 99th interviewee was inevitably different than
that of the 3rd respondent. Although analysis eliminated survey order as a statistically
significant factor, it was still significant in a practical sense. In addition, weather and
logistics played a defining role in initial site selection in rural areas. Some sites that
would have remained accessible for a longer period of time quickly became unsafe to
travel in an unusually rainy June. Finally, the structured questionnaire data would be
strengthened by randomly conducted in-depth interviews with a few respondents,
although care would have to be taken to avoid biases.3 The data collected, however, were
sufficiently robust to address the research questions.
Limitations to Self-Reported Behavior and Stated Preference Analyses
Focus group discussions indicated that many respondents probably under-reported
actions that might be interpreted as deleterious toward the environment or illegal, such as
harvesting fuelwood for sale. Self-reported behavior information is always limited by the
respondent's honesty, understanding of the questionnaire and willingness to ask for
clarification. More independent observational studies might have reduced this bias, but
also would be better suited to a smaller community or more limited number of
households. For example, a study observing people's actions while washing in the river
or monitoring household fuelwood consumption might provide more detailed insight on
household behavior, although there would still be a risk of influencing the data through
the researcher's presence. Remote sensing data could also be used to correlate actual land
3 While focus groups were used to check for biases in existing data, it is still likely that the sample was
skewed toward a sub-sample of potential respondents who understood the process of conducting surveys,
the concept of sustainable forest management and felt comfortable giving information to and discussing
issues with a foreign researcher.
cover with stated preferences, eliminating the bias of the researcher's presence, but
potentially increasing costs and time and skills needed for effective data analysis.
Stated preferences may have been influenced to some degree by the participant's
desire to give an answer that was pleasing to the interviewer. Care was taken not to
discuss conservation issues in advance of conducting the interviews and to maintain an
interested indifference to responses throughout the process, but bias in inevitable.
The greatest challenge to index development is selection of inputs since no index
tool currently exists for addressing conservation issues in Santo Tomas. The stated
management preference index seemed to be much tighter and conclusions generated by
this data seemed to have more practical meaning than the household behavior index. This
is probably due to many of the same weaknesses discussed in the self-reported behavior
section. A checklist of observable qualities may have been more effective. Nonetheless,
the process of creating the index offered an opportunity to explore the data in detail.
Directions for Future Study
Santo Tomas, Chontales represents a cultural and biophysical transition between
Nicaragua's Atlantic and Pacific coasts and central mountain region (Incer 2000). Its
geographical location and transect of geophysical zones make it likely that the network of
forest remnants harbor a large percentage of the flora and fauna native to Nicaragua. A
microcosm of the agricultural frontier in Latin America, Santo Tomas also offers
opportunities to study economic and social aspects of natural resource limitations.
While the Pacific coast region has been well studied, little is known about the flora
and fauna of the rapidly decreasing habitat of the lowland tropical rainforests. Taxonomic
and ecological studies would increase understanding of these ecosystems and whether the
forest fragments in Santo Tomas and similar municipalities have a role as a refuge or
corridor for endangered and threatened species. This might generate interest and funding
for projects from conservation, ecotourism or agroforestry organizations. It would
certainly strengthen any proposals made by the municipality or private organizations such
as the cattle ranching cooperative for funding sustainable forest management initiatives.
These biological surveys should also tap into existing indigenous knowledge and
markets for timber and non-timber forest products. Of the 155 species of trees
respondents acknowledged on their land, most had household uses including, but not
limited to timber, posts, fuelwood, fodder, food and medicinal purposes. Many cattle
ranchers understand the benefit of on-farm trees and institutions should take care that this
knowledge is conserved for future generations of farmers. Technical assistance and
extension programs can capitalize on these traditions to illustrate the importance of
sustainable forest management. While one cooperative in Santo Tomas sells natural
remedies4 made from predominantly forest products, a wider market is likely available.
Market feasibility studies and cost benefit analysis of integrating non-timber forest
products as a cash crop on farms and in home gardens would likely expand economic
opportunities and the perceived value of forest fragments.
Economic assessments of various other aspects of sustainable forest management
would also aid in reducing the perverse effects of existing forest policy. An economic
assessment of the impact of current forest policy on the cost/benefit ratio for small-scale
landholders would evaluate monetary value derived from forests vs. the cost of
4 The "Cooperativa Naturista" was located one and a half blocks north of the mayor's office at the time of
this study. Initiated by a Finnish development agency, FINNADA, and supported with technical assistance
by a syndicate based out of Managua, the cooperative sells locally collected and imported herbal remedies,
honey and homemade wines and syrups.
implementing annual management plans. The results of such a study might demonstrate
the need for change to policy makers.
An environmental economic analysis of tree products and environmental services
of trees on farms on a watershed level would place a different perspective on the
management of forest fragments in Santo Tomas. While forest conservation was listed as
a matter of critical environmental importance by the municipality in the 2001
participatory rural survey, no government funds were appropriated to conservation
activities or incentive programs based on the argument that not enough people would be
affected (PEP 2001). The environmental economic analysis would demonstrate the
services such as water conservation and erosion control provided by sustainably managed
forest fragments and would likely provide a basis for allotting public funds to some of the
policy initiatives outlined in the previous section.
For some of these policy initiatives to be successful, more extensive interviews
should be conducted with older rural residents and wealthier landowners who appeared to
be the most resistant to sustainable management practices. These interviews may elicit a
wealth of information about effective outreach strategies and even traditional forest
products. By investigating primary information from older residents, researchers may
overcome some of the prejudices generated by the political conflicts of the last four
decades. Anecdotal evidence about the expansion and contraction of the agricultural
frontier in response to policies and armed conflict could be contrasted to remote sensing
data from the region. This investigation might offer an interesting insight on the
relationship between socioeconomic factors on a macro-level and sustainable forest
SURVEY OF THE SANTO TOMAS MUNICIPALITY INHABITANTS ABOUT
THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ENVIRONMENT
Note that currency has been converted to US dollars using the exchange rate of
June 15, 2003 and measurements have been converted to the metric system.
Interview Date: / /
Barrio / Comarca:
I. General Information
1. Gender: F M Age years
2. Education Level
b. Elementary School grade
c. High School grade
d. Technical Degree years
e. University Degree years
4. How many people live in this household at least 6 months/year?
a. Among these, how many are children?
b. Among these, how many contribute toward household expenses?
5. What is the average total monthly income of this household?
a. Less than US$33
b. US$33 $67
c. US$67 $333
d. more than US$333
6. Does someone in your household have outside employment?
7. This home is: owned,
8. How long has your household lived here? years
9. Does this household own another property (such as a house or farm)?
No: Skip to question number 11
Yes: a. Where?
b. How many hectares total?
Less than 0.7 ha
Between 0.7 14 ha
Between 14 35 ha
Between 35 70 ha
Between 70 350 ha
More than 350 ha
10. The following questions refer only to the property your household owns within the Santo
a. How many ha of land do you have within the Santo Tomas municipality?
Less than 0.7 ha
Between 0.7 14 ha
Between 14 35 ha
Between 35 70 ha
Between 70 350 ha
More than 350 ha
b. Of this land, how many ha are forested?
c. Of these, how many did you plant?
d. How long have you owned this or these properties? years
e. How often do you visit this property?
f. How did you acquire this property: agrarian reform,
11. What fuel does your household use to cook?
Source How much? How often?
12. If you use fuelwood, what types of wood do you use?
II: How do you use your environment?
1. What kinds of trees do you have on your property (for example, fuelwood, posts, thatch and
other construction material, ornamental, medicinal, handicraft)?
2. What do you use them for?
a. Nothing Household use Sale
b. If for sale: ,How much do you sell, how often?
3. ,Do you harvest fuelwood, wood, medicinal plants, or tree products from other people's land
(either with or without permission)?
a. No Yes, for household use Yes, for sale
b. If for sale: ,how much do you sell, how often?
4. ,How many hours does it take for you to arrive that the site where you harvest wood and other
1. ,What types of wild animals have you seen on your property?
2. ,Does your household hunt these kinds of animals? Yes No
If no, skip to Section C. Water Resources.
a. How often?
b. What type of animal is hunted?
c. Why do you hunt?: food sale sport
d. Do you usually hunt on: your own land others' land
e. How many hours does it take to get to the place where you hunt?
C. Water Resources
1. Does your household go to rivers, creeks, streams, or springs to wash clothes?
2. All seasons Dry season only No
3. When you go to the river, do you carry away plastic (such as detergent or soap bags) or
do you throw them on the banks or in the river?
Carry away Throw on banks on in river
4. If your household has land, what water resources do you have?
5. Does your household harvest fuelwood along rivers, creeks, streams, or springs? Yes
III. Forest Area Management
With the following, you will tell me if you are in agreement (1, 2), not in agreement (4, 5), or
have no opinion (3).
In the forests which remain in the municipality ofSanto Tomcis, it should be permitted to...
Cut timber for household use. 1 2 3 4 5
Cut timber for sale. 1 2 3 4 5
Hunt wild animals. 1 2 3 4 5
Harvest fuelwood. 1 2 3 4 5
Deforest to plant new cattle pasture. 1 2 3 4 5
Explore for silver and gold. 1 2 3 4 5
Harvest non-timber forest products such as medicinal and ornamental
1 2 3 4 5
plants or trusts.
Recreational activities such as fieldtrips, picnics, and hiking.
Conservation projects to protect soils and water quality.
Educational activities such as farmer training and student fieldtrips.
A multi-use management plan where farms are required to use only part
of their land for cattle pasture and part in forest reserve.
Burning for cattle and agricultural production.
Have you ever received any kind of environmental education?
For example, from...
An international organization (Ex., FADES, Paz y Tercer Mundo, etc.)
The Nicaraguan government (Ex., INTA, police, mayor's office, at school)
Chatting with friends
The radio or television
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
ENCUESTA SOBRE LOS HABITANTES DEL MUNICIPIO DE SANTO TOMAS Y
SU RELACION CON EL MEDIO AMBIENTE
Fecha de la Entrevista: / /
Barrio / Comarca:
Numero de Entrevista
I. Datos Generales del Entrevistado
1. Sexo F M Edad afios
2. Nivel Academico
b. Primaria grado
c. Secundaria afio
d. Tecnico afio
e. Universitario afio
3. Actividad que realize
4. 6Cuantas personas viven en su casa por lo menos 6 meses del afio?
a. 6Entre estas personas, cuantas son nifios?
b. 6Entre estas personas, cuantas ayudan con los gastos de la casa?
5. 6Cuanto es el ingreso promedio de su casa cada mes?
a. Menos que C$500
d. mas que C$5000
6. 6Alguien en su casa tiene empleo fuera de la casa?
7. 6Esta vivienda es: propia,
8. 6Cuanto tiempo ha vivido aqui? Afios
9. iPosee otra propiedad (como casa, finca, o terreno)?
No: Pase a la pregunta numero 11
Si: a. iAdonde?
b. iCuintas manzanas tiene por total?
Menos que 1 manzana
Entre 1-20 manzanas
Entre 20-50 manzanas
Entre 50-100 manzanas
Entre 100-500 manzanas
Mas que 500 manzanas
10. Se pregunta lo siguiente solamente sobre las propiedades que tiene en Santo Tomas:
a. iCuintas manzanas tiene dentro el municipio de Santo Tomas?
Menos que 1 manzana
Entre 1-20 manzanas
Entre 20-50 manzanas
Entre 50-100 manzanas
Entre 100-500 manzanas
Mas que 500 manzanas
b. ,De este terreno, cuantas manzanas son bosque?
c. ,De estas, cuantas sembr6 Usted?
d. iPor cuinto tiempo han sido duefios de esta(s) propiedad(es)? afios
e. iCada cuanto visit esta propiedad?
f. iEsta propiedad la consigui6 por medio de: reform agraria,
de otra manera?
11. iQue usa en su casa para cocinar?
Fuente iCuanto? iCada cuanto?
12. iCuiles tipos de arboles usan para lefia?
II:;,C6mo usa el medio ambiente?
1. iQue variedad de arboles tiene en su propiedad (por ejemplo, lefia, madera y otro material para
la construcci6n, omamentales, medicinales, frutales, artesania)?
2. iPara que lo utilicen?
a. Nada Consumo Propio Venta
b. Si se vende: ,cuinto se vende, cada cuanto?
3. iAcostumbra a sacar lefia, madera, plants medicinales o products de los arboles de terreno
a. No Si, para consume propio Si, para venta
b. Si se vende: ,cuinto se vende, cada cuanto?
4. iCuantas horas require para llegar al sitio de donde saca la madera o otros products del
1. iQue variedad de animals silvestres tiene en su propiedad?
2. iAcostumbra a cazar este tipo de animals? Si _No
Si no, pase a Seccidn C. Las Aguas.
a. iCada cuanto?
b. iQue tipo de animal caza?
c. iPorque caza: comida venta deported
d. iAcostumbra a cazar en: terreno propio ajeno
e. iCuantas horas require para llegar al sitio de la caza?
C. Las Aguas
6. iAcostumbra ir a lavar a los rios, quebradas, cafiitos, criques u ojos de agua? Todo el
Afio Solamente Verano No
7. iAcostumbra recoger los desechos plasticos (como bolsas de ace o jab6n) cuando salgan
al rio o los dejan botados?
Se recoge Se deja botado
8. iSi tiene terreno, que fuentes de agua tiene en su terreno?
9. iAcostumbra recoger lefia o cortar madera a la orilla de los rios, quebradas, u ojos de
agua? Si No
III. Maneio de Areas forestales
Con lo siguiente Usted me va a decir si esta de Acuerdo (1, 2), no esta de acuerdo (4, 5), o si no
tiene ninguna opinion (3).
En los bosques que hay todavia en el municipio de Santo Tomas, se debe realizar...
Corte de madera para el uso propio.
Corte de madera para la exportaci6n.
La cazaria de animals.
Despale de los bosques para sembrar nuevo past para la ganaderia.
El busque de oro y plata.
Recoger products del bosque no-maderables como plants medicinales,
omamentales, y frutas.
Actividades recreativas como dia de campo, paseo, picnic.
Proyectos para proteger los suelos y la calidad del agua.
Actividades educativas como capacitaciones para los finqueros,
campesinos, y estudiantes.
Un plan de manejo donde los finqueros dejan una parte de su terreno para
la ganaderia y otra parte en bosques.
La quema de los potreros y terreno de siembras.
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
iUsted ha recibido alguna orientaci6n acerca de la conservaci6n del medio ambiente?
Por ejemplo, departed de ...
Un organismo intemacional (Ej., FADES, Paz y Tercer Mundo, etc.)
El Gobiemo Nicaragtiense (Ej., INTA, la policia, la alcaldia, en la escuela)
Platicando entire amigos
A travds de su iglesia
Por medio de la radio o television
VARIETY OF TREES SELF-REPORTED ON FARMS IN SANTO TOMAS,
Common names of trees collected from interviews were matched to scientific names
based on known distribution. This is not a vouchered list and should be cited with
caution. Extensive botanical studies are recommended for this region.
Aguacate de Monte
Caoba del Atlantico
Caoba del Pacifico
Hirtella americana (?)
C l(i pluy/Thn cainito
Arbutus xalapensis (or
Nectandra reticulata (or
Corroncha de Lagarto
Flor de Avispa
Flor de Jamaica
Guaba (con vainas)
Guicimo de Terero
Guanacaste de Oreja
Enterolobium cyclocarpum Mimosaceae
Hombre Grande Quassia amara
Huevo de Burro/Cachito smithii
Jicaro de Cumba N/A
Jicaro Grande Cersentia sp.
Jicaro Sabanero Cresentia alata
Desnudo Bursera simaruba
Jobo Lagarto Sciadodendron excelsum
Jocote Spondias sp.
Sabanero/Inviemero Spondias purpura
Kerosen Tetragastrius panamensis
Laurel del Indio Ficus sp.
Lim6n Agrio/de castillo Citrus aurantifolia
Lim6n Dulce N/A
Lim6n Mandarina N/A
Manch6n Cola de Pava
Manga larga colorada
'M\,if ,,1 indica
Palo de Agua
Palo de Arco
Palo de Chocoyo
Palo de Hule
Palo de Piedra
Palo de Plomo/
Desposado/ Huevo de
Ufia de gato
Pinus patula var.
Bombacopsis quinata Bombacaceae
Pithecellobium arboreum Mimosaceae
Cnidoscolus aconitifolius Euphorbaceae
Astronium graveolens Anacardiaceae
Tabebuia rosea Bignoniaceae
Quercus sp. Fagaceae
Plumeria rubra Apocynaceae
Pterocarpus rohrii Fabaceae
Pothecellobium longifolium Mimosaceae
Citrus paradise Rutaceae
Castilla tuno Moraceae
hii,,,iuw il, 1 marginatum Fabaceae
Common Name Scientific Name Family Source Notes
Vivorilla N/A C
Yema de Huevo Morinda panamensis Rubiaceae 4
Zapote Pouteria sp. Sapotaceae 4
Zapotillo Pouteria sapota Sapotaceae 4
Zopilote Vochysiaferruginea Vochysiaceae 1
Zorro Zanthoxylum panamensis Rutaceae 4
1 MARENA 2003
2 Observations made at Zool6gico de Chontales "Thomas Belt"
3 Observations made a Paz y Tercer Mundo, Tierra Blanca comarca, Santo Tomas.
4 Salas Estrada 1993
A = One of the few citruses remaining in Santo Tomas after the citrus blight
B = Locally extinct in La Libertad and Santo Domingo because used to hold up mine tunnels
C = Trees which will not regenerate once primary forest is cut
D = Precious woods valued for timber
E = Known to be limited to the Atlantic region
ON-FARM TREE DIVERSITY
Another way to judge the effectiveness of conservation policy is through on-farm
tree diversity. Tree diversity is closely linked to biodiversity in general (Kelly and
Bowler 2002), and this species richness also leads to increased ecosystem productivity
(Vila et al. 2003). Diversity of woody tree species has been correlated with abiotic factors
such as rainfall, soil fertility, latitude, altitude, seasonality and catastrophic events
(Givnish 1999), as well as human disturbances (Bhuyan et al. 2003, Gillespie et al. 2000).
The decision to grow trees on private land, and which trees and how many, is a personal
decision made by individual landowners in this area. As such, household socioeconomic
variables might be a deciding factor.
Because no vouchered specimens were collected, caution has been used applying
this data. Regional names appeared to be assigned to the same tree in some cases (e.g.,
chicle and nispero both referred to Manilkara achras and aguegue and espavel both
referred to Anacardium excelsum, Salas Estrada 1993). Therefore, rather than calculating
species richness or diversity indices, the number of different species on individual farms
was used as the dependent variable (see Ramirez Marcial et al. 2001 and Lopez Portillo
and Ezcurra 1989 for similar treatment of data). In this way tree diversity is used as an
additional indicator for a society's orientation toward forest conservation and analyzed
for significant socioeconomic influences.
Of those interviewed, a total of 45 respondents reported to own farms in the Santo
Tomas municipality. The descriptive statistics of the sub-sample compare favorably to
the general population statistics of the entire study. While the actual population of Santo
Tomas is 51.5% women and 49.5% men (PEP 2001), this subset of interviews included
42% women and 58% men, while the overall survey was comprised of 40% women and
60% men. The average age and educational level of this interviewed subset was exactly
the same as those for the entire survey. This comparison indicates that the answers for the
farm owning subset were as reliable and representative as the entire survey. Focus group
meetings held with local institutions after the results were tabulated indicated that the
survey results generally reflected the population overall.
Table D-1. Independent variables and their expected and actual effect on tree diversity.
Independent Variable Expected Actual Significant
EDUCATION + +
INCOME + + **
EMPLOY + **
** Significant at a = .05.
Independent variables for the purposes of this regression analysis were: age,
gender, household size, education and income levels, outside employment and owning
household property. After insignificant variables were removed listwise, an equation with
tree diversity as the dependent variable and income and outside employment as
independent variables was derived:
Tree Diversity = 12.54 + 7.88(INCOME) + 16.12(EMPLOY)
This indicates that households with a higher income and outside employment are
more likely to choose to maintain a higher diversity of trees on their farms. Maslow's
hierarchy of needs offers one possible explanation for this phenomenon. Once farmers
have satisfied their basic needs, they can afford to look to the future with conservation
DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS FROM QUESTIONNAIRE DATA
N Minimum Maximum
Rural 100 0 1
Barrio (Urban Neighborhood)
Bella Vista 100 0 1
Hroesy 100 0 1
Jaime L6pez 100 0 1
Pablo Ubeda 100 0 1
Pancasan 100 0 1
Reinaldo Jir6n 100 0 1
San Jose 100 0 1
Sandino 100 0 1
Santiago 100 0 1
Javier Guerra 100 0 1
Comarca (Rural District)
Oropendola 100 0 1
Mollejones 100 0 1
Las Mesas 100 0 1
El Zapotal 100 0 1
El Jicarito 100 0 1
Cerca de la
access to urban
Cost of travel
characteristics of respondent
100 0 1
100 18 82
100 0 16
100 0 1
Merchant 100 0
Housewife 100 0
Journeyman 100 0
Day laborer 100 0
Student 100 0
Socioeconomic characteristics of the
# Children 100 0
assisting with 100 1
income 53 $200
income 96 0
Own house 100 0
current 100 0
Own land 100 0
Inherited land 99 0
of fuelwood 94 $0
energy 98 0
ornament 100 0
Trees present on property
Fruit 100 0
Hardwood 100 0
Tree Product Use
Sale 100 0
N Minimum Maximum Mean Deviation
property 100 0 1 .21 .409
Animals seen on property
human 100 0 1 .88 .327
Wild 100 0 1 .38 .488
Hunting 100 0 1 .15 .359
Occasionally 100 0 1 .73 .446
wash in river
100 0 1 .39 .490
Throw trash in
Throw trash in 99 0 1 .29 .457
fuelwood near 100 0 1 .23 .423
100 0 1 .82 .386
NGO 100 0 1 .19 .394
(school or 100 0 1 .31 .465
Radioor 100 0 1 .70 .461
ordof100 0 1 .25 .435
Church 100 0 1 .25 .435
Preferences (Do you agree the following should be permitted in the
forests that remain in the Santo TomAs municipality?)
Harvesttimber 100 1 3 1.63 .928
100 1 3 2.82 .575
100 1 3 2.45 .880
fuelwood for 100 1 3 1.29 .701
Deforest to 100 1 3 2.41 .911
N Minimum Maximum Mean Deviation
Exploit gold 100 1 3 1.75 .869
t 100 1 3 1.20 .569
100 1 3 1.18 .575
100 1 1 1.00 .000
100 1 1 1.00 .000
Mandatory 100 1 3 1.05 .261
Permit burning 53 1 3 2.42 .908
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Jensen Reitz Montambault was born in 1976 and raised near Charlottesville,
Virginia. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1995 with degrees in
environmental science and English literature and composition. As a U.S. Peace Corps
volunteer from 1996-1998, Jensen served as a community environmental promoter in the
town of Santo Tomas, Chontales. Returning to the U.S., Jensen worked for non-profit
organizations in Washington D.C., including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
and Conservation International where she managed Rapid Assessment Program scientific
expeditions to Latin America and Africa. In 2002, she started the master's/PhD program
in interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida; first as a Tropical Conservation
and Development Fellow and currently as a National Science Foundation Graduate