NIC

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

English

Nicaragua’s tumultuous political history reflects the dramatic impacts that differing perspectives on property rights and resource governance can have on the structure and performance of societies and economies. The Somoza regimes that governed Nicaragua from 1936 to 1979 emphasized the primacy of private property rights and the pursuit of an export market-oriented, large-scale commercial agriculture. These policies resulted in an economy in which rural land ownership was concentrated in the hands of relatively few Nicaraguans who operated farms producing coffee, cotton, sugar, tobacco, and beef for export, largely to the United States. This success, however, was accompanied by high rates of rural landlessness, low productivity in the small-farm food sector, and the emergence of stark inequalities of income and opportunity within the Nicaraguan population. The Sandinista government (1979–1990) reversed these policies, expropriating large landowners’ property for redistribution to cooperatives and smallholders and for use as state farms oriented toward food production for domestic markets. This move toward national self-sufficiency – combined with a reorientation of trade patterns toward Eastern Europe, Cuba, and other socialist countries – was more inclusive but did not provide a path to more equitable prosperity. Incomes declined and poverty levels climbed throughout the 1980s. During its seven- year tenure (1990–1997), the democratically elected government of Violeta Chamorro attempted to chart a middle path by adopting policies that protected the rights of land reform beneficiaries while also recognizing the rights of the landowners dispossessed by the reforms. These competing policies resulted in a plethora of competing claims, undermined land tenure security, and limited much-needed investment in the agriculture sector.

Successive Nicaraguan governments have made efforts to strike the appropriate balance between (1) promoting greater investment in economic growth through private ownership and management of property, especially agricultural lands; and (2) realizing greater social justice, including provision of more equitable and secure access to land by the poor and vulnerable. Some progress has been made. However, Nicaragua remains a highly inequitable lower middle-income economy, with the lowest 20% of the population holding less than 4% of national income and 39% of rural households estimated to be landless. Poverty is largely a rural phenomenon, with two-thirds of the rural population living below the poverty line.

External support is critical to both the Government of Nicaragua (GON) and to the prospects of poor, rural Nicaraguans, especially those indigenous groups living in the thinly settled and remote areas of the Atlantic coastal region. Donors provided an average of 18% of Nicaragua’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as official development assistance from 2000–2008, down from a high of 72% in 1991. This official development assistance constitutes a significant share of the government’s budgets in key sectors, including water, environmental protection, and health. External support also comes through private channels. Remittances from Nicaraguans living abroad, largely in Costa Rice and the US, are estimated to supplement the incomes of 40% of Nicaraguan households, with over US $1 billion flowing into the country in 2008. In addition, the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) provides expanded opportunities for Nicaragua to export agricultural, fisheries, and manufactured products to the United States.

Donor governments and international financial institutions have explicitly supported continued strengthening of the property rights systems in Nicaragua, funding several projects for land administration, titling, and the regularization of documents regarding land rights over the last two decades. The process is slow, however, and most Nicaraguans still lack clear tenure rights. Donors and international environmental organizations have also contributed to conservation of the forest and biodiversity resources of Nicaragua with substantial funding and have worked to ensure the rights of indigenous groups in the Atlantic coastal region. Disaster recovery assistance has also been provided, particularly after Hurricanes Mitch and Felix.

With such support, Nicaragua’s economy has made slow but fairly steady progress since the late 1990s. Analysts point out, though, that Nicaragua can only increase its economic competitiveness – and jobs and incomes for the poor – if the government directs greater attention to agricultural modernization and the resolution of continued uncertainties regarding land. And others note that the unique and extensive environmental resources of Nicaragua – its forest resources, in particular – may be irreversibly threatened by illegal logging and unsustainable uses for agriculture and ranching. Mining operations in some areas have also resulted in deforestation and in water contamination.

National and local leadership face the challenge of developing a vision for Nicaragua’s future that is shared by the majority of the population, provides for their inclusion in the economy, and also generates a path of economic progress sufficient to pull them out of poverty. There is broad consensus that more secure rights to land and water, sustainable approaches to utilization of Nicaragua’s abundant natural resources, and a structure of democratic governance that ensures fair and equitable outcomes for the population as a whole are all needed to realize this vision. Donors and international organizations can help to support this vision, but only the political leaders of Nicaragua can develop the policies and institutions that will make its achievement possible. 

Source of the narrative

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Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF)

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    Legend
    • Very Good Practice
    • Good Practice
    • Weak Practice
    • Very Weak Practice
    • Missing Value

    Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure

    Legend: National laws adoption of the VGGT principle
    • Fully adopt
    • Partially adopt
    • Not adopted
    • Missing Value

    Note: The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (The VGGTs) were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012.

    The "VGGT indicators" dataset has been created by Nicholas K. Tagliarino, PhD Candidate at the University of Groningen. The indicators of this dataset assess national laws against Section 16 of the VGGT standards on expropriation, compensation, and resettlement.

    Each indicator relates to a principle established in the VGGTs.

    Answering the questions posed by these indicators entails analyzing a broad range of national-level laws, including national constitutions, land acquisition acts, land acts, community land acts, agricultural land acts, land use regulations, and some court decisions.

    Media

    Latest News

    Nicaraguan women 'like farm animals' despite promised land reform

    Friday, January 27, 2017

    By:Malva Izquierdo

    Date: 27 January 2017

    Source: Reuters

    Three decades after Nicaragua launched the first of many reforms aimed at giving women equal land rights, experts say rural women remain exploited and open to disinheritance, violence and abuse.

    Many women are locked out of land - first by a father then by a husband - while others say they are treated worse than the animals they tend. Yet all this was supposed to end decades ago.

    Effort to Save Indigenous Land Rights in Nicaragua

    From the Nicaragua Center for Community Action (Nicca)

    Date: 25 September 2016

    Source: Havana Times

     

    The Rama-Kriol peoples, a small, indigenous group living on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, are among some of the most vulnerable people in the world. They live in fear of loss of their land and cultural identity and of an uncertain future because they are in the path of a proposed mega-project—the Nicaragua Trans-Oceanic Canal, a potential environmental and economic disaster.

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    Property Rights and Resource Governance Country Profile: Nicaragua

    This resource is a USAID land tenure country profile that provides information on fundamental land tenure issues, including tenure types, legal frameworks, and land administration and institutions. This country profile is divided into the following sections: Summary/overview, Land, Freshwater, Trees and Forests, Minerals, and Data Sources.

    Resource information

    December 2011