Copyright © 2000 International Development Options
All Rights Reserved
Volume Two Winter 1999-Spring 2000 Numbers 1-2.
THEME: CARIBBEAN DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES: ISSUES AND OPTIONS
CARIBBEAN PEASANTS IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY: POPULAR RESISTANCE TO THE
PRIVATIZATION OF COMMUNAL LAND IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND BEYOND
Department of Sociology
Portland State University
Portland, Oregon 97207
Published Online: December 15, 2015
In Caribbean societies with the legacy of plantation production, land ownership continues to be critical in the definition of social and economic survival. The strategy of communal land institutions as late as the 1990s, continues to provide economic survival to marginal and small-scale farmers who must survive in a global economy where their agricultural exports are declining in value—at a time when international development agencies advocate land privatization and reductions in spending for social programs. This article traces the origins of communal land in the Caribbean and examines the successful response of peasant resistance to a 1986 registration project sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This project attempted to privatize communal land in St. Lucia on the assumption that by establishing an efficient land market based on freehold the problems of under capitalization associated with the communal land sector could be corrected and that export production could be increased. The research evidence found that the communal land sector, far from being anachronistic and unproductive, is very dynamic and integrated into the larger economy. Contrary to being a liability to economic performance in the global marketplace, the communal land institution, by providing economic and social resources through informal networks, buffers the society from adverse global market changes.