Farming in a fragile future : economics of land use with applications in the Atlantic Zone of Costa Rica

R.A. Schipper

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


<br/>The present study contributes to the search for a methodology for land use analysis, aiming at a land use that provides sufficient (and rising) incomes to the agricultural population and at the same time maintains the productive capacity of land. The contribution focuses in particular on the role of economic analysis.<p>The study starts with a review of land evaluation and land use planning from an economic angle, providing suggestions for improvement. After a brief examination of prospects for agricultural production and population growth, and problems of land degradation, the concept of sustainable development is discussed. The study opts for a definition of Pearce & Turner (1990). In conjunction with rules for resource use, this definition can be made operational for land use analysis. Reviewing theories of resource economics, it is concluded that these theories are relevant and provide 'food for thought', but lack direct or easy applicability to practical cases of land use analysis. Concepts of cost-benefit analysis and of farm management, production economics and household economics are more directly applicable to land use questions. Other important concepts originate from regional economics, or point to institutional problems, in particular questions around land tenure and contradictions between land users. 'Unsolved' problems within the discipline of economics, should caution against undue belief in the approximation of reality of the results.<p>The role of economics within land use analysis is outlined. The background to this outline is formed by a skeleton model of the agricultural sector, concepts of regional agricultural planning, in particular a comprehensive resource based approach, and the socalled LEFSA sequence for land use planning. The basic idea is to distinguish levels of analysis and to consider the analyses made by several disciplines (including agronomy, soil science and economics) at each of these levels. Furthermore, at each of these levels models can be designed, which are connected in a modular fashion and which foster multi- or interdisciplinary collaboration. It is advocated that the term land use planning be replaced by <em>land use analysis.</em><p>Linear programming models as a tool for land use analysis are discussed. A linear programming model for a case study, the Neguev settlement in the Atlantic Zone of Costa Rica, is presented. The matrix of the model includes five sub-matrices each encompassing a different farm type. The farm types are distinguished on the basis of land-labour ratios, considering three soil types. Land use activities are included in the form of <em>Land Use Systems & Technologies.</em> These represent land use systems with fixed input-output coefficients. Two indicators for sustainability are taken into account: soil nutrient depletion and biocide use. These are built into the model via constraints, marking upper limits to the use of renewable resources and to the waste flow into the environment. The linear programming model forms part of the USTED ( <em>Uso</em><em>Sostenible de Tierras En el Desarrollo)</em> methodology for land use analysis.<p>Several land use scenarios are analysed to assess whether incomes of farms can increase through an improved, more sustainable, land use. A base scenario is calculated to serve as a reference for assessing the impact of policy measures or changing socioeconomic conditions. A striking feature of the base scenario is the large area with palm heart in comparison to the actual area. Doubling the biocide price hardly affects its use, while a quantitative restriction on the use of biocides to half the amount used in the base scenario reduces average incomes by less than 1%. When soil nutrient depletion is restricted to 'critical losses' per year over a ten year period, average incomes are reduced by less than 3%. Other scenarios concern the impact of decreasing palm heart prices, the influence of increasing wages and the role of the discount rate. Given a certain structure of land use types and land units, land use is determined by the costs and availabilities of other factors than land; in the Neguev case labour.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Kuyvenhoven, A., Promotor, External person
  • Luning, H.A., Promotor, External person
Award date13 Sep 1996
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789054855651
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • land use
  • agriculture
  • economic sociology
  • physical planning
  • zoning
  • sustainability
  • natural resources
  • resource utilization
  • protection
  • rehabilitation
  • farming systems
  • linear programming
  • operations research
  • costa rica


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