After the devastating rains that affected large areas of Venezuela’s farmlands, the Chavez administration is implementing a reconstruction plan to provide impulse to the nation’s farmers and agricultural production.
More than 1,500 small farmers from the area south of Lake Maracaibo in the states of Merida and Zulia will be the beneﬁciaries of a new government plan to recover underutilized farm and and rebuild the agricultural productivity of the zone after heavy rains have destroyed harvests and displaced thousands of residents.
Speaking from the city of El Vigia in the state of Merida, Venezuela’s Minister of Agriculture and Land, Juan Carlos Loyo, announced on Monday that the government will redistribute over 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres) of land formerly belonging to 43 massive estates, known in Latin America as latifundios.
“The only way that we can help these [affected] populations is for the revolution to recover these latifundios and give the people options,” Loyo said.
According to the Minister, the region South of Maracaibo “is one of the areas that has seen the most inequality as a result of an obsolete and predatory capitalist system.”
In the municipalities of Francisco Javier Pulgar and Colon alone, he pointed out, close to 40% of arable land is owned by a mere 4% of the population. With the emergency provoked by the rains, this inequality has been exacerbated as more than 10,500 people in the region have been displaced.
Thus far, over 110 shelters have been set up in the area to assist those affected and last week alone, 136 tons of food were distributed to victims.
Loyo explained on Monday that the government’s new land redistribution initiative will help to resolve the crisis by providing new work and living opportunities for the small farmers who populate the area.
“The idea is to allow for the incorporation [of the small farmers] in socio-productive development and analyze new residential areas…to attack the situation of inequality where a small minority of people have the greatest concentration of land at the detriment to the majority,” he said.
Stimulating agricultural production in the face of major crop losses will be another goal of the redistribution measure. Ofﬁcials report that 35% to 40% of the country’s plantain crop, one of Venezuela’s most important staple foods, has been damaged as a result of climatic conditions and some 10% of milk and meat production in the area south of Lake Maracaibo has also been lost.
According to Nancy Perez, head of the Women’s and Gender Equality Ministry, a group of 100 women has already volunteered to begin recovering the plantain losses.
“We’re going to do this through the creation of Socialist Units, but ﬁrst work needs to be done on internal conditioning of drainage systems”.
In addition to democratizing land tenancy and promoting greater production, the government is planning a structural reconstruction of the zone with an initial government investment of 350 million bolivars in rural development, much of which will be dedicated to infrastructure.
“President Hugo Chavez approved a ﬁrst instalment of 350 million bolivars for the agricultural sector. 150 million of that will be dedicated solely to rural infrastructure,” Loyo reported.