This document is a synthesis of the studies carried out in Saint Lucia as part of the Natural Resources and Agricultural Development Project. The Project was the result of a technical cooperation agreement between the Government of Saint Lucia and the Secretariat for Economic and Social Affairs of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States. Project activities were jointly executed by the Department of Regional Development of the OAS and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of Saint Lucia. The studies were undertaken between February 1981 and February 1982 by a team of technicians based in Castries and consisting of personnel of the Ministry of Agriculture and staff and consultants of the OAS.
The Project was designed to assist the Government in the implementation of the Land Registration Programme and to find solutions to land tenure problems adversely affecting agricultural development. Furthermore, the Government was provided with information and advice regarding policy options for the transformation of the inherited and concentrated land ownership pattern. Finally, the Project included the design of a Pilot Project on Land Registration in a selected rural settlement to help initiate the Land Registration Programme and to facilitate field research on land shortages currently being faced by small farmers in Saint Lucia.
To supply the Government of Saint Lucia with the studies requested, Project activities were concentrated on (1) evaluation of natural resources and recommendations on environmental management; (2) analysis of land-related constraints affecting agricultural development in the rural settlements of Saint Lucia; (3) identification of alternative land transformation policies; and (4) design of a pilot project on land registration. Twenty-one technical reports were prepared by OAS experts and consultants and national specialists as a result of these efforts (see Annex F). The information gathered during the Project provided the basis for the preparation of a Development Atlas of Saint Lucia.1
1 The maps contained in the Atlas are: Geology, Water Resources, Land Capability, Life Zones, Land Use and Human Settlements, and Land Tenure.
The eight chapters in the present document deal with the main topics researched by the projects and the recommendations made to the Government. They are supported by six technical annexes containing the detailed information upon which specific conclusions and recommendations are based.
Chapter One: Characteristics of the Rural Settlements in Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is basically a village society, with settlements clustered around Castries and along the coast. Urban/rural distinctions are difficult to define. A population of 118 900 inhabitants was recorded in 1980, representing an annual growth rate of 1.59 percent during the 1970-80 decade. Agriculture is the major productive sector; 40 percent of the population was employed in this sector in 1970; 60 percent of exports were agricultural of which 80 percent were bananas. Saint Lucia has a monoculture economy tied to export agriculture and dependent on preferential access to the United Kingdom market. Transport and distribution of exports is organized through an agreement between the Windward Islands and Geest Industries, a diversified multinational corporation.
A combination of factors related to population distribution, land tenure, land distribution and land use allows the identification of five different types of rural settlements: urban areas; very poor small farming communities settled on areas of low agricultural productivity; settlements fully engaged in the production of export crops in small farms of over five acres located in areas of high agricultural productivity; small farming communities (farms predominantly of less than five acres) engaged in the production of export staples; and rural settlements highly dependent on urban sources of income.
Chapter Two: Land Tenure and Distribution as Constraints to Agricultural Development
An examination of land tenure and distribution provides definition of the structure of production and power in the rural sector. Man/land relations, characterized in Chapter 2, show the extent to which these relationships represent constraints to agricultural development.
In 1973/74, data of the last Agricultural Census, 70.6 percent of all landholdings were owned or held in owner-like possession; 92.6 percent of farmland was held this way. Renters accounted for 18.3 percent of all holdings but controlled only 2.8 percent of farmland; farm rental units averaged 1.0 acre in size. The skewed nature of land distribution is evident from the fact that more than 80 percent of the holdings in Saint Lucia (of less than five acres) control only 14 percent of all the land in farms while 1 percent of the agricultural holdings (of fifty acres or more) exercise control over almost 60 percent of the land.
The complex land tenure is further, complicated by the antiquated system of land registration, the registration of deeds, and the succession laws that grant inheritance rights to all descendants of the deceased. The former makes land transfer difficult, costly and risky; the latter leads to excessive land fragmentation or creates situations of ownership in common, "family lands."
The "family land" situation is considered an obstacle to development for five reasons: 1) co-owners seldom have legal evidence of their right to ownership; 2) lack of documentation makes it difficult for owners to obtain credit; 3) investment is discouraged by the conventional right of harvest by co-owners whether they participate in cultivation or not; 4) since not all owners are interested in farming, some land is idle or underutilized; and 5) successive subdivision over time has fragmented the land. Advantages of the system are that it has served as a mechanism to avoid the excessive fragmentation implicit in succession laws, guaranteed significant portions of the population access to land, and provides garden plots which subsidize urban wages and wages of commercial farms workers, serving as a form of social security.
Land fragmentation is particularly severe in Castries, Canaries and Gros Islet where 50 percent or more of holdings fall in the 0.1-4.9 acre size range. Concentration is noticeable in Gros Islet, Vieux Fort and Anse La Raye where it comprises more than 70 percent of farmland.
Land use varies according to farm size and the relation is inverse for crop land uses. The latter comprise 94 percent of land use in the 0.1-0.9 acre category but drop to 42 percent of land use on farms larger than 500 acres. There is a direct correlation between idle land and plot size, i.e. only 3 percent of land is idle (forest and other land) in the smallest category while nearly half is idle in the largest. The pressure on land in small plots is considered excessive because of the fact that many are hillside farms located in lands that require careful conservation.
Chapter Three: Legal and Institutional Framework for Natural Resources Conservation and Development
The analysis of the legal and institutional framework addresses institutional capacity for natural resources conservation and development, particularly land resources for agricultural development. Four areas of concern have been identified.
First, the system of land registration is complicated and inefficient, making the acquisition and disposal process difficult for individuals. The land market is sluggish due to this problem. A system of title registration and the introduction of a "trust for sale" would facilitate land and credit acquisition thereby improving the land market situation.
Second, the lack of a cadastral survey is an important information gap in the definition of ownership. This lack of information precludes land control and effective taxation. A tax system can be used as a development tool to gradually reduce land ownership concentration and land underutilization.
Third, existing land use legislation concentrates primarily on control of urban land and building construction. Legislation addressing natural resources development and environmental issues is insufficient. Misuse of land, water, mangrove forests and other natural resources has proceeded unchecked.
Fourth, there are 18 institutions concerned with the development of natural resources in Saint Lucia and these address only specific and partial aspects of broader issues. No single institution is currently addressing the complex and interdependent problems of natural resource development. Institutions have varying capabilities and competence and competing areas of interest. Existing institutional relationships are vertical with no horizontal linkages, limiting coordinated decision-making and action to the Cabinet level. Technical personnel are thinly dispersed throughout the Government resulting in the fragmentation of decision-making authority and resources, thereby reducing Government capacity to cope with pressing and complex problems of natural resource management and development. Institutional change is required to:
- Reduce fragmented decision making, a prerequisite to obtaining unified and consistent Government action to preserve and develop natural resources.
- Cope with the public sector technical problems involved in the management of natural resources, particularly land resources.
- Reshape the existing institutional system so as to ensure a unified decision-making structure aided by more efficient technical support.
- Catalyze changes in the existing legislation, which could occur along with the institutional changes.
Chapter Four: Dynamics of the Land Problem
Recent land distribution trends are indicative of notable changes in land subdivision and ownership patterns. Land acquired by private individuals and the Government from large estate owners accounted for a modification of ownership status of almost one quarter of the lands held in large holdings in 1973/74. Nearly 25 percent of all available good agricultural lands has been transferred from private to government ownership. A further 3400 acres have been transferred from agricultural to industrial, tourist or urban use.
Subdivision accounts for 45 percent of all land transfers. Few cases of consolidation occur, probably because of lack of tenure definition and credit alternatives to enable such a transaction. Government intervention accounts for one-third of total agricultural subdivision.
Chapter Five: Alternative Approaches to Land Transformation
Recommendations made by the Land Reform Commission addressing tenure problems include modification of existing laws, introduction of new legislation and execution of a cadastral survey of all land properties on the island. These activities are only part of a wider programme to create conditions for small farmers to make a meaningful contribution to the country's agricultural development. If small farmers are to play a successful role in agricultural development, better man/land relationships will have to be fustened and this can be accomplished through programs which will ensure that this group of farmers receives technological inputs of appropriate scales to satisfy its needs for production and maintenance of infrastructure.
Alternatives considered for removal of the land-related constraints to agricultural development include both indirect and direct intervention by the Government. Their main implications for the case of Saint Lucia are reviewed in this chapter as a basis for decision making.
Indirect interventions consist primarily of taxation and regulation:
- Progressive land tax to induce land owners either to put land into production or sell and to increase government revenue to finance land redistribution activities.
- Financing of land purchase so as to provide credit to individuals willing to consolidate small holdings to purchase land.
- Loan Guarantee to facilitate land acquisition by small farmers for agricultural purposes, enlarge farms and establish a base for expanded operations.
- Regulation of sales and leases to add flexibility to the land market and prevent price increases.
- Regulation of subdivision to prevent excessive subdivision and conversion to nonagricultural use.
Limited direct interventions involve intervention in the land distribution structure to solve resource problems, community conflicts over land or to take advantage of acquisition opportunities:
- Reconsolidation of holdings to solve localized problems of land scarcity within small farming areas.
- Redistribution of unused estate lands to give farmers access to these lands for individual or joint operation.
Comprehensive direct interventions aimed at nationwide impact on the land distribution structure;
- Establishment of a land bank to acquire properties and resell them to small farmers thereby speeding up the redistribution process.
- Elimination of large estates to do away with holding sizes determined to be excessively large by relevant economic criteria.
Chapter Six: Short-Term Strategy for Land Redistribution
The short-term land redistribution strategy recommended to the Government was designed to fulfill the Government's goal of improving agricultural productive capacity and to guarantee access to sufficient amounts of land for surplus agricultural production by full-time farmers. The aim of the strategy was the gradual transformation of the land distribution structure by provision of incentives to encourage positive aspects of existing trends of land ownership distribution. A short-term approach is adopted by this strategy with direct and indirect interventions aimed at the national and/or local level.
National-level interventions include land taxation, the use of financial instruments to give small farmers access to land, regulation of land development to prevent inefficient use of resources and excessive subdivision of agricultural land. Local-level interventions include consolidation of small holdings to reduce land scarcity as a constraint to small farmers, redistribution of land which is unused or underutilized and expansion of the rural frontier by bringing marginal lands into production through the use of innovative technology. Cadastral survey and land adjudication are the activities that trigger the process of land transformation the strategy is aiming to guide and speed up.
Chapter Seven: Guidelines for Legal and Institutional Change in Matters Related to Agricultural Land Development
Changes in Saint Lucia's legal and institutional structures are required for natural resources management, land registration and agricultural land redistribution. These changes should: 1) develop a unified decision-making capability in matters related to natural resources management; 2) complete coverage of issues of conservation and land utilization; 3) introduce long-term planning capabilities by means of proper utilization of technical manpower; and 4) differentiate between institutional responsibilities for policy decisions and routine implementation.
Legislation required for natural resource management includes watershed protection, marine ecosystem protection and protection of areas of natural and historical interest. Regulatory powers should be given to Government enabling it to intervene in private sector activities involving water resources, agricultural land use, utilization of beaches and areas of natural beauty, fisheries exploitation and harbour utilization. To implement the proposed short-term strategy, legislation will have to be passed on land taxation, financial instruments, land development regulation and control of excessive subdivision. Additionally, the existing Land Acquisition Ordinance must be revised to enable expropriation by Government and to allow for more accurate land valuation.
Relatively complex institutional changes are required to effectively manage resources and satisfy conservation and regulation goals. It is recommended that a Natural Resources Authority be created and its major responsibility be long-term decision making and implementation surveillance. Formation of a Technical Secretariat is also recommended to provide the Authority with advice on long-term planning and policy making. The creation of the Secretariat will obviate the need for establishing a ministry to execute these tasks and will consolidate technical capabilities and identify deficiencies in the manpower supply. Linkages of the Authority and Secretariat to existing institutions are outlined in Chapter 7, as are recommendations for improvement of the current institutional structure.
Chapter Eight: Pilot Project on Land Registration: Morne Panache
The Pilot Project on Land Registration is designed to initiate a land titling programme and research practical problems involved in land distribution. The expected benefits are operations experience; understanding of internal farm organization of hillside farming on a variety of soil types; development of farm models and management recommendations compatible with sound economic criteria and conservation requirements; understanding of land distribution needs of small farmers and the best way of implementing specific projects.
The main components of the Pilot Project are; 1) survey and land adjudication; 2) research on redistribution needs; 3) reconsolidation of holdings; 4) land redistribution; 5) expansion of the rural frontier.
The Morne Panache farming community and adjacent lands to the east (1 300 acres total) were chosen as being representative of 47 percent of the settlements identified in the settlement typology (Chapter 1).
Land tenure and distribution in the area are difficult to ascertain precisely because of lack of data. The 1980 Farmers Survey showed 152 holdings comprising 694 acres of the total of 1300. Nearly 80 percent are in the 1.0-9.9 acre size category with less than 8 percent below one acre. Renting and sharecropping of small areas are common, various types of tenure are identifiable and disputes over property boundaries or land ownership are not uncommon.
Bananas are the predominant crop grown but represent a low proportion of land use (28 percent) because of the presence of large vacant areas. Much of the land is marginal, but the cultivable areas are intensively cultivated by smallholders. Only 10.9 percent of the land is classified as highly productive.
Cadastral survey operations will be carried out in four stages: 1) index map preparation; 2) field compilation; 3) survey and adjudication (order, appointment of officers, claims and demarcation); and 4) registration. Upon completion of the survey the adjudication record will be completed and notice of its completion will be given with a ninety day response period allowed for grievances. The initial registration process will then proceed and claims will be filed with the proposed Registry to be established in Castries. As outlined in the Land Act of 1981, the Registry will include information on land characteristics (with reference numbers to registration blocks and parcel identification maps), a full description of proprietor and imposed restrictions and a statement of encumbrances (mortgages, leases, charges).
Research on land redistribution needs will focus on evaluation of the general land registration experience, evaluation of problems related to land shortage, reconsolidation by exchange and purchase, and expansion of the agricultural frontier. Specialized studies in agricultural economics, anthropology and agronomy will be carried out to define procedures to ensure an appropriate and sustained use of land. This will involve analysis of farming systems and of the relationship of farm size to land tenure patterns.
The time frame for implementation of the cadastral survey is approximately four months, excluding the preparatory community survey and community work. The Land Reform Management Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture will be responsible for implementation of the Land Registration Programme. Full involvement of the Department of Lands and Surveys is contemplated for the preparation of the cadastral survey and associated maps. The Registrar of Lands will perform registration activities and serve as the institutional core of the New Registry.