, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 395-410

Determinants of Agricultural Intensity Index “Scores” in a Frontier Region: An Analysis of Data from Northern Guatemala

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Data on farming systems in Petén, Guatemala, were used to develop an agricultural intensity index. The index can be used to assign an intensity “score” to a given farming system based on the array of practices used by the farmer, each practice’s contribution to production intensity, and the scale at which these practices are used. The scores assigned to 118 farmers in three study areas in Petén were analyzed through analysis of variance (ANOVA) to identify the factors that account for the variation in intensity levels, as measured through the index. The analyses reveal that the factors influencing agricultural intensity in Petén vary greatly from one study area to the next. This is due to differences in livelihood opportunities and strategies that, in turn, affect how agriculture fits into the local economy and how and why intensification is pursued. Variation in intensity levels can best be understood by considering the factors at the household and sub-regional scales that influence (a) whether farmers feel a need to intensify, (b) whether they see some benefit in doing so, and (c) whether they have the resources required to intensify production through particular strategies. Close attention must be paid to these factors by conservation and development organizations seeking to influence land use patterns and conserve forest in Petén.

Avrum J. Shriar is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University where he specializes in Environmental Geography, Rural Development and Land Use, Farming Systems, and Latin America and the Caribbean. He holds a BA in Geography from Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, a Master of Environmental Studies (MES) from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and a PhD in Geography from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Some of his recent articles have appeared in Food Policy, Geoforum, Human Ecology, Agroforestry Systems, and the Delaware Review of Latin American Studies.