The adjustment strategies of Mexican ejidatarios in the face of neoliberal reform
Since 1988 the ejido sector in Mexico has been buffeted by a series of policy changes and exogenous shocks that have brought into question the agricultural viability of the sector as a whole. These changes –trade liberalization, privatization, falling subsidies, the abolition of price controls, macroeconomic shocks, devaluation and momentous changes in the legal framework governing land use in the ejido– have led to a radical reordering of the policy framework and incentive structure under which the farmers of these communal lands operate. The cumulative effect of these reforms has theoretically been to give ejido producers the freedom and flexibility to adjust to changes in the incentive structure and
emerge as viable, competitive producers in an increasingly globalized economy. Unfortunately, the hoped-for benefits first of sectoral reform, then of macroeconomic reform, have not materialized. The author provides a brief history of the ejido sector and the Salinas/Zedillo reforms. He then discusses in broad terms the responses that ejidatarios have made to these neoliberal reforms and the subsequent macroeconomic crisis. This is followed by a detailed look at the different components of this changing situation: land accumulation, risk-averse agriculture, scarcity of credit, livestock accumulation, diversification into off-farm activities and income structure. The principal tools of analysis are categorization of households on the basis of changes in these different components and comparison of the characteristics and asset positions of households engaged in different response strategies. The article concludes by analysing the consequences
of these response strategies for State development policy in the rural sector in Mexico.
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