Population Growth and Fertilizer Use: Ecological and Economic Consequences in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala
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The population of Santa Cruz del Quich, Guatemala, has been growing rapidly in recent decades, thereby increasing the demand for agricultural land. Interviews and census data indicate that farmers have responded by reducing the use of fallow periods, reducing the amount of land dedicated to forest and pasture, and increasing the quantity of synthetic fertilizer applied. In particular, farmers with less land are less likely to apply organic fertilizer. Ecological consequences of these agricultural changes include loss of soil organic matter, reduced water infiltration, and concomitant increased runoff and soil erosion. An economic consequence is that farmers are more vulnerable to global price increases of synthetic fertilizer. A solution to these problems may include economic development, land redistribution, use of improved seeds, and alternative sources of fertilizer, but implementing a conservation easement program provides the most promise for achieving effective and long lasting results. 2010 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.