Title:  Everyone Wants a Piece - Land Reform in Honduras

Grade Level:  8-11

Subject(s):  Environmental Studies, Government, Math, Social Studies 8.3.2

Overview:  Land reform has long been and issue in Honduras - this lesson explores the meaning of “land reform” and relates it with the issue of private vs. public land use in the United States.

Purpose:  The purpose is for students to understand the concept of land reform using examples from life in Honduras and in the US.

Objectives:

Resources/Materials:

  1. This lesson works best if preceded by the TOB “Capitalism and Communism” Lesson

Activities and Procedures:

  1. Divide up the classroom into three main areas, with all the desks pushed together.  Tell one student in each are that they are the rich banana farmer and own all of the land in their region.  The rest of the students are their workers.  The workers must sit down and draw pictures of bananas on small pieces of paper and give them to the landowner.  The landowner walks around and makes sure all the workers are producing.  Tell the workers that they cannot quit because they have no place to live besides this person's land and if they leave they will have to squat (live illegally) in the nearby forested area.
  2. After ten minutes, end the simulation and have students return to normal seats.  Ask them: How did the workers feel?  How did the landowners feel?  Ask what should be done to make this system more fair.
  3. Introduce the concept of “land reform” - a governmental program where large pieces of land are broken up and distributed equally so that small farmers can have their own plot of land to work.  Who would like land reform?  Who might be angry with it?  What are the potential environmental consequences of giving land to many people vs. few?  
  4. Post or distribute the following paragraph to give a context for the importance and struggles with land reform in Honduras:  

The Honduran land reform process under President Callejas between 1989 and 1992 was mainly focued on large agricultural landowners (such as banana plantation owners).  An agreement signed by landowners and peasant organizations in August 1990 remained underfunded and did not do what it had promised. Violence erupted as discharged members of the Honduran military forcibly tried to claim land that had already been awarded to a peasant organization in 1976. In May 1991, violence initiated by members of the Honduran military resulted in the deaths of eight farmers. To keep similar situations around the country from escalating into violence, the government promised to divide up land belonging to the National Corporation for Investment. The government also pledged to return to peasants land that had been confiscated by the Honduran military in 1983.  Land reform is an ongoing issue: now that there is a global demand for bananas and other goods produced in Honduras, large farmers can better serve the worldwide demand, so small farmers are forced to sell out their land gained during periods of land reform.

Tying It Together:

  1. Discuss land use in the US:  How is our land divided up - who owns what in any given city?  What is the meaning of private property?  Why do people desire to own their own piece of land?  
  2. Instead of doing the simulation with desks and paper bananas, this lesson can be adapted to the Math classroom by discussing areas, factors and ratios - draw simulated  plots of land using different shapes and divide.