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By: Dr. Martin L. Price
Published: 1996-01-01

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What can a family do if the national unemployment rate is over 50%, wages are a dollar or two a day, prices of food are increasing and may at times be even higher than in the USA, they have neither savings nor credit and there is no governmental safety net?

For many, an option of last resort is to find a piece of land somewhere and try to grow enough to at least keep the family alive. But how does someone in an urban area with nonexistent financial resources get land to cultivate? Often, the best option is to go beyond the frontier of where commercial agriculture has gone–essentially to some place that people with money do not want. 

Such land has many disadvantages. It is typically remote from markets, which means prices for produce are very low and agricultural inputs expensive. Often there is environmental damage when steep hillsides are cultivated or forests are cleared to make way for crops. Yields are low and uncertain due to infertile soils and unreliable rainfall. Farming in these situations is difficult!

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