This article examines the evolution of the credit market for small-scale
sugarcane producers in the Plan Chontalpa development program in Tabasco,
Mexico. The plan promoted neoliberal policies that transformed the existing credit
market available to small-scale producers. The availability of credit was supposed
to lead to increased efficiency. However, making credit available to low-income
farmers can result in unintended outcomes. We found that many households had
high discount rates and used the credit to supplement their household income.
Thus, farmers are getting caught in a cycle of debt that often culminates in losing
their land. We use a life history to consider the strategies the program has adopted
to control credit as well as the counterstrategies the families have developed.