Economic Policies under Mussolini and the Italian Fascists
Mussolini launched several public construction programs and government initiatives throughout Italy to combat economic setbacks and high unemployment. He began with He initiated the “Battle of the Land“ and the "Battle for Grain", in which 5, 000 new farms were established and five new agricultural towns on land reclaimed by draining the Pontine Marshes in in the Lazio Region of Central Italy, southeast of Rome. His plan diverted valuable resources to grain production, away from other less economically viable crops. His project was designed to not only provide jobs, and low income housing, it was designed to make Italy self-sufficient with out the need for imported foodstuffs.
Mussolini was actually quite innovative in his approach, and this type of land reclamation, known as the Green Movement, was replicated in several countries. Mexico began a similar project in 1945. With in eleven years, Mexico went from importing over half of its grains to being self-sufficient and a few years later began large exports as well. Unfortunately, Mussolini’s plan did not faire so well.
The Pontine Marshes were drained and utilized for a variety of crops including wine grapes, olives, fruits and vegetables. These farms did provide jobs during their establishment, and provided food supplies, but, the grain production never took off. Large corporate farms controlled almost all of the production, leaving the small farmers in the the same situation as before the initiative.
In Sardinia, a model agricultural town was founded and named Mussolinia. It has since been renamed as Arborea. This town was the first of what Mussolini hoped would have been thousands of new agricultural settlements across the country.
Mussolinia became Arborea after WWII
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Sardinia lies off the Western coast of Italy. Arborea is in the area known as the province of Oristano, on the Southwestern coast.
By draining a large salted pool, about 3000 hectares of land was reclaimed for livestock and agricultural use. Today the landscape comprises rows of cultivated fields, bordered by trees, modern stables and canals.
The huge taxes needed to fund the project, widespread inefficiencies, and the government subsidies given to farmers; pushed the country further into debt. Fewer than 10, 000 people, including workers, women, and children, settled on the redistributed land, and poverty remained high. By 1940 the Battle for the Land and the Battle for the Grain programs were abandoned. Today however, after many years of struggle, the area Mussolini once dreamed of as his pilot economic success story in Sardinia, flourishes with agriculture and tourism.