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Small-scale farming in the Amazon: a one way or the way ahead for sustainable development: a case study from the Trans-Amazon highway in Brazil

concluded 12/2019


There is wide consensus that small-scale agriculture could significantly contribute to a more sustainable development in the rural tropics. Several studies confirmed the positive role smallholders play for food production and environmental stability in the highly dynamic rural contexts. This is particularly relevant regarding the Brazilian Amazon that despite large and ongoing deforestation still houses the largest remaining forest area in the tropics.. But, in an institutional framework that is strongly oriented towards an economic development driven by capital endowed actors using the regions’ land and resource to produce for global markets, it is nearly impossible for smallholders to make use of their eventually existing capacity for more effectively contributing to a more sustainable local development. In many regions, the settlers with their simple and often diversified land use systems have severe difficulties to succeed on highly competitive markets. Once, infrastructure improves, they tend to be replaced by more competitive actors, or –in some few cases- manage to adopt profitable but unsustainable land uses for the production for international commodity markets. Both scenarios are contributing to the immense social and environmental problems of the region.. Against this backgdrop, this research intends to analyze and find out about feasible models of small-scale agriculture with the potential to effectively contribute to a more sustainable rural development. By exploring social, economic and environmental information gathered at household and landscape level in several municipalities situated along the Transamazon highway in the Brazilian state of Pará, this study intends to reconstruct the development trajectories of colonists settling here since four decades, analyze the factors influencing their decisions and assess the effects at propertiy and landscape level. This analysis is expected to generate insights todiscuss opportunities for future development. In tight collaboration with locals’ representative organizations, the doctorate student will initiate reflection processes at local scale about feasible models for smallholder agriculture and the possibility to adapt supporting policies, in particular for credits, technical assistance and market organization.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Benno Pokorny
Prof. Dr. José Antônio Herrera (Universidade Federal do Pará, Altamira, Brazil)
PhD student: Anderson Borges Serra
The Delegation of the European Union in Brazil through the project “Governance of Natural Resources by smallholders in the rural Amazon“ (Acronym: GOL)
Duration: ab 01.03.2012
  • Fundação Viver, Produzir e Preservar (FVPP)
  • Sindicato de Trabalhadores Rurais (STR), Altamira
  • Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA)
  • Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico - Governo do Brasil




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