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Land 2016, 5(3), 24; doi:10.3390/land5030024

Smallholders, Agrarian Reform, and Globalization in the Brazilian Amazon: Cattle versus the Environment

Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53726, USA
Department of Geography, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Claudia A. Radel and Jacqueline M. Vadjunec
Received: 13 October 2015 / Revised: 23 June 2016 / Accepted: 24 June 2016 / Published: 7 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Changing Land Use, Changing Livelihoods)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [757 KB, uploaded 7 July 2016]   |  


Smallholder farming in the Brazilian Amazon has changed markedly over the last few decades, following a pervasive swing to cattle production observed across the basin. These changes have brought opportunities for accumulating a modicum of wealth that were not available in the early stages of colonization. At the same time, they have reconfigured livelihood systems away from diversified agriculture to a strong engagement with the cattle economy. They are also exposing smallholders to new forms of exploitation by transnational corporations, seeking to pass risk upstream to less powerful economic agents who provide inputs to production, such as calves. The case of Southeastern Pará provides a natural laboratory for investigating such phenomena, which the article considers through the presentation of data from field research conducted in the region over the past decade. Here, agrarian reform efforts have been particularly intense, and social movements have often espoused a green rhetoric in favor of diversified agriculture, even though smallholders show little interest in anything but cattle. Household level incentives promote Amazonia’s emergent cattle economy, demonstrating how global production networks have reached into the basin, where production relations between smallholders provisioning calves to large ranching operations often resemble what has been referred to in the literature as “contract farmingland grabs, given the exploitive terms of trade. View Full-Text
Keywords: global cattle economy; production chains and networks; settlement projects; Amazonia; land grabs global cattle economy; production chains and networks; settlement projects; Amazonia; land grabs

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Pereira, R.; Simmons, C.S.; Walker, R. Smallholders, Agrarian Reform, and Globalization in the Brazilian Amazon: Cattle versus the Environment. Land 2016, 5, 24.

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