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Rural livelihood transition in the Brazilian Amazon: a longitudinal perspective on income diversification, agricultural activities, and land use among small farmers

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Gabriel Henrique Lui
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: Piracicaba.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (ESALA/BC)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Silvia Maria Guerra Molina; Cristina Adams; Maria Victoria Ramos Ballester; Thomas Ludewigs; Rodrigo Penna Firme Pedrosa
Advisor: Silvia Maria Guerra Molina

The expansion of market economy has changed the motivations in production and consumption among large and small farmers alike. One result of these changes is the disconnection between small farmers\' livelihoods and the performing of agricultural activities. To small farmer populations, it has representing a diminishing importance of agricultural income and an increasing importance of other activities, such as part-time jobs, off-farm employment, and social benefits. In Brazil, major Conditional Cash Transfer programs (CCTs), like Bolsa Família, and the universal access to rural retirements, which is supporting millions of people, have also contributed significantly to the diversification of rural incomes. Faced with new income sources that do not require the mobilization of labour, what would be the logic of decision making of the families? There would be a movement of additional income reinvestment in agricultural activities? Or these external income sources would be contributing to further detachment of the families from agriculture? What are the results of those decisions for land use change? Given these questions, four hypotheses were structured: (1) the growth and stability of family income have provided a less intensive use of local natural resources for subsistence, (2) such context can lead to a higher rate of forest conversion to other purposes, as a result of the investment and the advancement of commercial and productive activities, (3) there is a perception of improved quality of life associated with stabilization of income and broader access to consumer goods and services, and (4) there is a positive valuation of goods and services provided by urban centers, and this has influenced the priorities and perspectives regarding land use and application of resources by the families. To test such hypotheses, two primary data surveys were conducted in the region of Santarém-PA, in 2003 (n = 488) and 2011 (n = 83), seeking demographic, economic and spatial information in the same properties for both periods. Data were collected through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. It was made an analysis of land use change, focusing on revisited properties, through satellite imagery (LANDSAT 5 TM) for the years 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlation analysis and hypothesis testing. Qualitative data were analyzed by categorizing the content of interviewee\'s discourses. The results showed significant changes between the two periods, like the reduction in average household size (4.6 to 3.86), the real growth of income (115.98%) and expenses (171.30%) per month, the decreased production of annual crops, especially rice (-81.55%), beans (-73.17%) and corn (-63.35%), and the acceleration of the deforestation in large properties, especially after the arrival of soybean producers. The interviewee\'s discourses presented a general perception of improvement of quality of life in recent years, yet also highlighted a lack of perspective regarding the maintenance of agriculture, showing a disconnection between life standards and agricultural activities. (AU)