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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • Rain forest ecology—Amazon River Region
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Small farmers and deforestation in Amazonia

E. S. Brondízio, A. Cak, M. M. Caldas, C. Mena, R. Bilsborrow, C. T. Futemma, T. Ludewigs, E. F. Moran, and M. Batistella

This chapter discusses the relationship between small farmers' land use and deforestation, with particular attention paid to the past 30 years of Amazonian colonization in Brazil and Ecuador. Our analysis calls attention to common features uniting different social groups as small farmers (e.g., social identity, access to land and resources, technology, market, and credit), as well as the variability between small farmers in terms of time in the region (from native populations to recent colonists), contribution to regional deforestation, types of land use systems. At a regional level, small farmers contribute to the majority of deforestation events, but are responsible for only a fraction of the total deforested area in Amazonia. We discuss three misconceptions that have been used to define small farmers and their contribution to the regional economy, development, and deforestation: (1) small farmers have backward land use systems associated with low productivity and extensive deforestation and subsistence production, (2) small farmers contribute to Amazonian deforestation as much as large farmers, and (3) small farmers, particularly colonist farmers, follow an inexorable path of deforestation unless curbed by government action. We conclude the chapter discussing their growing regional importance and the need for more inclusive public policies concerning infrastructure and services and valorization of resources produced in rural areas of Amazonia.

Citation: Brondízio, E. S., A. Cak, M. M. Caldas, C. Mena, R. Bilsborrow, C. T. Futemma, T. Ludewigs, E. F. Moran, and M. Batistella (2009), Small farmers and deforestation in Amazonia, in Amazonia and Global Change, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 186, edited by M. Keller et al., pp. 117–143, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2008GM000716.

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