Sowing Resilience on the Amazon Frontier
(Longterm project; 2018 - ongoing. Amazon, Mato Grosso, Brazil.)
At the current rate, the impacts of continued deforestation and degradation are expected to lead to more severe and frequent fires and longer dry seasons in parts of the Amazon, particularly in areas located in the southern and eastern regions in what is known as the “Arc of Deforestation”. Increasing global demand for commodities, reduced environmental regulation and a rapidly advancing industrial and agricultural frontier into the world’s largest tropical rainforest poses serious social and environmental threats in terms of global climate change. For rural and indigenous communities and small farmers that reside in agriculture-forest frontier regions most affected by these threats, agroforestry has become a way of protecting their lands and livelihoods. This is the beginning of a longterm project that follows family farmer’s personal stories and journeys with agroforestry and the intricate relationship between farming, food and forests in a region that faces a present a future marked by pressing challenges and uncertainties.
Most of the municipalities in northern Mato Grosso were founded in the 1980s, as a result of national policies and subsidies encouraging the public and private colonization and occupation of the region, leading to overwhelming devastation of its rainforests. While deforestation was significantly reduced in the mid to late 2000s, since 2014 it has been increasing at an alarming rate. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), in June of 2019 deforestation soared to a total of 920.4 km2, 88% higher than during the same period last year.
When most of the region’s rural workers and farmers migrated to northern Mato Grosso from other parts of the country in search of land, opportunity and better livelihoods, as was advertised through government programs encouraging settlement in the region in the 1980s, the reality encountered was very different, disproportionately favoring large land owners and private companies over small-scale farmers. The kind of agriculture incentivized in frontier regions until today is industrial agriculture and extensive cattle farming focused on production for global commodity chains, rather than family agriculture and food production for domestic consumption.
Today there are over 1,000 families from different municipalities involved in agroforestry networks that together have restored thousands of hectares of forest and that organize through various networks, local markets, seed houses, cooperatives and associations in the region to promote family agriculture, agroforestry and restoration.