Monday, February 2, 2015

Ranching and the new global range: Amazônia in the 21st century

           This paper seeks to understand how the Brazilian Amazon, which many thought unsuitable for agricultural development, has yielded to a dynamic cattle economy in only a few decades. It does so by embedding the Thunian model of location rents within the regime of capital accumulation that has driven the Brazilian economy since the mid-20th century. The paper addresses policies that have created location rents in Amazônia, the effect of these rents on land managers, and the spatial implications of their behavior on forests. Thus, the paper connects macro-processes and structures to agents on the ground, in providing a political ecological explanation relevant to land change science. The policy discussion focuses on reductions in transportation costs, improvements in animal health, and monetary and trade reforms.
           To illustrate the impact of policy, the paper presents data on the geography of Amazonian herd expansion, on the growth of Amazonian exports, and on the profitability of the region’s cattle economy. It follows the empirical presentation with more abstract consideration of the spatial relations between cattle ranching and soy farming, and implications for deforestation. The paper concludes on a speculative note by considering the likelihood of forest transition in the region, given the transformation of Amazônia into a global resource frontier.
           The Thunian-based political ecology framework calls attention to both  social forces affecting high-level governmental decisions about Amazonian policy, and incentives at ground-level influencing the decisions of land managers to opt for cattle. the policy framework is considered, with a special emphasis on road infrastructure, animal health, and monetary and trade reform.    

Given the vitality of the Amazônia’s cattle economy, it is perhaps ironic that the critical discourse on Amazonian development held for many years that agriculture, and ranching in particular, offered little promise of success and that private investment could only be secured with substantial government subsidies to investors.

           Apart from those, there are still some questions that people need to discuss. For instance, the balance between agricultural expansion and deforestation, the balance of payments for cattle products-Import-Export.

Walker, R., Browder, J., Arima, E., Simmons, C., Pereira, R., Caldas, M., ... & de Zen, S. (2009). Ranching and the new global range: Amazônia in the 21st century. Geoforum40(5), 732-745.

1 comment:

  1. On the note of deforestation, how do they plan on keeping track of cattle operations in such a large area that is hard to police. Will there be impact studies on having large populations of cattle near major water runoff areas and sources, as well as the methane and carbon emissions? I think that it is overall a great thing, but seeing how it is growing so fast it is important to start documenting changes and making sure ranchers follow rules.