Carlos Peres and Maurício Schneider review the environmental and socioeconomic costs of Brazil's agrarian resettlement schemes, which have run from the 1970s as part an effort to to encourage migration from densely settled areas to low population regions. The largest, run by the Institute for Rural Settlement and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), has moved nearly a million families to settlements encompassing 85.8 million hectares of mostly forest land. The impact on forests has been substantial — by 2004 15 percent of all deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had occurred in INCRA areas. The proportion has since climbed, with some INCRA settlements reaching 70 percent forest loss.
But while the programs drive deforestation, the economic benefits for settlers are less than clear, according to the authors.
"The environmental and monetary costs associated with these resettlement schemes are rarely outweighed by the socioeconomic benefits accrued to translocated farmers," they write. "At an average start-up resettlement cost of at least US$12,000 per family, this is an expensive development program."
Thus Peres and Schneider conclude with a call to limit new agricultural settlements to previously deforested areas that are presently used for low-yield cattle pasture; improved law enforcement and forest monitoring programs; and a "truly integrated policy framework" that reconciles conflicting policy goals between different government sectors.
"Above all," write Peres and Schneider, "both a reorganization of land-tenure law enforcement in settler destination regions and curbing the outflow of migrants from source regions will be central to improving the dismal environmental record of land redistribution policy in Brazil."
CITATION: Carlos Peres and Maurício Schneider. Subsidized agricultural resettlements as drivers of tropical deforestation. Biological Conservation (2011) doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.11.011
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