Reuters: Brazil land disputes spread as Indians take on wildcat miners


JACAREACANGA, Brazil Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:17am EST

Reuters) – As Brazil struggles to solve land disputes between Indians and farmers on the expanding frontier of its agricultural heartland, more tensions over forest and mineral resources are brewing in the remote Amazon.

Anthropologists say evictions from Awá territory could be even more complicated. It is thought to be a base for criminal logging operations and is also home to some indigenous families who have never had contact with outsiders, a combination that worries human rights groups lobbying for the evictions.

Now, other tribes from the Amazon as well as the long-settled soy belt are lobbying to have non-Indians removed from their lands or have new reservations created at the same time Rousseff’s leftist government, faced with a sputtering economy in an election year, is trying to build dams, expand farmland and otherwise spur growth.

Take the Munduruku tribe in western Pará, a vast Amazon state that stretches to Brazil’s coast and is more than twice the size of France.

Their more than 2 million-hectare (4.9 million-acre) slice of protected rain forest is being encroached on by efforts to dam the Tapajós river, build new roads for exporting soy and corn crops, and especially by wildcat miners in search of gold.

The tribe’s leaders, who refer to themselves as warriors, traveled to the capital Brasilia last year to demand that the federal government remove non-indigenous miners from their territory.

Rather than wait for a court decision to start the process, which took years for the Xavante and Awá, the Munduruku decided to take matters into their own hands and expel the wildcat miners in January.



Chinese financing and investment in Amazonian infrastructure such as railways and mineral processing facilities have additional impacts. The authors say the “direct impact of commodity exports is only the tip of the iceberg of Chinese influence on Amazonia.”

In a 2012 paper entitled Amazonian forest loss and the long reach of China’s Influence, the authors found that “the rapid rise in exports of soy and beef products to China are two of the major drivers of Amazonian deforestation in Brazil.” Credit: Robert Middleton

“Money earned from this trade is strengthening Brazilian agribusiness interests, with profound effects on domestic politics that are reflected in legislative and administrative changes, weakening environmental protection”. Amazonian forest loss and the long reach of China’s Influence 2012 Fearnside, Figueiredo, Bonjour

“Brazil’s 2011–2020 10-year energy-expansion plan (Ministry of Mines and Energy, 2011) calls for 30 large dams to be built in the Legal Amazon [the greater Amazon basin] by 2020, a rate of one dam every four months. Amazonian forest loss and the long reach of China’s Influence 2012 Fearnside, Figueiredo, Bonjour

Meanwhile a recent study produced by Imazon (Amazon Institute of People and The Environment), a well-respected research institute based in Belem, has shown that deforestation could be drastically reduced by increasing productivity

Traditionally, Amazon cattle farmers have never bothered about productivity, because it has been so easy just to clear more forest. The Imazon study shows that future projected demand could be entirely met without the need to cut down a single tree, if productivity was increased from the present average of 80 kilos of beef per hectare to 300 kilos.To help farmers learn the new techniques, Imazon suggests that an annual investment of about $500 million would be enough to pay for technical assistance, reference centers for each region, and model farms to demonstrate good practice.

Traditionally the government has relied on applying hefty fines for illegal clearing. This has two big disadvantages: the deforestation is detected only when it has already happened, and because of Brazil`s complex and lengthy judicial process, the fines are almost never paid. In addition, the powerful farmers` lobby in Congress is adept at voting through “amnesties” at regular intervals to pardon unpaid fines.

Now a more intelligent way to inhibit deforestation has been found, this time by the Central Bank. A bank resolution, passed in 2008, compels farmers to prove they are in compliance with environmental laws before they can obtain credit from any official bank.

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There is a diversity of ways to go about this intensification of meat production. It’s interesting option consider. What possibilities are there to consider and which ones are being considered? If the underlying logic is mere increase of exploitation with no consideration of ecology the problem of ecosystemic disruption and destruction does not dissappear..

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