Rural Development and Social Exclusion: a case study of sustainability and distributive issues in Brazil

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Rural modernisation based on the concept of the Green Revolution has changed the social and ecological landscape in Brazil, particularly since the late 1960s. The expansion of extensive cattle ranching and mechanised agriculture have been major driving forces in this transformation process. In the Midwest, one of the last frontier regions in Brazil, extensive savanna land has recently been cleared for cash-crop production and pastureland. After the displacement of indigenous people during early confrontations with Portuguese explorers in the eighteenth century, we are now witnessing the dispossession of traditional small-scale farmers who had settled in the region two centuries ago. Rural communities have remained marginalised and powerless in the face of pressure and impact from recent development of agribusiness and cattle ranching. The agricultural activity of the smallholders is subsistence-oriented with little market integration, and their production system (shifting cultivation) is based on local knowledge, which seems to be well adapted to the savanna environment. The system is no longer sustainable. Due to capitalist expansion and prevailing conditions of unsecured land tenure, lack of access to basic assets, and high population pressure on scarce resources, the peasants have had to intensify production. This research focuses on the consequences of recent social, economic and environmental change in traditional rural communities.
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