CHAPTER 6 - BEYOND THE METRICS: HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF LANDSCAPE CHANGE
6.3. Actors and resources: the underlying processes of landscape change
Anari and Machadinho represent two radically different cases of settlement design strategy in the Amazon. In spite of biophysical and historical similarities, their implementation differs due to the political context in which each settlement was conceived. As discussed earlier, the population growth in the 1980s due to rural and urban development in Rondônia created a demand for new colonization projects in order to settle the landless population coming mostly from southern and southeastern Brazil. On the other hand, the constant critique of settlement projects in the Brazilian Amazon created a need to implement a more socially and ecologically consonant model of colonization.
It was between these two political pressures - demand to settle landless migrants and demand for a more sustainable settlement model - that Anari and Machadinho were conceived. As an effort to ameliorate social problems resulting from waves of migration, Anari was part of an emergency initiative led by INCRA and the State government of Rondônia. According to this joint program, INCRA would demarcate and distribute 50 ha lots with their respective land titles. The State government would assume the responsibility of providing basic infrastructure and institutional support. Two years later, INCRA and international donors teamed up to establish Machadinho as part of a pilot initiative to create a settlement model that would lower social and ecological impacts. The agreement, in this case, established that INCRA would provide all infrastructure and institutional support during the project implementation through financial support from the World Bank. While the State government failed to accomplish its commitment in Anari, Machadinho was implemented as planned.
As a result of the distinct institutional and architectural scenarios, social development following the implementation phase took different paths in each settlement. From a pristine situation when the region was mostly forested to the current mosaic of LULC patches, the human footprint has established new landscape patterns in the last twenty years. Different processes of forest clearing and land use are outcomes of both the settlement architectural design and the distinct institutional arrangements within the settlements. The implementation strategy, when a set of rules was defined during the initial phase of the settlements, and the consolidation phase, when systems of rules were rearranged due to internal and external pressures, were key components in the complex process driving local populations to make land-use decisions that are reflected in the current landscape patterns.
6.3.1. Implementation phase
The initial architectural and institutional design in which a settlement is conceived defines opportunities and constraints toward land-use decisions at households and communities. Such land-use decisions reflect directly in the land cover. Settlement designs in the Amazonian frontier are a case in point. Often, the implementation of settlements has taken place through government-sponsored projects based on blueprint fishbone road networks, occupied by migrants claiming rights to land through forest clearing. Among several negative social and ecological consequences, this settlement implementation strategy has produced high deforestation rates to ensure land occupation, frequently followed by land aggregation for cattle ranching after abandonment by smallholders (Hecht 1993). Moreover, social conflicts have also been reported between newcomers and local populations, such as indigenous residents (Schmink and Wood 1992), caboclos (Moran 1981), and rubber tappers (Allegretti and Schwartzman 1986).
Anari and Machadinho are extreme examples of how implementation design can influence LULC change within a rural development project. Anari illustrates the classic blueprint settlement model carried out in the Amazon Basin and particularly in Rondônia. Machadinho illustrates how settlement implementation can incorporate ecological (topography-based), economic (infrastructure), and social (accountability to local populations) attributes that have usually been overlooked in other development projects.
In regard to ecological accountability, orthogonal road networks often create unequal access to fertile soil, relatively flat terrain, and sources of water (McCracken et al. 1999). In Machadinho, the property grid design based on topography has produced major implications in the efficiency of land-use systems and landscape outcomes. First, forest reserves were defined in steeper areas where farming production is more difficult. Private lots were laid out in less rugged terrain in such a way that most lots have access to at least one stream. In this sense, water access is relatively equal compared to fishbone designs, in which straight lines do not take topography or watershed boundaries into account. Although streams in Machadinho are usually placed in the back of the property, which may create some limitations to water access, the distribution of this resource among landowners is far more effective than in Anari. As a result, in Anari few settlers have been granted lots served by water springs and flatter areas, while many received lots with hilly terrain and no water access.
Interestingly enough, the accountability for ecological features in the settlement design of Machadinho has not affected the decision of settlers to clear forest, at least in terms of the percentage of the property. As mentioned in Chapter 4, landowners from both settlements have cleared an average of 54% of their lots to date (Tables 19 and 22). According to Brondizio et al. (in press), the behavior of groups of settlers (cohorts) in frontier lands can be predicted and often is affected by the time of arrival. Cohorts of settlers tend to produce similar outcomes in terms of forest clearing. This pattern seems to be reproduced in the study area. However, as also pointed out in Chapter 4, the area cleared per property is higher in Anari because the lot is generally larger and the settlement was implemented two years earlier than Machadinho. Perhaps, the major differences in terms of LULC change in Anari and Machadinho are related to decisions regarding production systems. Anari settlers have produced a higher rate of forest conversion to pasture than in Machadinho (Table 14). Moreover, it seems that better water access as well as less rugged terrain in most lots improved the efficiency of agricultural systems in Machadinho. This is corroborated by productivity indices measured by the Brazilian government (IBGE 2000b). As a result, settlers have had less incentive to convert forest to pasture.
In regard to infrastructure, the topography-sensitive road network in Machadinho contrasts with the fishbone-like road network in Anari. Besides accounting for relief variability, Machadinho roads were well established in three hierarchical levels, reaching the most remote lots. In addition, the road network allocation along the ridges has lowered the maintenance costs when compared to the fishbone design. Orthogonal roads crossing the drainage system perpendicularly demand bridge building and higher levels of erosion control, which is often neglected in the region. As seasonality is an important variable affecting trafficability, many settlers remain isolated during the wet months. The relative high transportation cost also influences smallholders to choose pasture over cash cropping in Anari. Besides the fact that ranchers can drive cattle herds even on poorly maintained dirt roads, ranching is an easier activity to manage whenever market access and incentives toward agricultural activities are unstable. Two other important aspects of infrastructure provision in Machadinho are related to the allocation of an urban center with many facilities and the strong presence of governmental agencies accelerating rural development. This has helped smallholders to have access to credit lines (banks), social organization (associations), technical information (extensionists), health aids (health centers), and general market goods.
Finally, social sensitivity toward forest dwellers was a major institutional novelty in the settlement design of Machadinho. In general, settlement projects carried out by the Brazilian government have focused solely on migrant settlers. However, the existence of a more heterogeneous group of actors regarding land-use interests can lead to different patterns of interaction depending on the social context. For example, the interaction between loggers and settlers in frontiers where road access is poor follows a singular pattern. In this case, loggers usually take advantage of the situation and extract timber cheaply from private lots in exchange for providing machinery and labor to open roads and trails for the landowners. Anari was more vulnerable to this process due to the need of improving the road network.
Another intricate interaction occurs between local populations and migrant settlers. While landowners were allowed to clear only 50% of their lots in other settlements (regardless of the lot size), Machadinho settlers were allowed to clear 100% of their lands as a result of the creation of communal reserves within the settlement. By the same token, rubber tappers could choose to stay in their area or to receive a private lot in the reserve surroundings. The establishment of forest reserves produced positive ecological outcomes in Machadinho. The reserves helped to maintain larger forest patches spatially spread throughout the landscape as opposed to smaller and fragmented forest remnants within the fishbone-like settlements. The consolidation process that followed the implementation phase led to other changes that further affected each actor regarding land-use decisions and landscape transformation.
6.3.2. Consolidation phase
The previous section discussed how the implementation phase of Machadinho and Anari defined the initial social and ecological arena where local decisions were taken. In addition to initial incentives, internal variations emerged according to different social assets among actors. Smallholders turned into subsistence cultivators, perennial crop cultivators, and cattle ranchers according to different portfolios of production systems, as illustrated by Table 4. The co-existence of loggers and rubber tappers in Machadinho complete the social mosaic that is directly reflected on the landscape. However, the landscape outcome differed within the settlements as they are related to how the structure provided in the implementation phase affected the institutional changes carried out during the consolidation phase. The variation in land-use decisions is related to both external and internal changes. Figure 85 includes a general overview of events affecting the consolidation of Machadinho and Anari. For example, Machadinho was emancipated in 1988, while Anari became a municipality only in 1995. Recently, new settlements have been established in both municipalities, a process that still occurs in a dynamic fashion. Although some social and economic links still remain, the two municipalities have increasingly taken independent economic and political paths. In addition, land tenure system, product prices, and provision of bank loans have changed in the last decade, each affecting differently the three main actors in the region.
In regard to settlers, the initial rule providing alienation rights to the lots was promptly violated. According to INCRA, settlers hold right-of-use during the first five years, receiving the title if land use is demonstrated. However, turnover in parcel ownership took place informally right after the parcels were allocated to settlers. Land aggregation for cattle ranching was the expected consequence, as in other settlement projects within the Brazilian Amazon. The results on LULC suggest that this process was more prominent in Anari. The maintenance of larger areas in crops rather than pasture in Machadinho is related not only to original design but also to how settlers responded to bank loans. The support of EMATER, combined with relatively organized associations in Machadinho have supported smallholders to continue cash cropping along with other activities in their farming system as opposed to Anari, where the lack of institutional support and infrastructure encouraged pasture conversion.
The large number of associations does not mean that effective social organization is occurring. The variation of individual interests and the increasing level of internal conflicts among members have weakened the sense of association, formerly promoted by governmental initiatives as well as religious efforts (particularly by the Catholic Church). Thus, the growing number of associations in recent years has been mainly due to incentives to create legal entities to apply for bank loans. Following loan approval, the organizations are left purposeless and weakened. An alternative form of organization that has emerged in the region combining both political strength to claim rights and the economic goal of marketing achievements is the cooperative located in Machadinho. With more than 200 members, it is the strongest association within the settlements.
Regardless the weak political strength of local associations in the region, the more expressive presence of such organizations in Machadinho is an important social capital that has helped settlers to be more resilient to external influences such as product prices, bank loans, and land conflict issues. In Anari, some initiatives are taking place, as EMATER and IDARON have also installed offices in town. An important trend to follow is the trajectory in coffee cultivation, as most of these associations are improving the production of coffee seedlings and stimulating the use of new technologies such as agricultural mechanization and irrigation. In Machadinho, a research project analyzing the role of associations in LULC change is currently under way (Sydenstricker-Neto 2000).
As land-use strategies have been changing rapidly in the region, a major challenge for the maintenance of forest stands within the private lots in Machadinho exists. Recently, IBAMA has disclosed a claim that the 100% deforestation permission in Machadinho parcels was mistakenly taken and has no legal value. In other words, despite the implementation of communal forest reserves within the settlement, settlers should follow similar restrictions in their lots as in other Amazonian areas. Therefore, INCRA agents have erroneously passed an informal permission that was not considered detrimental twenty years ago. International and national concerns toward monitoring deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and the recently decreed Land Zoning for the State of Rondônia have faced this institutional misunderstanding by enforcing the 50% forested area rule in Machadinho.
Other trends have influenced land use in terms of labor force, technology, access to bank loans, and new market demands. In regard to labor force, during the earlier years of settlement, the average family size in Machadinho was approximately five people with three members of working age. Family labor constituted the main source of agricultural labor, while contracted labor was rare (Miranda and Mattos 1993). More recent studies have shown that families now frequently contract labor outside the household, employing an annual average of five temporary and two permanent workers per family (Miranda et al. 1997). In regard to technology, mechanization, irrigation techniques, as well as weeding machines have recently enabled households to cultivate larger areas. The release of small bank loans has allowed settlers to more easily have access to those technological innovations. As a result, while forest clearing in both settlements at the property level has reached an average of approximately 54% after fifteen years of occupation, only now do settlers feel the weight of this land-use restriction. It is still unclear how the combination of these new internal and external changes will fit with the fact that the 50% forest reserve rule that had been lifted until recently will suddenly be effective. Recent discussions are taking place in congress for a new Forestry Code, in which the percentage of land to be preserved could be even higher. However, it is questionable if these rules will be successfully enforced.
While settlers face new trends in land-use restrictions, rubber tappers in Machadinho face new opportunities regarding the management of natural resources. Perhaps, the major flaw of the Machadinho design as far as rubber tappers activities are concerned, was posing the burden of forest conservation on them while economic support to use forest resource was scarce. Rubber tappers were granted a large area of 685 km2 where only 401 individuals live. Those who chose to leave the reserve and receive a private lot are accused of taking advantage of both figures (private lots and communal reserves). Yet, a major problem posed to those living at communal reserves was the limited use of land for subsistence and lack of economic activity, while some companies illegally carried out logging operations. Rubber tapping has become increasingly uneconomic and the lack of alternatives has created incentives for residents to search for other activities. Only recently, when these forests were decreed State Extractive Reserves, rubber tappers were enabled to formulate their own forest management strategy with support of agencies and grassroots organizations to use the forest for commercial purpose, including sustainable logging (Olmos et al. 1999). As a result, incentives to monitor poaching by illegal logging activities have increased. In addition, rubber tappers have been provided with infrastructure to patrol the area. The outcome of this new institutional turn is too recent to be evaluated. Within the following years, land cover within the communal reserves, where landscape change was practically null during the last twenty years, will probably reflect in different landscape patterns. Whether this change will affect the ecological stability of the landscape depends on the ability of rubber tappers to develop a coherent management plan and a monitoring system to keep up with the system.
The development of forest management plans by rubber tappers has been relatively isolated from settlers' activities. Yet, loggers have been affected by rubber tappers' decisions. The ability of rubber tappers to manage their own reserves is not only essential in providing social justice to these local populations who have been deprived from economic alternatives, but they have also helped to halt the illegal activities of several logging companies. In addition, new rules of timbering included in the National Forestry Code have required management plans for every logging activity. Although the enforcement of these rules is still not effective, there is a chance are for better use of forest resources if surveillance operations are carried out within the settlements. Despite the restrictions regarding forest reserves, logging has represented an important part of the economy in Machadinho, where a new industrial area is being established to house several logging companies. In addition, the implementation of other settlement projects has opened new frontiers to logging activity within the municipality. Therefore, while communal reserves may be maintained by rubber tappers' management plans, a better institutional strategy is still to be found that will ensure forest protection from illegal logging in other areas close by.