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6.4. Toward better interactions among actors in the frontier

Identifying the human dimensions of landscape change in Machadinho and Anari is as complex as comparing the effects of different settlement architectural designs in land-use decision making processes. This double-sided puzzle underlies multiple sections of this dissertation, but it is in this chapter that a more institutional-based analysis was carried out. The rationale behind this approach is that addressing the human dimensions of ecological processes within the settlements' landscapes allows a better understanding not only about local people's social trajectories, but also about interrelated causes, consequences, and outcomes of LULC change.

Land-use decisions in the study area are influenced by two major sets of events. The scenario has a starting point (establishment event) when initial rules delineate the structure of incentives to the actors. In Machadinho and Anari, the establishment of different architectural and institutional designs during the settlement implementation phase defined distinct opportunities and constraints for settlers, rubber tappers, and loggers. The second set of events took place as dynamic changes, affecting the structure of incentives toward land use and resource management. In the study area, land tenure arrangement, bank loans mediated by associations and governmental organizations, and the establishment of communal extractive reserves, represent major events affecting LULC dynamics and landscape change.

While some institutional arrangements have taken place in order to adjust land-use activity to an ecologically and socially sound plan, many other institutional changes have created incentives for uncontrolled use of resources. Changes have taken place at different tiers of actions (e.g., technology and labor force at the household level, bank loans, land tenure, forest-use rules at the group level, and policies and infrastructure at the regional level). Each factor has synergistic effects on the landscape and depends on the pace and intensity of change that reflect land-cover outcomes. In this sense, recent trends are important. While some land-cover changes have been related to institutional and architectural design through incentives for land-use activities to date, many changes are only beginning to take place.

Following these trends may bring new elements to the understanding of the important role of interactions among actors during the implementation and consolidation phases of settlements in Rondônia. Moreover, as rural development, LULC change, urbanization, and social class differentiation take place, it is important to watch for possible conflicts among actors and how they are mediated. In particular, actions causing or increasing forest fragmentation and environmental degradation should be followed with attention.

This discussion highlights the importance of the management of common-pool resources (Ostrom 1990, Hardin 1998). Recent integrative works have advocated the need of governance over resources by local people (i.e., institutions-centered approaches) rather than focusing on community-centered approaches (Agrawal and Gibson 1999). The communal reserves in Machadinho are exemplary. In Chapter 4, multi-temporal LULC assessments have shown that forest cover within these reserves has not decreased. This has happened not only because of the reserves per se, but because of their management by rubber tappers organized in associations and with clear strategies regarding their rights over these lands. Perhaps, the answer for a more sustainable environmental outcome in rural Amazonian areas depends on more sustainable interactions among actors using natural resources.

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