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Latin American Monographs
of Agriculture in Brazil
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Travels~I Thog iasCeas ctbr 95,t erayj i -
of Agriculture in Brazil
A Sociological Study
of Minas Gerais
Harold M. Clements, Sr.
University of Florida Press
Gainesville 19 6 9
Latin American Monographs-Second Series
Committee on Publications
W. W. McPherson, Chairman
Graduate Research Professor
of Agricultural Economics
R. W. Bradbury
Professor of Economics
Richard A. Preto-Rodas
of Romance Languages
T. Lynn Smith
Graduate Research Professor
of Comprehensive English
A University of Florida Press Publication
SPONSORED BY THE
CENTER FOR LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES
COPYRIGHT O 1969 BY THE STATE OF FLORIDA
DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL SERVICES
Library of Congress
Catalog Card No. 76-93194
PRINTED BY STORTER PRINTING COMPANY
TO THE MEMORY OF
MY MOTHER AND FATHER
AS HAS BEEN THE CASE with most developing countries, Brazil's
agriculture has remained highly traditional and static in its
organization and operation. Oriented from the beginning
toward export on a commercial basis, only within the past few dec-
ades has the Brazilian government attempted seriously to encourage
the modernization of farming equipment and techniques in an effort
to direct its agricultural resources more consistently to the suste-
nance of its own population.
In view of the emphasis placed today upon agricultural develop-
ment and the fact that Brazilian agriculture presently is undergoing
relatively rapid modernization, it is particularly important to de-
termine the extent to which mechanized farming, the most advanced
system of agriculture, has supplanted the various traditional farm-
ing practices previously used in one of the most important regions
in the nation, the state of Minas Gerais.
The method employed in this study required first-hand field ob-
servation; hence I spent a total of almost six months on a series of
journeys into all of the principal areas of the state. The data consist
largely of those gathered in the course of travel and others taken
from the reports of the 1950 and 1960 censuses of agriculture. The
frame of reference used in the study is based upon the concept
"systems of agriculture" which was conceived and developed by
T. Lynn Smith.
In the following pages the various traditional farming practices
are analyzed and described. Following this, attention is centered
upon mechanization and comprehensive analyses of the extent of
development of the mechanized system of agriculture and of its
diffusion in Minas Gerais. Then, the most important factors which
have contributed to variations in the distribution and use of modern
farm equipment are pointed out, and their influence is appraised.
After this, the nature of the different trends in the process of the
development of mechanization is explored. Finally, attention is given
to descriptions and analyses of a number of the principal determi-
nants which to varying degrees have affected the transition to
modern techniques of farming.
This study was made possible by the generous assistance and
encouragement of many friends in both the United States and
Brazil. At the University of Florida, I am particularly indebted to
my friend and major professor, T. Lynn Smith. Other members of
the faculty who were of invaluable assistance in providing sugges-
tions, criticisms, and encouragement are Professors Joseph S. Van-
diver, John V. D. Saunders, and Edmund E. Hegen. To my many
friends in Brazil who so generously gave of their time to procure
pertinent materials I am most grateful. I am especially indebted to
Drs. Jos6 Arthur Rios, Walter L. Crawford, Erly Diaz Brandao,
Francisco Teatini, Carlos Eugenio Thibau, and Cincinatus J.
Mascarenhas. Without the generous assistance of Dr. Jos6 Paulo
Ribeiro, the Director of the Rural Extension Service of Minas Gerais,
and his regional supervisors, it would have been impossible for me
to have visited and conversed with the operators of the numerous
fazendas and sitios in many isolated regions of the state. I wish to
thank, as well, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics
for so generously providing many of the publications used here.
Finally, I wish to express my deep gratitude to my wife Virginia
for her constant encouragement and ready and willing assistance in
preparing this manuscript, and to Dr. James L. Gillings and Mr.
Michael P. Cone for their invaluable contributions in the prepara-
tion of the index.
HAROLD M. CLEMENTS, SR.
Stephen F. Austin State University
1. Introduction / 1
2. Traditional Systems of Agriculture
in Minas Gerais / 7
3. The Extent of Mechanized Farming
in Minas Gerais / 39
4. Trends in the Mechanization
of Agriculture / 62
5. Conclusions / 80
Bibliography / 85
Index / 89
The information in Figure 1 (pages 20-21), Figure 2 (pages 68-
69), and Figure 3 (pages 70-71) was compiled and computed from
data in "Sinopse Preliminar do Censo Agricola," VII Recenseamento
Geral do Brasil, Estado de Minas Gerais, 1960 (Rio de Janeiro:
Institute Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, 1963), Table IV, pages
IN THIS VOLUME the scientific method is applied to the study of the
mechanized system of agriculture in the state of Minas Gerais,
Brazil. While considerable space has been devoted to descriptions
and analyses of the various traditional systems of farming, the
major portion consists of the presentation and consideration of ma-
terials dealing with the present status and trends of mechanized
agriculture in Minas Gerais.
The overall objective of this analysis is to present a reliable ap-
praisal of the extent to which mechanized farming, the most ad-
vanced of the systems of agriculture, has supplanted the various
traditional farming techniques previously relied upon by the state's
agriculturists in growing their crops. Specifically, this study has
been designed: (1) to determine and describe the degree of de-
velopment of mechanized agriculture in Minas Gerais at the present
time and the extent of its diffusion over the state; (2) to ascertain
and set forth the nature and extent of the principal trends in the
process of its evolution; and (3) to identify and describe some of
the major factors which may have worked and presently may be
operating to promote or to impede the process of agricultural de-
velopment. This particular geographic area was selected because it
is best suited to the attainment of the objectives of the study.
2 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Brazilian government for some time has been attempting to
increase its agricultural production and to raise the low standard
and level of living of a vast segment of its population by improving
its system of agriculture. As a result, farming methods, little modi-
fied over the centuries in some of the agricultural regions of its vast
territory, now are undergoing relatively rapid change. This involves
alterations in attitudes, values, motivations, and skills as well as sub-
stitutions of equipment and technology, and it enhances the im-
portance of taking a sounding into the process of the development
of the mechanized system of agriculture at this particular time.
Sociology as a scientific discipline possesses the methods and tools
needed for making objective analyses of the extent and rapidity of
change in the systems of agriculture in such areas.
Among the various regions of Brazil which are undergoing agri-
cultural development along modern lines, Minas Gerais stands out
as an ideal site for study. Since the founding of the first agropastoral
establishments in the sixteenth century, it appears that the people of
the region for the most part have maintained traditional ways of
life which tend to hold social and cultural change to a minimum.
Only since the end of the Second World War, and almost coinci-
dental with the development of industry in the state, have deter-
mined efforts been made to modernize agriculture. At present the
system of mechanized farming is gaining importance.
Minas Gerais is the second most populous state in Brazil. From
the standpoint of area, some 220,000 square miles of territory, it is
the fifth largest state in Brazil, roughly the size of the state of Texas.
The northern half, adjoining Bahia and Goias, lies in the semiarid
sertao. The western part, bounded by Goias, Mato Grosso, and Sao
Paulo, reportedly is a region of great agricultural potential situated
on the rolling plains of the Planalto Central or Central Plateau of
Brazil. Southern Minas Gerais, bordering on Sao Paulo, the state of
Rio de Janeiro, and Espirito Santo, on the other hand, is largely
mountainous. Its originally dense forests long ago were decimated
to make way for the cultivation of sugarcane and coffee.
Although this study is concerned primarily with the mechanized
system of agriculture in Minas Gerais, it includes descriptions and
analyses of the use of older and less effective ways of getting prod-
ucts from the soil. Some of the systems which persist to this day are
indigenous, but they still have a bearing on the development of the
most advanced techniques. Reference to the other important insti-
tutional relationships between man and the land or to other aspects
of rural social organization is made only insofar as they are related
directly to the considerations of the systems of agriculture in use.
Most of the materials used are primary, that is, they consist of
personal observations and of data drawn from primary sources.
Much of the information was secured from the reports of the decen-
nial enumerations of the census of agriculture made by the Instituto
Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (the Brazilian counterpart of
the United States Bureau of the Census) and from the statistical
yearbooks, or anudrios, prepared by the same official agency.
Since the study is concerned essentially with providing a reliable
appraisal of the present ways of extracting products from the soil in
Minas Gerais, much of the material was taken from the preliminary
reports of the 1960 census of agriculture, whereas that used for the
analyses of the present importance of traditional systems of agri-
culture was taken from the 1950 census. This was necessary be-
cause the preliminary reports from the most recent census do not
contain the necessary data. In the investigation of trends in the
process of mechanization, the materials from the reports of the
1940, 1950, and 1960 enumerations were utilized. Other official
agencies which provided some of the statistical data used in the
study include the Ministerio da Agricultura and the SecretAria da
Whenever materials from non-official sources are used, references
to them are made in the footnotes. Other studies were used to pro-
vide the theoretical frame of reference, techniques of analysis, and
the basis for comparisons.1 All of the tables and cartographic devices
were prepared by the writer, and the sources of the statistical ma-
terials used in them are duly indicated wherever these appear.
The procedures and devices employed are those conventionally
used in the field of sociology. As indicated above, the personal ob-
servations of the writer, guided by a previously devised frame of
reference, were of basic importance in gathering the data. Almost
six months of intensive travel by bus and jeep throughout all the
major regions of Minas Gerais were devoted to observation (see
endleaves). It was essential that some appreciation of the remarkable
cultural diversity of Brazil be gained by the researcher. Reasonable
familiarity with the details of the rural scene is of importance to the
analysis and interpretation of the statistical data used. Only by ob-
1. The major sources of both frame of reference and techniques are T. Lynn
Smith, The Sociology of Rural Life, 3rd ed.; and T. Lynn Smith, Brazil: People
and Institutions, 3rd ed.
4 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
serving the people engaged in their daily activities can one come to
identify elements of the various traditional farming complexes and
to appreciate their continuing importance to farmers of the state.
The methods employed in field observation included such activi-
ties as: taking copious notes to record observed facts and immediate
reflections about them; engaging in numerous conversations with
local officials and other informed persons, farm and ranch operators,
and various types of agropastoral workers, in order to obtain
answers to definite questions in the mind of the writer; taking pho-
tographs of farms, ranches, farm equipment, and farming operations;
gathering statistical and other informative materials from local
sources, including agencies concerned with agricultural develop-
ment and business establishments engaged in the manufacture and
distribution of tractors and related equipment and implements; and
visiting libraries and bookstores to locate relevant studies and perti-
nent articles in books, magazines, and newspapers.
The nature of the research project and the data utilized made it
unnecessary to resort to the use of complicated statistical techniques.
Since the data pertinent to the various aspects of the study required
no more than cross-classification, tabular analysis has been utilized
for the discussion of census results. In addition to detailed display
tables, the other devices used to present the results consist of four
maps and one chart. These latter cartographic representations were
employed for the analysis and interpretation of the data as well as
for purposes of illustration.
Finally, as an aid to the reader, foreign terms have been italicized
the first time they appear. For convenience also, references to the
Associagqo de Cr6dito e Assist&ncia Rural have the abbreviated
form ACAR wherever it appears.
It is well at this point to call attention to the use of the term
"agricultural system" as referring to the ways in which farmers go
about wresting a living from the soil. Thus, mechanized agriculture,
regarded as the most advanced system, is, like the others, conceived
of as a "social" or more properly a socioculturall system." Of im-
portance to a clear understanding of what is meant by a system of
any kind is the thought, not of a mere aggregation of diverse objects
or components, but of some degree of integral wholeness coming
from their organization, interaction, and natural interdependence
or, in other words, a functional relationship. From this it may be
seen that the noun in the concept of social system possesses a mean-
ing comparable to that which it has when employed in such diverse
concepts as a solar system, a telegraph system, or a weather system.
The latter term is used by meteorologists in classifying atmospheric
phenomena such as the low or high pressures at the center of areas
of atmospheric disturbance or tranquility. In sociological usage, the
differentiating words "social or sociocultural" serve to indicate that
the component parts are human beings, social groups, institutional
forms, cultural traits, cultural objects, and the like. The systems of
agriculture refer to the accepted and highly integrated "set of ideas,
culture traits, skills, techniques, practices, prejudices, and habits
employed by members of a given society for extracting a living
from the soil."2
In view of the importance of the concept, the present emphasis on
agricultural development in Brazil, and the significant changes in
agricultural practices now taking place in Minas Gerais, there can
remain no doubt as to the need for a study of the mechanized sys-
tem of agriculture in this region at the present time. Such a study
is important for several reasons. First, it demonstrates one of the
ways of selecting relevant data from the mass of data assembled in
the census of agriculture and of organizing them so as to provide
reliable bases for the drawing of inferences as to the importance of
the various systems of agriculture. Second, it provides insights into
the progress of agricultural development. Third, it permits compari-
sons between the headway being made in mechanization in Minas
Gerais and that thus far achieved in other important agricultural
regions of Brazil.
In addition to the above reasons, a careful review of the literature
reveals a definite scarcity of studies directly germane to the present
sociological analysis. For the most part, both those who pioneered
in the development of rural sociology and the writers of even the
most widely used texts failed to recognize the systematic nature of
the ways that man extracts a living from the soil.3 Furthermore, a
thorough search of the results of specific studies dealing with the
various aspects of the substitution of mechanical for animal power
on the farms of the nation and elsewhere-those published by agri-
cultural experiment stations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
2. Smith, Rural Life, p. 324
3. It appears that at least two of the pioneer rural sociologists perceived the
sociological implications of the variations in the manner in which rural people
secure products from the soil. See Charles J. Galpin, Rural Life, pp. 48-51; and
Paul L. Vogt, Introduction to Rural Sociology, pp. 35-45. Among textbook
writers, only Bertrand presented a summary of Smith's frame of reference. See
Alvin L. Bertrand, ed., Rural Sociology, pp. 192-95 and 401-2.
6 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
and in sociological and other professional journals-failed to un-
cover any use of the frame of reference employed by the writer,
save those contributed by T. Lynn Smith and his associates and
Thus, taking into consideration the sociological importance of
systems of agriculture pointed out above and the definite scarcity
of publications having relevance for this highly important aspect of
man-land relations, this study has a dual objective in keeping with
the best sociological traditions. It will add to the store of sociological
knowledge; and, if its findings are utilized by the Brazilian author-
ities and others interested in rural improvement, it may contribute
to the formulation of more effective programs of agricultural de-
4. See for example, Bryce Ryan, "The Agricultural Systems of Ceylon,"
Rural Sociology, pp. 18-33; Orlando Fals-Borda, El Hombre y la Tierra en
Boyacd: Bases Socio-Histdricas para una Reforma Agraria; John V. D. Saunders,
"Man-Land Relations in Ecuador," Rural Sociology, pp. 57-69; and Fuad Baali,
"Relationships of Man to the Land in Iraq," Rural Sociology, pp. 171-82.
2. Traditional systems of agriculture
in Minas Gerais
HE CASUAL TRAVELER, especially one accustomed to giving little
or no thought to the problems of the underprivileged in his
own society, might remain oblivious to the wide variations in
levels of living in the great cities of Brazil. However, should he
venture into the rural areas, it is extremely unlikely that he would
fail to note the unbelievably low standards and levels of living of
the Brazilian rural masses. It is fairly safe to assume that, upon re-
turning home, he would be apt to criticize the backwardness of the
The Importance of Agricultural Systems
Since the close of the Second World War, we have become ac-
customed to hearing the terms "backward," "underdeveloped," or
the less disparaging appellation "developing" applied to certain
countries in distinguishing them from others, such as the United
States, Canada, and those of northwestern Europe, where the levels
and standards of living are much higher. Explanations offered for
these differences have varied considerably, most of them involving
such factors as race, heredity, geographic environment, degree of
urbanization or of industrialization achieved, and so on. The one
8 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
mentioned last seems to be preferred by most nations lagging in
"development," since they tend to direct the greater part of their
attention, energy, and resources to this sector of the national econ-
omy, seemingly ignoring the fact that the largest portion of their
populations-that portion afflicted with the lowest levels and stand-
ards of living-is occupied in agriculture. It is precisely to the
agrarian sector of the economy that the attention of such nations
should be directed, since the development or lack of development
of agriculture is largely responsible for a country's classification as
"advanced" or "backward."
Three factors are generally responsible for variations in the level
of living of any people: (1) the quantity and quality of natural re-
sources available for exploitation, (2) the output per worker, and
(3) the manner of distributing the results of the productive process
among those who have had a share in it.1 Since, as a rule, most
countries have considerable unused resource potential, the output
per worker is of greater importance where elevation of levels and
standards of living is of prime concern. In fact, the handling of this
factor is largely responsible for the tremendous differences in levels
and standards of living that exist between the so-called "advanced"
and "developing" regions. Where primitive methods of agriculture
prevail, that is, where labor is used lavishly in the production
process and inputs of capital and management are relatively small,
productivity and output per worker are small and the average level
of living is low. On the other hand, where agriculture is mechanized,
where the essential economic elements-labor, capital, and manage-
ment-are more effectively combined in the productive process,
both agricultural productivity and output per worker are much
greater. Under these circumstances, if the product is at all equally
distributed, the general level of living tends to be high.
As long as labor is used with abandon and inputs of capital and
management are slight, the individual worker generally is a veritable
slave of the soil, a prey to unending conditions of poverty, hunger,
misery, and disease. His attention must be focused on mere sur-
vival. Only when capital and management contribute their fair
share to the productive process and manual labor is accorded dig-
nity and respect is the worker afforded the hope, means, and oppor-
tunity of moving up the socioeconomic scale, with a consequent
improvement in both standard and level of living.
1. T. Lynn Smith, The Sociology of Rural Life, 3rd ed., p. 26; and T. Lynn
Smith, Brazil: People and Institutions, 3rd ed., p. 201.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 9
One necessarily concludes that "differences in the basic agricul-
tural systems practiced by various peoples are the real key to an
understanding of the way in which the widely varying levels and
standards of living were generated and are perpetuated."2
The State of Minas Gerais quite obviously falls into the category
of a "developing" region where many forms and processes charac-
teristic of older systems of agriculture persist to the present day.
Traditionally conservative, many of the state's agriculturists continue
using methods of farming inherited from their forebears because
they are fearful of the consequences of change. Others cannot afford
to change because of the present high cost of improved equipment,
seeds, and fertilizers. Still others are quite unaware of the need for
and the advantages of change in both technology and equipment.
Many customary agricultural practices are effective, especially when
the topography of much of the state's area is considered, but many
others can be improved substantially.
The purpose of this chapter is to show the importance of the tra-
ditional systems of agriculture presently used by the people of
Minas Gerais in raising their food and fiber, to indicate as accurately
as possible the geographic distribution of the various systems within
the state, and to show how the state fits into the national picture.
As history and geography both have contributed to the present
situation, attention is directed from time to time to pertinent facts
relating to the early settlement and development of the region.
Classification of the Systems of Agriculture
Even casual observation of the rural scene in the various regions
of the world is sufficient to reveal that man uses a great variety of
implements and activities in order to extract a living from the soil.
These range from the very simple to the highly complex. Although
the utilization of such diverse farming methods had long been sug-
gestive of stages in the evolution of farming over the ages, it was
not until Smith, in 1953, proposed a classification of the various
systems of agriculture that some degree of order was achieved in
the seemingly chaotic sequences of agricultural development. His
classification, conceived within a strictly sociological frame of ref-
erence, is at once both practical and flexible.3 For purposes of dis-
cussion and study, he arranges the various systems of agriculture
into six types, in order of increasing complexity. But he does not
2. Smith, Rural Life, p. 326.
3. Ibid., p. 332.
10 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
maintain that every society must make use of each of these in se-
quential order. Indeed, since the size and complexity of the cultural
heritage are so largely a function of social contacts, it is not neces-
sary that all of the suggested types appear among any given people.
The proposed classification consists of: (1) riverbank planting; (2)
fire agriculture; (3) hoe culture; (4) elementary plow culture; (5)
advanced plow culture; and (6) mechanized farming. As agricul-
tural know-how improves and more efficient and less arduous ways
of wresting a living from the soil become available, the rural folk
need not-and indeed frequently do not-abandon summarily their
outmoded methods. This makes for the persistence of traditional
systems of agriculture in many of the world's developing regions,
including Minas Gerais.
It has been noted that the process of change from the more anti-
quated systems of agriculture, where labor is needlessly squandered
in the activities of preparing the soil, planting, cultivating, and har-
vesting the crops, to a mechanized system in which the energies of
the worker are released for other constructive activities, is by no
means rapid. Many of the more primitive practices continue since
cultural patterns are highly resistant to change once established
within a system of agriculture (or within any part of the man-made
environment, for that matter) and further bolstered by tradition. In
cases such as this the concept of "culture lag" continues to be of
importance, and social forms and processes are maintained long
after more efficient traits that would release man from needless
drudgery have become available.4
Importance and Geographic Distribution of
Traditional Systems of Agriculture
Traditional systems of agriculture continue to play an important
role in Minas Gerais. In fact, probably all the variations in man-
kind's systems of agriculture are now being employed within the
confines of the state. The farming situation, however, is far from
static. This is true despite the fact that this portion of the social
order is highly institutionalized. The value systems prevailing in the
rural communities of Minas Gerais are oriented to preserve existing
methods of farming, caring for livestock, and transporting farm
4. T. Lynn Smith, "Agricultural Systems and Standards of Living," Inter-
American Economic Affairs, p. 25. In Rural Life, pp. 600-601, Smith attributes
resistance to change to the segmented nature of rural society and to the un-
developed state of the systems of transportation and communication.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 11
equipment and produce, both on and off the farm. Yet many gov-
ernmental agencies, federal, state, and local, are intensely con-
cerned with the matter of improving agricultural techniques and
Before analyzing the mechanization of agriculture in Minas
Gerais, it seems essential to comment upon the importance of the
various traditional systems presently utilized in the state and to
point out the geographic distribution of each. Although the writer
would like to present a sharply defined picture, unfortunately only
an approximate portrayal of the actual situation is possible. This is
due largely to the fact that there are definite limits to the amount
of information that can be extracted from even the most detailed
reports of the modern census even though a wealth of information
is provided by the Brazilian agricultural and population censuses of
1920, 1940, and 1950.5
Characteristic of the problems encountered in this area of investi-
gation is the failure of the census of agriculture to assemble data
pertaining to reliance upon the ax and fire and the hoe in farming
activities. Again, while a tabulation of the number of plows in use
is available, the data are far from being adequate. Although those
of moldboard and disc types are reported, no distinction is made be-
tween the heavy wooden plow equipped with moldboard and drawn
by oxen, only a slight improvement over the old Egyptian variety,
and the steel turning plow, the central element in advanced plow
In spite of this, when properly arranged and processed, the Bra-
zilian census materials furnish much pertinent information which
provides the bases for valid inferences as to the approximate geo-
graphic arrangement within the state of the various farming meth-
ods. Furthermore, the validity of such inferences can be checked by
referring to the activities and reports of the federal and state agen-
cies engaged in the field of agricultural improvement and by making
personal observations in the course of intensive travel throughout
the rural sections of Minas Gerais. While it is possible to determine
the approximate distribution of the various traditional systems, it is
necessary to remember that pure examples of the use of any one
specific system are comparatively rare. The ideal type in this field
is no more common than it is in most other divisions of human
5. Unfortunately the final figures for the 1960 census are not yet available,
and such data as are provided by the various preliminary synopses are ex-
tremely limited in scope.
12 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
knowledge. Not infrequently the elements characteristic of one or
more systems are found interspersed within a third.
Riverbank Planting.-The first farming activity, quite likely only
a slight transition from the collecting stage that preceded it, began
when man (or more probably woman) learned to save some of the
seeds of edible plants and deposit them in a spot favorable to their
sprouting and growth. Possibly this was a riverbank, left soft, pli-
able, and covered with a deposit of silt by a receding stream. Plant-
ing seeds was easily accomplished merely by pressing them into the
soft and loamy soil with the foot or a stick. Thus, in this first system
of agriculture, designated riverbank planting, nature itself prepares
the soil to receive the seeds that man has learned to preserve from
a preceding harvest.
Although this most elementary method of farming is still used
extensively throughout the great Amazon basin of Brazil and prob-
ably played a fairly important role in the region presently compris-
ing Minas Gerais," riverbank planting is of little consequence in the
state today. The writer noticed small plantings of corn and rice
growing in the soft, moist earth around the rude huts of river fisher-
men built along the edge of the Rio Paranaiba in the Triangulo
region of the state. Undoubtedly there are other instances where the
banks of streams are utilized for subsistence crops to provide the
few items that comprise the limited diet of the rural folk.
Fire Agriculture.-While at times the most primitive form of agri-
culture might have been followed by the development of the dig-
ging stick or the hoe, the very ease of planting seeds in the soft soil
and ashes left from the burning of dried vegetation logically sug-
gests that fire agriculture might well have been the second step in
the evolution of farming techniques.
This method, practiced by the Indians of Brazil long before the
arrival of the first Portuguese settlers, was at once adopted by the
settlers and today forms an important part of the cultural heritage
of the Brazilian farmer.' Commonly termed derrubada e queimada
6. Di6gues notes that the streams of Brazil provided an opportunity for the
establishment of Indian settlements since the agricultural activities developed
on riverbanks. Manuel Di6gues Junior, Etnias e Culturas no Brasil, p. 19.
7. Smith, Brazil, p. 366, notes that this system is merely one of the com-
plexes, although a central one, in the pattern of living derived from the Indians.
Luis Amaral comments on the adoption of Indian farming methods and crops
by the white settlers in Histdria Geral de Agricultura Brasileira, p. 4. A Jesuit
padre writing in 1556 noted that the methods employed by the whites and
Indians were identical. See Serafim Leite, S.J., Hist6ria da Companhia de
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 13
in Brazil, it refers to the practice of clearing the tangled brush and
vines from a section of the forest by means of a machete, then felling
most of the larger trees with an ax. After the fallen mass has had a
chance to dry, it is set afire and all is consumed but the larger logs
and stumps. These activities are so timed that the burning is com-
pleted near the end of the dry season. When the rains begin shortly
thereafter, seeds are planted with the aid of the big toe, or perhaps
a digging stick or hoe, in the soft soil and wood ashes among the
charred logs and stumps. The crop grows rapidly and requires little
or no cultivation since the growth of weeds and grasses has been
largely eliminated by the fire.8 The cleared area can be used only
for a few crops before the second growth forces the abandonment
of the clearing and the farmer moves to another location and re-
peats the process.
Widely used throughout Brazil, this indigenous farming complex
is extremely wasteful of human labor and highly destructive of val-
uable forest reserves. Since an integral part of the system is the use
of the human head or back for the transportation of farm products
(although at times the pack animal or the canoe or raft may be
substituted), immense expenditures of human energy produce at
best only pitifully small amounts of products of the soil. It appears,
however, that in Minas Gerais this traditional system of agriculture
is favored not only by the itinerant farmer but by many large land-
owners as well. To the itinerant farmer, the use of fire is merely a
part of the only process he knows how to use in order to raise his
crops. To the large landowner, it is an inexpensive way of enlarg-
ing pastures since he allows the roceiro9 to grow small patches of
Jesus no Brasil, 1, p. 302, as quoted in Pericles Madueria de Pinho, Notas a
Margem do Problema Agrdrio, pp. 5-6. Oscar Schmieder also describes the
sharp stone ax used by the Indians of Brazil to make the clearings in which
they raised crops of manioc, corn, peanuts, and sweet potatoes in The Brazil-
ian Culture Hearth, p. 166.
8. Schmidt describes this process, terming it a traditional system of land
rotation as opposed to crop rotation. Carlos Borges Schmidt, "Substituigao de
Atividade Agricola em Fase no Esgotamento de Reservas de Solo," Boletim
Agricola, No. 1, p. 149. For a detailed description of this indigenous method of
farming and a clear explanation of its destructive effects, see Smith, Brazil,
9. In rural Brazil, the term roceiro refers to the person who makes the roca
or clearing devoted to fire agriculture. Speridido Faissol calls this method
agriculturea semi-itinerante," and describes the roceiro's planting of his sub-
sistence crop in the TriAngulo region as a prelude to the sowing of the cleared
area to pasture grasses in A Problema do Desenovolvimento Agricola do Sud-
este do Planalto Central do Brasil, pp. 8-10.
14 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
corn, beans, or manioc-of which he, the landlord, gets a share-in
return for sowing the area used to pasture grasses.
Great use is made of fire agriculture in Minas Gerais. The con-
stant repetition of this wasteful process for clearing the lands and
preparing the soil is accompanied by an almost incessant destruction
of the timber resources. Even the heavier brush is used for making
charcoal. All of this has so depleted the forest areas of the state
that the employment of derrubada e queimada has been curtailed
to an appreciable extent. It remains, however, a widespread method
of growing subsistence crops.
Alternate rows of pineapple and rice, a rather common sight in the TriAngulo.
In order to gain an idea of the present use and geographic dis-
tribution of fire agriculture in the state of Minas Gerais, one must
rely mostly on direct personal observation. This can be supple-
mented to a certain extent by noting the efforts of rural extension
workers and others engaged in farm-improvement services to dis-
courage the use of this destructive process.
One cannot travel far in Minas Gerais without encountering
either blackened fields with the new shoots appearing among the
untidy litter of charred debris, or the mature crops standing in the
midst of a tangle of logs and stumps. This writer saw many such
indications of the continuing use of fire-agricultural practices in al-
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 15
most all forested regions of the state, but they seemed to be most
prevalent in the valley bottoms of the TriAngulo area. While in this
region the system functions frequently as a prelude to the enlarge-
ment of pastures, it is used also in connection with commercial
farming. Rice, pineapple, cotton, and other commercial crops often
are planted on soils that have been prepared solely by the use of the
ax and fire.
Indicative of the extensive use of fire agriculture is the amount of
attention governmental publications give to the problem of its elimi-
nation.10 Large billboards urging the discontinuance of fire agricul-
ture have been erected along the highways in the state's farming
regions by the Minist6rio da Agricultura.11 Placards carrying the
same message are posted in prominent locations in almost every
small town and hamlet.
The persistence of this indigenous farming complex is ample
proof that it is deeply embedded in rural culture patterns.
Hoe Culture.-The use of the stick as an aid in planting seeds
10. Referring to the situation in the Triangulo region, Speridiao Faissol
condemns the system of land rotation with "its habitual derrubadas e quei-
madas, transformations of temporary cultivations into planted pastures, that
already has resulted in the devastation of two-thirds of the area originally in
forest" (p. 5). In a study of the tenure problems in the same region, the Inter-
American Committee for Agricultural Development (ICAD) reports "a pattern
of extensive cultivation in which fire agriculture is the widespread expression"
in Inventory of Basic Information for the Programming of Agricultural Develop-
ment in Latin America, p. 12. In considering the farming situation in south-
western Minas Gerais, Setzer urges landowners to abandon the use of fire and
to take steps to control the erosion which the wanton destruction of forest
cover has encouraged. Jos6 Setzer, A Natureza e as Possibilidades do Solo no
Vale do Rio Pardo entire os Municipios de Caconde, Sao Paulo, e Pocos de
Caldas, Minas Gerais, p. 312. An article by Sebastido Soares de Andrade and
Silvio de Magalhaes Carvalho, "Assegure seu Lucro Conservando o Solo,"
Realidade Rural, calls attention to the need for rational farming practices. It is
illustrated by photographs depicting the use of fire agriculture, with such cap-
tions as: "Oppressed by difficulties without the means of solving his problems,
the producer resorts to Fire!" and "With ax and fire, man prepares the way for
erosion." The AssociagAo de Cr6dito e Assist&ncia Rural (rural extension service
of Minas Gerais) recognizes the predilection of the farmer for fire agriculture as
one of the principal obstructions to the success of its work, stating that "as a
result of this attitude, the countryman, instead of being an agriculturist in the
common acceptance of the term, has become a despoiler of the natural re-
sources, constantly diminishing the productive capacity of the land and pre-
paring the way for the starvation of future generations" (Plano Diretor, Quin-
quinio, 1962-1966, p. 9). See also a warning issued by the SecretAria da Agri-
cultura of the state of Sio Paulo in O Fogo e os Seus Perigos, passim.
11. For example, a huge billboard near the city of Ouro Fino in south-
western Minas Gerais admonishes the farmer: "Put an End to Derrubada e
16 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
may have originated among the early peoples engaged in riverbank
planting or it may have started among those who hit upon the idea
of using fires to prepare the seedbed. On the other hand, it is pos-
sible that the thought of using a sharp stick occurred first to the
collectors of edible wild tubers. At any rate it appears obvious that
the hoe evolved from the digging stick, fashioned by attaching a
blade of bone or of some other durable material to the end of the
original crude implement.
While the digging stick was used quite commonly by the Indians
of Brazil, it would seem that none of them independently developed
the improved type, as did the Incas of Peru and the Chibchas of the
Colombian Andes,12 nor did they borrow it from others before the
arrival of the first settlers.
In many parts of the world, including Portugal, the hoe was the
basic implement in a system of agriculture designated as hoe cul-
ture. Transplanted from Portugal and used consistently by the Portu-
guese planters and their descendants, large metal hoes, along with
the ax and billhook, remain the principal instruments employed to-
day by the greater portion of the workers comprising Brazil's rural
Again Minas Gerais proves no exception. The agricultural pro-
duction of the state depends largely upon the hoe, and the parsi-
monious use of machines, either motor or animal powered, continues
to be one of the distinguishing characteristics of Mineiro agriculture.
In traveling through the southern and most densely populated por-
tions of the state, at dawn and at dusk one sees groups of agricul-
tural laborers with hoes or billhooks on their shoulders going to or
returning from a long day's work in the fields. The steepness of the
slopes often hinders the use of the ox team, and where angles are
extreme all labor must be of the backbreaking variety. Furrows
quite consistently run downhill. They follow the contour of the
land only where an individual farmer has been contacted personally
by rural extension personnel and persuaded of the benefits of con-
12. Smith calls attention to the highly developed digging stick used by the
Incas, as sketched by Guaman Poma, a Peruvian artist and writer of the six-
teenth century (reproduced in Bulletin 143 of the Bureau of American Eth-
nology, 1946, II, pp. 213-14); see Rural Life, p. 337. Fals-Borda speaks of the
continued use today of the wooden hoes of the Chibchas of Colombia. Orlando
Fals-Borda, "A Sociological Study of the Relationships Between Man and the
Land in the Department of Boyaci, Colombia," dissertation, p. 210.
13. Smith, however, comments on the failure of the hoe, even today, to
supplant entirely the ax and the fire in the raising of subsistence crops in
Brazil. Brazil, p. 372.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 17
tour plowing, or when an occasional owner-operator has had the
advantage of agricultural college training. Where furrows run down-
hill, the worker usually straddles the row to weed or to hoe the row.
When crops are more mature he works from one side. Contoured
rows always are worked from the lower side. It is common to see
groups of twenty, thirty, or more people hoeing a large field. Fre-
quently entire families are so engaged.
The cultivation of the state's most important commercial crops
(rice, corn, beans, coffee, sugarcane, manioc, bananas, tobacco, and
potatoes) relies heavily upon hand labor. Here also the hoe is the
most consistently employed implement, supplemented at times by
Harvesting peanuts by hand: An example of excessive use of hand labor.
the pick or the mattock. This is particularly true of the densely pop-
ulated southern region, the old coffee-producing area, where the
essential features of hoe culture function as the dominant system of
agriculture. In fact, taking the state as a whole, hoe culture and
elementary plow culture are the two systems of agriculture most
widely utilized today by the agriculturists of Minas Gerais.
This is supported by quantitative data drawn from the Brazilian
census of agriculture. The most pertinent of these were assembled
and the necessary computations were made. The resulting informa-
tion is presented here in a series of tables that permit a study of the
relative importance and distribution of hoe culture within the state.
Table 1 indicates that in 1950 almost four-fifths of all the state's
establecimentos, or agropastoral units, regardless of size, were de-
18 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
pendent solely upon human energy for the performance of all the
work on the farm (with the exception of transportation which was
not taken into consideration by the census). Only on holdings of
200 to 5,000 hectares in size did as many as two out of five farmers
utilize any source of power other than human energy in accomplish-
ing such tasks as clearing the land, preparing the soil, and cultivat-
ing and harvesting the crops. However, the major share of all the farm
workers, including the parceiros or sharecroppers, were not em-
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUARIOS
IN MINAS GERAIS REPORTING NO POWER EXCEPT MANPOWER,
BY SIZE, 1950
Size of Number of Establecimentos Dependent
Establecimentos Establecimentos Solely upon Manpower
(in hectares) Number Per Cent
Less than 5 25,533 24,653 97
5 to less than 10 26,108 24,376 93
10 to less than 20 39,774 35,294 89
20 to less than 50 67,127 55,106 82
50 to less than 100 42,129 30,658 73
100 to less than 200 30,267 19,508 64
200 to less than 500 22,260 12,835 58
500 to less than 1,000 7,249 4,180 58
1,000 to less than 5,000 4,700 2,774 59
5,000 to less than 10,000 289 219 76
10,000 or more 120 91 76
TOTAL 265,556 209,694 79
Source: Compiled and computed from data in "Censo Agricola," VI Recen-
seamento Geral do Brasil, Estado de Minas Gerais, 1950, Vol. XXI, Tomo 2
(Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, 1955), p. 6.
played on these larger places which depended least upon the arm
and back of man as a source of power, but on the smaller holdings.14
It would appear, therefore, that an extremely large proportion of
the families of Minas Gerais who gained a livelihood from the soil
are dependent exclusively upon the hoe. Furthermore, more than
three-quarters of the largest establecimentos, those of 5,000 or
more hectares in area, neither had horses, mules, oxen, tractors, or
other mechanical aids, nor did they use either animal or mechanical
equipment belonging to others.
Unfortunately the census of agriculture provides no tabulations
14. Only 41.2 per cent of these people were working on the larger agro-
pastoral units, according to "Censo Agricola," VI Recenseamento Geral do
Brasil, Estado de Minas Gerais, 1950, Vol. XXI, Tomo 2, Tables 9-10, pp. 11-
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 19
for the various regions of the state which permit a cross-tabulation
of the use of power of various kinds in farming operations and the
size of the agropastoral unit. It is possible, however, as in Table 2,
to show for each of the state's physiographic zones,15 the number
and proportion of the establishments of all sizes that are solely de-
pendent upon human energy. The compilations derived from the
census reports do not neatly delineate the regional distribution of
hoe culture; but, referring to Table 2 and the endleaves, one may
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUARIOS
IN MINAS GERAIS REPORTING NO POWER EXCEPT MANPOWER,
BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1950
Physiographic Number of Establecimentos Dependent
Zones Establecimentos Solely upon Manpower
Number Per Cent
Murcuri 20,845 20,710 99
Rio Doce 28,489 26,803 92
Mata 88,245 26,768 70
Itacambira 13,232 13,057 99
Alto Jequitinhonha 15,613 15,250 98
Metalirgica 20,261 12,312 61
Alto M&dio Sao Francisco 13,185 13,015 99
Alto Sao Francisco 5,532 3,872 70
Oeste 27,653 17,113 62
Sul 54,699 41,631 76
Urucuia 3,673 3,431 93
Alto Paranaiba 12,805 8,539 67
TriAngulo 11,327 7,696 68
TOTAL 265,559 209,697 79
Source: Pages 98-105 of source for Table 1.
see that on the establishments of four of the northern and north-
eastern zones (those of Alto M6dio Sao Francisco, Itacambira, Alto
Jequitinhonha, and Murcuri) human toil is almost unaided by the
use of o:x, mule, horse, tractor, or any other source of power. The
agropastoral units in these areas are closely rivaled in this respect by
those of the contiguous zones of Urucuia to the west and Rio Doce
to the e;ast. Reliance upon handwork in these areas is, of course,
15. Physiographic zones are regional divisions of the state, constructed for
statistical purposes according to a number of criteria that are largely geographi-
cal. They are of varying size and are made up of a varying number of
municipios or counties. See Minas Gerais, Boletim Geogrdfico, Ano 1, No. 1,
1 Mldio Baixo Jequitinhonha
2 Medio Jequitinhonha
4 Rio Doce
7 Alto Jequitinhonha
9 Campos da Mantiqueira Mineira
12 Alto Medio SAo Francisco
13 Months Claros
14 Alto SBo Francisco
16 Paranaiba-Rio Grande (Alto Paranaiba)
.. .. .. ..
. . .
. . .
.. .... .. ..
......... .... ...
. . . ..
.......... ..... .
. . ..
. . . . ..
. . . . . ...
. . . . .
. . .
. . .
Persons per Tractor
S1,200 and over
I No tractors
Fig. 1. Variations in Persons per Tractor Engaged in Agriculture
in Minas Gerais, by Municipio, 1960
22 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
due largely to the preponderance of large-scale landholdings spe-
cializing in the production of beef cattle. While this does not neces-
sarily exclude such establishments from participation in agricultural
activities, farming as such is decidedly minimal, especially in the
greater part of the Alto M6dio Sdo Francisco. This regional di-
vision is largely an area commonly referred to as the sertio, being
semi-arid. Many portions of the contiguous zones in northern Minas
Gerais are similar.
An analysis of the data in Table 2 and reference to Figure 1 indi-
cate that dependence solely upon human energy is at its minimum
Home built with assistance of ACAR by farmer elevating himself above sub-
on the farms of the southern and western parts of the state. In these
areas from 30 to 40 per cent of the establecimentos have other
sources of energy to strengthen the hand of the worker in the per-
formance of his daily tasks. Thus, for example, in the Zona Meta-
hirgica, 7,906 (39 per cent) of the 20,261 places enumerated have
draft animals to aid in farm work; in the Zona do TriAngulo, out of
11,327 farms, 3,418 reported the use of animal power and 202 the
use of both animal and mechanical force in connection with agri-
On at least three or four out of every ten establishments in the
southern and western zones the farmer and farm workers are af-
forded at least some degree of relief from the drudgery of manual
labor so common on the vast majority of Brazilian farms. This may
be attributed largely to the work of the state extension service or
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 23
ACAR.16 The rural populations of these zones were among the first
contacted by the agents of ACAR in their efforts to improve not only
agricultural production but the standard and level of living of the
state's rural masses. Much of the improvement in these regions is to
be attributed as well to the Rural University of the State of Minas
Gerais in Vigosa17 and to the Presbyterian Agricultural College in
Lavras which is now a state institution. Nor should one overlook,
especially in the Triangulo of Minas Gerais, the considerable in-
fluence of the rational farming practices characteristic of neighbor-
ing Sto Paulo.
The rural people of the southern and western zones-operating
holdings that very often have been excessively subdivided by inheri-
tance-include many who come close to qualifying as middle-class
farmers, despite the fact that the great majority have neither ma-
chinery nor even wooden plows.
When one considers that in 1950 from two-thirds to three-quarters
of the rural establishments in the better developed regions (the
Zona do TriAngulo and the Zona Sul) still depended solely upon
manpower, it is quite obvious that the great bulk of the farm fam-
ilies of Minas Gerais are still, at best, in the hoe cultivation stage of
existence. Therefore, it is unlikely that the 1960 census data, when
they eventually do become available, will show any substantial
change in the situation.
Elementary Plow Culture.-The fourth step in mankind's agri-
cultural development involved substituting animal for human power.
It helped to free man from some of the drudgery previously associ-
ated with farming. Of unknown origin, the crude wooden plow,
fitted at times with a metal point, evolved probably from a forked
branch that could be manipulated by two persons. It was already a
16. The Associacgo de Cr6dito e Assist&ncia Rural (ACAR) was founded in
1948 as a result of an agreement between the state of Minas Gerais and the
American International Association (AIA). This proved to be the first successful
state extension service in Brazil and served as an inspiration and pattern for the
organization of fifteen other state extension services between 1954 and 1964,
all affiliated with the federal extension service system, Associaglo Brasileira de
Cr6dito e Assistencia Rural (ABCAR).
17. A program of Agricultural Extension and Home Economics was estab-
lished in Minas Gerais in 1951 through an agreement between the United States
Department of Agriculture and the Universidade Rural do Estado de Minas
Gerais (UREMG) in Vicosa. With the assistance of specialists and technicians of
Purdue University who by contract are serving on the staff, the Rural Univer-
sity has developed into a typical land-grant college, engaged in the three fields
of agricultural teaching, research, and extension. The contract with Purdue
University has been expanded several times in recent years.
24 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
common implement in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia at the very
dawn of history."' Highly inefficient by comparison with its light
modern counterpart, the crude rooting implement is the central trait
in the farming complex designated as elementary plow culture.
Other important elements of the complex are the use of oxen as
draft animals and the two-wheeled, wooden oxcart.
Strangely this rudimentary form of plow culture was not taken as
a functioning system to Brazil even though it was highly developed
on the Iberian Peninsula and transported to the new world by the
Elementary plow culture in the Southeast, near Carangola.
Spaniards. It seems that in the process of diffusion, the central ele-
ment of the complex, the actual wooden plow itself, was somehow
eliminated."1 Hence, hoe culture and the use of the cumbersome,
two-wheeled oxcart were the principal legacies of the mother coun-
try to her Brazilian colonists. While many Brazilian scholars long
18. The discovery of a small clay tablet by members of a 1949-50 expedi-
tion (sponsored jointly by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania) indicates that
the plow was used in the ancient Sumerian site of Nippur as early as 1700 B.c.
Interesting, too, is the fact that it was equipped with a seeder that permitted
the simultaneous operations of plowing and planting. See Samuel Noah Kramer,
History Begins at Sumer, pp. 65-69.
19. Smith expresses wonder at the strange omission, Brazil, p. 376. The
arrival of the oxcart in the first half of the sixteenth century, however, is men-
tioned frequently in early documents. See Bernardino Jos6 de Souza, Ciclo do
Carro de Bois, pp. 103-4.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 25
had recognized the need for improved farming implements includ-
ing the plow,20 the farmers of Brazil remained almost entirely
dependent upon hoe culture and the even more primitive agricul-
tural practices of the natives throughout the greater part of the
nation's history. The European immigrant farmers who arrived to-
ward the end of the nineteenth century were largely responsible
for the introduction of advanced plow culture.
In Minas Gerais today, the plow in most general use is a heavy
wooden device drawn by two, four, or six oxen. Commonly it is
equipped with a moldboard. It requires the expenditure of much
more human energy than is generally the case with the light steel
turning plow since three or four persons usually are engaged in
managing the oxen and holding the implement itself. While it falls
into the category of labor-saving farm implements, being preferable
to the hoe and human muscle, this instrument is in reality merely
an improved version of the elementary plow. Although considerably
further up the evolutionary scale, it remains part of the rudimentary
system in which the power is supplied by oxen.
As is stressed below, the horse and mule seldom are used as draft
animals in the older farming areas of the state.21 Even in the Tri-
angulo where they are in more general use, it is still common to use
oxen to pull the disc plow. Throughout the state, the writer noticed
that many of the apparently successful farmers, even those whose
neighbors already were making use of modern agricultural equip-
ment including the tractor, were continuing with the wooden plow
and the awkward, lumbering oxen on their relatively level holdings.
While conceding that their sons very likely would abandon the old
familiar ways, they expressed a strong personal preference for their
traditional farming practices and equipment.
The census data provide no statewide bases for identifying the
20. Note Smith's citation of Jos6 Bonifacio's advocacy of the plow in the
Constitutional Assembly of 1832 as a means of improving Brazilian agriculture,
Brazil, p. 378. In Minas Gerais, interest in the plow was stimulated by a dem-
onstration of plowing at Itambacuri (Zona Murcuri) in 1907 by a Capuchin
friar, Vicente de Licodia. It so impressed the governor of the state that he aided
in the establishment of an agricultural school in that municipio. See P. Fr.
Jacinto de Palazzol, O.F.M. Cap., Nas Selvas dos Vales do Murcuri e do Rio
Doce: Como Surgii a Cidade de Itambacuri, pp. 278-79.
21. Resistance to change has been very great. Twenty years ago the Minis-
t6rio da Agricultura urged the use of mules, and the Rural University of Minas
Gerais suggested the use of burros for planting and cultivating because of their
greater agility and speed. See Erly D. Brandao, AdministraCdo da Fazenda Con-
tabilidade Agricola, p. 37.
26 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
system of plow culture in use, so one must depend upon painstaking
observation in the field. An exception to this is for the Triangulo
region, where almost 90 per cent of the plows reported in 1950 were
of the disc type, where horses and mules were used more generally
as draft animals, and where tractors were coming into use. On the
other hand, even though 10 per cent of the plows enumerated for
the state were of the disc variety, it is known from observation that
even these frequently are drawn by the clumsily moving oxen.22
Modem machine for cutting grass for milk cows on a mechanized dairy farm
in the TriAngulo.
The writer, after more than five months' careful observation of
the rural scene in all of the state's physiographic zones, is convinced
that the modern, horse-drawn steel plow is not used in most parts
of the state. Although advanced plow culture is not entirely lacking,
elementary plow culture occupies a position of vastly greater im-
portance throughout the region.
This conclusion is supported by quantitative data provided by
the agricultural census of 1950. These materials also indicate the
22. The paucity of modern plows in Brazil is indicated in a recent study
which states that the majority of the 1,031,930 plows reported for Brazil in the
1960 census of agriculture are "wooden frames with steel shovels." The Inter-
American Committee for Agricultural Development, Land Tenure Conditions
and Socio-Economic Development of the Agricultural Sector-Brazil, p. 17.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 27
overwhelming extent to which the state's agropastoral units, both
large and small, are solely dependent upon human energy for the
performance of farm tasks. Some of the most pertinent data and the
necessary computations have been assembled in Tables 3 through 6.
The data listed in Table 3 indicate the relative importance and
distribution of elementary plow culture in the various regions of the
state. For example, where farming as such is least important, that is
among the establecimentos of the northern and northeastern physio-
The only fully mechanized farm in one municipio was found to be operated by
this caboclo family who did custom plowing on the larger holdings of their
graphic zones (see Figure 1 for the location of the zones), few
operators use animal power in the performance of their tasks. On the
other hand, throughout the zones where the establishments are more
concerned with agriculture proper, there is generally a greater utili-
zation made of animal power and, consequently, of elementary plow
culture. However, even among the various southern and western
zones where farmers utilize draft animals rather marked differentials
in their use are to be noted (Table 3). It appears that animal power
is least utilized in farm work on the agropastoral units of the Zona
Sul and the Zona da Mata in the south of Minas Gerais where
greater reliance is placed on human energy and hoe culture gains in
28 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
importance. Here, some of the larger operators, those with more
suitable terrain, often use a combination of animal and mechanical
power, and frequently those who have tractors work not only their
own land but on a contract basis that of their neighbors as well.
The same tabulation indicates that elementary plow culture achieves
its greatest importance on the establecimentos of the Zona Meta-
liurgica and the Zona Oeste. In these areas the individual properties
tend to be large, the valleys are generally long and broad, and the
mountain slopes are gradual. Such factors favor the use of the ox-
drawn plow. Both of the westernmost zones, the Alto Paranaiba and
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUARIOS
IN MINAS GERAIS REPORTING THE USE OF ANIMAL POWER,
BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1950
Physiographic Number of Establecimentos Using
Zones Establecimentos Animal Power
Number Per Cent
Murcuri 20,845 124 0.6
Rio Doce 28,489 2,164 7.6
Mata 38,245 11,353 29.7
Itacambira 13,232 174 1.3
Alto Jequitinhonha 15,613 363 2.3
Metalirgica 20,261 7,906 39.0
Alto M6dio Sao Francisco 13,185 164 1.2
Alto Sao Francisco 5,532 1,648 29.8
Oeste 27,653 10,513 38.0
Sul 54,699 12,949 23.7
Urucuia 3,673 242 6.6
Alto Paranaiba 12,805 4,231 33.0
TriAngulo 11,327 3,418 30.2
TOTAL 265,559 55,249 20.9
Source: Pages 98-105 of source for Table 1.
especially the TriAngulo, are fairly level and hence suitable for both
plow culture and mechanization. Therefore it is not surprising that
the census data show that both have developed in these sections of
the state. As a result, in these two regions elementary plow culture
is less important relatively than it is in most of the other zones.
The next tabulation, Table 4, was prepared for the purpose of
showing the number and proportion of establecimentos of all sizes
reporting the possession of plows. The data in this table substantiate
the conclusion just stated. They also indicate rather clearly and con-
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 29
clusively that the plow culture relied upon in the farming regions of
the state quite definitely is that designated as elementary plow cul-
ture. Thus a comparison of the proportions of agropastoral units us-
ing animal power (Table 3) with the proportions of those reporting
the possession of plows (Table 4) shows a very high degree of
Table 5 was designed to show the extent to which the use of the
elementary plow changes with variations in the size of the agro-
pastoral units. The larger the holding, up to those comprising 5,000
hectares, the lower the proportion of operators who rely exclusively
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUARIOS
IN MINAS GERAIS REPORTING THE POSSESSION OF PLOWS,
BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1950
Physiographic Number of Establecimentos Reporting
Zones Establecimentos Plows
Number Per Cent
Murcuri 20,845 101 0.5
Rio Doce 28,489 2,196 7.7
Mata 38,245 11,612 30.4
Itacambira 13,232 173 1.3
Alto Jequitinhonha 15,613 366 2.3
Metalhirgica 20,261 7,807 38.5
Alto M6dio SLo Francisco 13,185 95 0.7
Alto Slo Francisco 5,532 1,674 30.3
Oeste 27,653 10,554 38.2
Sul 54,699 13,030 23.8
Urucuia 3,673 241 6.6
Alto Paranaiba 12,805 4,157 32.5
Triangulo 11,327 3,363 29.7
TOTAL 265,559 55,369 20.9
Source: Pages 178-93 of source for Table 1.
upon the hoe or other hand-operated tools. The least dependence
upon handwork is on establishments of 1,000 to 5,000 hectares. Be-
yond that point it appears that the operator is either more parsi-
monious with his capital or more concerned with stock raising and
possibly less inclined to improve his pastures.
Additional evidence of the relatively strong position of the sys-
tem of elementary plow culture, as opposed to that of advanced
plow culture, is presented in Table 6. This material deals with the
use of the two-wheeled oxcart on the establecimentos of Minas
Gerais. These data indicate that the use of the oxcart is even more
30 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
widespread than is that of the wooden plow. This crude cart seems
to be used to a considerable extent even in such zones as Urucuia,
Alto M6dio Sao Francisco, and Itacambira where the operators of
agropastoral units tend to take little interest in the plow itself (see
Table 4). Furthermore, in ten of the thirteen physiographic zones
there was in 1950 an average of more than forty oxcarts for every
one hundred farms. Such general acceptance of an important feature
of the elementary plow culture complex emphasizes the importance
of this traditional system of agriculture in Minas Gerais.
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUAnIOS
IN MINAS GERAIS REPORTING THE POSSESSION OF PLOWS,
BY SIZE, 1950
Size of Number of Establecimentos Reporting
Establecimentos Establecimentos Plows
(in hectares) Number Per Cent
Less than 5 25,533 775 3
5 to less than 10 26,108 1,589 6
10 to less than 20 39,774 4,248 11
20 to less than 50 67,127 11,704 17
50 to less than 100 42,129 11,295 27
100 to less than 200 30,267 10,728 35
200 to less than 500 22,260 9,510 43
500 to less than 1,000 7,249 3,243 45
1,000 to less than 5,000 4,700 2,151 46
5,000 to less than 10,000 289 88 30
10,000 or more 120 38 32
TOTAL 265,556 55,369 21
Source: Pages 16-17 of source for Table 1.
Advanced Plow Culture.-Gradual improvement in farming even-
tually culminated in the development of a fifth system of agriculture
markedly superior to that of elementary plow culture. Smith has
stated that while northwestern Europe was the scene of the begin-
ning of this slow process many of the fundamental improvements
were made in the United States.2" This occurred not in the planta-
tion South, which so closely resembles Brazil with its system of
large-scale agriculture that rather effectively has restricted the
operation of the agricultural ladder, but in those sections that were
dominated by a middle-class society based on the family-sized farm.
23. See Smith, Brazil, p. 376. In Rural Life, p. 347, Smith calls attention to
the important contribution of Thomas Jefferson in working out the mathematics
of the turning plow and to that of John Deere in constructing the first steel
plow that would scour.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 31
Long associated with the nobility, the role of the horse shifted by
degrees to that of a riding and carriage animal for the general citi-
zenry and a draft animal for the farming population. The use of
the horse as a draft animal was possible only when the collar re-
placed the breast strap. Finally, improvements in the plow itself re-
sulted in the development of the modern implement that could
lightly cut and turn the earth. In addition to the light steel plow,
the horse collar, and the use of horses and mules as draft animals,
NUMBER OF OXCARTS ON THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUkRIOS
OF MINAS GERAIS, BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1950
Zones Number Number per 100
Murcuri 782 3.7
Rio Doce 4,962 17.4
Mata 15,867 41.5
Itacambira 5,316 40.2
Alto Jequitinhonha 1,700 10.5
Metalhrgica 6,164 30.4
Alto M6dio Sao Francisco 6,143 46.6
Alto Sao Francisco 2,560 46.8
Oeste 12,827 46.4
Sul 15,935 29.1
Urucuia 2,007 54.6
Alto Paranaiba 6,105 47.7
TriAngulo 4,207 31.1
TOTAL 84,575 31.9
Source: Pages 170-77 of source for Table 1.
the four-wheeled farm wagon is another of the chief elements of
advanced plow culture.
It is only in the southern states of Brazil, among the descendants
of the German and Polish immigrant farmers, that the system of
advanced plow culture is firmly established. In fact, the moderniza-
tion of the nation's agriculture has proceeded at an agonizingly slow
pace,24 with Brazilian farmers clinging tenaciously to their largely
indigenous ways of working the land. Hence, the central feature of
the system, the modern steel plow, is a comparative rarity in the
greater part of the country, including the state of Minas Gerais.
24. Smith attributes this to two facts, noted previously: Portugal's elementary
plow culture was not transplanted as a functioning unit to Brazil; and Brazilian
farm operators, traditionally a prestigious class, have failed to participate in the
32 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
Since the Brazilian census of agriculture provides no data that re-
fer explicitly to the use made of advanced plow culture, great re-
liance must be placed on personal observation in determining the
importance and distribution of this improved system of agriculture.
It is possible, however, to utilize certain census materials which
permit inferences as to the extent of its adoption by the operators
of agropastoral units. This has been done in Table 7 which shows
the number of animal-drawn vehicles, other than the oxcart, that
NUMBER OF ANIMAL-DRAWN VEHICLES, OTHER THAN OXCARTS,
ON ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUARIOS OF MINAS GERAIS,
BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1950
Physiographic Animal-Drawn Vehicles
Zones (other than oxcarts)
Number Number per 100
Murcuri 114 0.5
Rio Doce 308 1.1
Mata 3,271 8.5
Itacambira 33 0.2
Alto Jequitinhonha 38 0.2
Metal6rgica 2,133 10.5
Alto M6dio Sao Francisco 220 1.7
Alto SLo Francisco 1,111 20.1
Oeste 728 2.6
Sul 5,752 10.5
Urucuia 20 0.5
Alto Paranaiba 860 6.7
TriAngulo 2,381 21.0
TOTAL 16,969 6.4
Source: Pages 170-77 of source for Table 1.
are used on the establecimentos in each of the state's physiographic
zones. Thus, in the zones of the Alto Sao Francisco and the Tri-
angulo, more than twenty such vehicles were to be found on every
one hundred agropastoral units in 1950. While in both these regions,
especially in the latter, the use of the four-wheeled farm wagon is
becoming more common, another horse-drawn conveyance is per-
haps of far more importance. This is the carrete, a two-seated, two-
actual farm work, Brazil, p. 378. Sternberg agrees that animal power for tillage,
planting, and harvesting is not at all generally used and that the plow, however
primitive, is virtually unknown in many major sections of the country. Hilgarde
O'Reilly Sternberg, "Agriculture and Industry in Brazil," The Geographical
Journal, p. 494.
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 33
wheeled buggy drawn by a single horse. It is used not only for
carrying the farmer and his family but as a means of transporting
farm products and equipment. For the latter purpose, its construc-
tion is altered somewhat to allow for the hauling of rather bulky
items, such as milk cans, sacks of grain, and so on. The possession
of horse-drawn rather than ox-drawn equipment is significant in
that it indicates a penetration of at least some of the principal fea-
tures of advanced plow culture into a region otherwise dominated
by more primitive systems of farming.
The writer traveled extensively throughout the region for the pur-
pose of making direct personal observations. He visited farming and
pastoral units of varying size, noted the farming practices employed,
and discussed farm operation with individual operators. He found
that the use of advanced plow culture was decidedly minimal
throughout Minas Gerais. Various features of the complex are en-
countered in the farming areas of the main portion of the state,
perhaps with somewhat greater frequency in the eastern sections
beginning along the Rio Doce. However, it is only in the panhandle
region, the Triangulo Mineiro, that the horse, along with the modern
plow, the planter or seeder, and the cultivator, is used at all
widely. This, of course, is not meant to imply that advanced plow
culture is by any means general even in this section. Rather, the
knowledge and application of some of its principal elements are en-
countered more frequently than they are elsewhere in the state.
This area, consisting of relatively level uplands, is already one of
Brazil's most important crop and livestock regions. Initially sur-
prised at the evidence of attention given to soil-conservation prac-
tices, the writer found the attitudes of many of the landowners and
operators decidedly untraditional. Whether they live on the property
or not, they tend to take more active interest in farming and ranch-
ing operations. A large proportion appears quite ready to consider
and adopt improved methods and equipment. Furthermore, small
operators and even sharecroppers frequently own horses, plows,
planters, and cultivators. In this region, traversed by the paved Sao
Paulo-Brasilia highway and relatively isolated from the rest of Minas
Gerais by as yet unpaved roads, the influence of Paulista farming is
25. William H. Nicholls of Vanderbilt University and Ruy Miller Paiva of
the Fundagao Getilio Vargas also noted in the same region a high degree of
acceptance and application of improved technology in both farming and stock-
raising operations. "Structure and Productivity of Brazilian Agriculture," type-
script, p. 35.
34 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
How Minas Gerais Fits into the National Picture
As has been shown, the systems of agriculture in Minas Gerais
are characterized by outmoded ways of wresting a livelihood from
the soil. It now is of interest to see how the situation in this state
fits into the national agricultural mosaic.
With respect to the elementary systems of agriculture of indige-
nous derivation-those of riverbank planting and fire agriculture-
Minas Gerais differs little from most of the other political divisions
of the nation. This is indicated in a very recent criticism of the status
NUMBERS AND PROPORTIONS OF THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUARIOS
IN BRAZIL REPORTING NO POWER EXCEPT MANPOWER BEING USED,
BY SIZE, 1950
Size of Number of Establecimentos Dependent
Establecimentos Establecimentos Solely upon Manpower
(in hectares) Number Per Cent
Less than 5 458,676 480,921 94
5 to less than 10 252,258 200,450 80
10 to less than 20 845,185 225,166 65
20 to less than 50 488,044 299,234 61
50 to less than 100 219,328 145,797 67
100 to less than 200 131,462 89,302 68
200 to less than 500 99,599 66,795 67
500 to less than 1,000 37,098 24,384 66
1,000 to less than 5,000 28,524 18,791 66
5,000 to less than 10,000 2,493 1,719 69
10,000 or more 1,611 1,206 75
TOTAL 2,064,278 1,503,765 73
Source: Compiled and computed from data in "Censo Agricola," VI Recen-
seamento Geral do Brasil, 1950, Vol. II (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Brasileiro de
Geografia e Estatistica, 1956), p. 6.
of Brazilian agriculture as a whole by a distinguished Brazilian
scholar: "Instead of crop rotation, shifting agriculture was adopted
and has remained dominant to this day inhibiting customs
and attitudes and an unsound institutional framework (i.e., large
estates and extensive agriculture) still prevent the full application
of available agricultural technology to the major part of Brazilian
As regards the most improved farming methods, the Brazilian
census of agriculture provides some of the quantitative data needed
for a study of the relative importance of the state's agriculture as
26. Hilgarde O'Reilly Sternberg, "Brazil: Complex Giant," Foreign Affairs,
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 35
compared to that of the other political divisions of Brazil. A few of
the most pertinent of these data are assembled in Tables 8 and 9.
Table 8 shows the number and proportions of all Brazilian es-
tablecimentos of all sizes that reported the use of no energy except
that supplied by human beings in the performance of farm work in
1950. In this respect, the agropastoral units of Minas Gerais compare
somewhat unfavorably with those of the nation (compare Table 1).
A larger proportion of the state's farms relied solely upon human
energy than was true of Brazil as a whole. This is largely because
of the greater importance of hoe culture in the state than in the
nation. The data in Table 8 also re-emphasize the chronic reluctance
of the operators of large estates throughout Brazil to make use of
labor-saving equipment in their agropastoral operations.
In Table 9 are shown for 1950 the proportions of the nation's
establecimentos that were dependent solely upon manpower, those
that made some use of animal power, and those that reported the
possession of plows. The materials in column 1 indicate that the
overwhelming dependence of Brazilian farm operators upon hand
labor (as revealed in Table 8) is by no means confined to a few
areas. Except for the southern region of the country, it was (and is)
Other data assembled in column 2 reveal startling differentials
in the use of animal power. They indicate that only among the es-
tablecimentos of the southern states are labor-saving implements
utilized to any appreciable extent. Human labor is accorded its
fullest recognition and dignity on the farms of Rio Grande do Sul,
where the majority of the farmers (about 85 per cent) make use of
draft animals, thus helping to relieve the agricultural worker of
much of the drudgery that has been his traditional lot. Although
Minas Gerais falls far short of these southern states in availing it-
self of animal power in farm work and even somewhat short of the
national average (which is heavily influenced by the southern pro-
portions), it still ranks sixth among all Brazilian states and terri-
The data included in column 3 show how Minas Gerais fares in
comparison to the other Brazilian states in regard to the plows re-
ported by agriculturists. In this respect the agricultural situation
of the state is similar to that noted previously in regard to its use of
animal power in farming activities. The plow is more widely em-
ployed on the farms of the southern states; however, in this case,
Minas Gerais occupies fifth place in the nation and is somewhat
36 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
PROPORTIONS OF ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECURIOS IN BRAZIL SOLELY
DEPENDENT UPON MANPOWER, USING ANIMAL POWER, AND
DECLARING POSSESSION OF PLOWS, BY STATES
AND TERRITORIES, 1950
Number of (1) (2) (3)
Establecimentos Percentage Percentage Percentage
Dependent Using Declaring
Solely on Animal Possession
Manpower Power of Plows
Brazil 2,064,642 72.9 26.9 23.4
Rond6nia (Guapor6)" 530 98.9 0.6 1.3
Acre 1,701 98.2 1.6 0.7
Amazonas 15,220 99.6 0.4 0.1
Rio Branco" 445 91.7 8.1 5.8
ParA 59,877 98.0 2.0 0.2
AmapA 454 99.1 0.4 1.1
Maranhio 95,165 98.7 1.3 0.1
Piaui 34,106 96.8 3.2 1.1
CearA 86,690 97.2 2.8 0.6
Rio Grande do Norte 34,391 86.4 13.6 0.8
Paraiba 69,117 95.6 4.3 0.4
Pernambuco 172,268 99.0 1.0 1.0
Alag6as 51,961 93.8 6.1 3.9
Sergipe 42,769 98.7 1.3 1.1
Bahia 258,043 98.6 1.4 1.3
Minas Gerais 265,559 79.0 20.9 20.9
Serra dos Aimaresb 4,273 97.0 3.0 0.1
Espirito Santo 44,170 94.5 5.4 3.2
Rio de Janeiro 40,652 70.9 28.2 19.2
Distrito Federal 5,266 95.8 2.8 4.1
Sgo Paulo 221,611 45.6 53.2 52.7
ParanA 89,461 58.7 41.1 29.9
Santa Catarina 104,429 44.9 55.0 35.9
Rio Grande do Sul 286,733 14.8 84.6 78.9
Mato Grosso 16,015 90.1 9.7 5.2
GoiAs 63,736 90.5 9.4 2.6
Source: Pages 36 and 46-47 of source for Table 8.
b. Territory in dispute between Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo (resolved
Traditional Systems of Agriculture 37
closer to the national average in the percentage of agropastoral units
declaring the possession of this important farming implement. Our
analysis indicates that the systems of agriculture still prevalent in
Minas Gerais are antiquated and inefficient. The fact, then, that the
state holds this relatively high position nationally serves to illustrate
the wasteful and ineffective manner in which the bulk of Brazil's
farmers are trying to extract a livelihood from the soil.
Mechanization coming to the small sitios of southwestern Minas Gerais and
displacing elementary plow culture.
Despite the efforts of a highly concerned state administration, the
federal Minist6rio da Agricultura, the state SecretAria da Agricul-
tura, and a very active state rural extension service, ACAR, improved
methods of farming have made but little headway in Minas Gerais
as a whole. While the use of modern farming machinery is hindered
by the topography in much of the state, this does not explain the
consistent failure to make use of draft animals such as the horse or
the mule. Nor does it account for the lack of simple animal-drawn
farming equipment on so many of the establecimentos. Currently
so much emphasis is placed on the mechanization of agriculture
27. Articles urging the adoption of mechanized farming equipment appear
in almost every newspaper and magazine that reaches the rural population as this
theme increasingly permeates the Brazilian press. For example: "Mecanizagao
E o Fator Supremo da Super Produgio," Sitios e Fazendas, Ano XXXI, No. 10
38 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
that one is led to expect a rapid improvement in the agricultural
system of the state as soon as tractors become available at less pro-
hibitive prices and on more favorable credit terms. This change is
likely to take place most quickly in the cultivation of commercial
crops. It is therefore entirely conceivable that advanced plow cul-
ture may largely be passed over in the process of agricultural de-
velopment and never mature as it has in some parts of the world.
The adoption of this improved system of agriculture is inhibited
severely by the preference of many farmers of Minas Gerais for the
use of the ox. Hence, reliance upon elementary plow culture is likely
to continue, at least until a new generation, better educated and
instructed in modem agricultural technology, inherits the land.
While fire agriculture itself has set rather definite limits to its own
survival in Minas Gerais, it is exceedingly difficult to foresee an end
to hoe culture. Two fundamental changes are required. The oper-
ator of the greatly subdivided and usually mountainous property
must be persuaded to change altogether his ideas of the proper
utilization of his small holding; and the farm laborer either must be
better instructed or be assimilated into the industrial labor force.
Otherwise it is highly unlikely that the back-breaking practices of
hoe culture will be curtailed to any appreciable extent.
(S-o Paulo, October, 1965); "Bons Cultivadores (pictured as mechanized) Podem
Substituir, com Vantagem, o Trabalho da Enxada," Mundo Agricola, XIV, No.
166 (Sio Paulo, October, 1965); and "Financiamento de Machinas Agricolas
sob Novas Normas," and "Machinas e Implementos Agricolas: Das Vantagens
da Micanizaglo," Estado de Minas (Belo Horizonte, November 14, 1965, and
January 13, 1966).
3. The extent of mechanized farming
in Minas Gerais
HE SYSTEM of advanced plow culture had reached a fair state
of perfection in the United States, Canada, Australia, New
Zealand, and the countries of Western Europe by the begin-
ning of the twentieth century. Thereafter advancement in the sys-
tems of agriculture involved attempts to substitute mechanical
power for draft animals. Among these, in the latter part of the
nineteenth century, was the adaptation of the steam engine for
farm use. It was employed fairly successfully in plowing, especially
in the breaking of new land, and in the threshing of grain crops.
The most advanced or modern system of agriculture, however,
that designated as mechanized farming, has at its core the use of
highly specialized implements powered by the gasoline tractor. Its
development, therefore, had to await the perfection of the gasoline
engine and the tractor early in the present century.
The implements characteristic of this modern system of agriculture
are largely improved versions of those perfected in the course of the
development of advanced plow culture. Usually, however, they are
considerably larger, lighter, capable of higher speeds, susceptible to
finer adjustments, and as a rule, much more specialized in function
than their predecessors.
40 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
In the United States, the transition from the system of advanced
plow culture to that of mechanized farming was gradual. In large
measure the change took place during the period from 1910 to 1950.1
It occurred much earlier and more consistently in the Midwest
and western sections of the country than in the South where the
planters continued to place greater reliance upon manual labor and
small operators clung rather tenaciously to the use of the mule in
working the land. Nationwide, the change was marked by the re-
placement of horses and mules by tractors, by a steady decrease in
the input of human labor into the agricultural productive process,
and by a tremendous increase in the total output of the nation's
In Brazil, on the other hand, no such transition has taken place in
the nation's agricultural economy. Aboriginal methods of preparing
the land for seeds and traditional (largely aboriginal) ways of
planting, cultivating, and harvesting the crops have persisted to the
present day. Only in the southern states (particularly in those of
Sdo Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul) and especially among the de-
scendants of the European immigrant farmers has mechanized agri-
culture made any appreciable headway. Throughout most of the
agricultural sections of the country's vast territory, the most ad-
vanced system of agriculture is merely in its beginning stages. Such
is the case despite the Brazilian government's awareness of the ad-
vantages of and the need for the mechanization of its farms and the
government's constant, though largely futile, attempts to improve
the situation by encouraging the manufacture and distribution of
tractors and implements.
In Chapter 2 it was shown that in Minas Gerais improved meth-
ods of farming have made but little headway in replacing the anti-
quated and frequently aboriginal ways of tilling the land and of
planting, cultivating, and harvesting the crops. This chapter is con-
cerned with an analysis of the degree to which mechanized agri-
culture presently is used in Minas Gerais.
Largely because of the entrenched position of traditional farming
practices, the machines, implements, and techniques generally as-
sociated with mechanized farming are only beginning to be acquired
and employed by the farmers of Minas Gerais. The preliminary
1. See T. Lynn Smith, The Sociology of Rural Life, 3rd ed., pp. 356-60,
for a more complete account of the evolution of mechanized farming and the
effects of its adoption in the United States.
2. Ibid., p. 362.
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 41
results of the 1960 Brazilian census of agriculture enable one to
make a reasonably accurate appraisal of the use made of modern
farming equipment, of which the tractor is the central feature.
Therefore, pertinent data from this census, together with the neces-
sary computations, have been assembled and analyzed. They form
the principal bases for the generalizations presented in this chapter.
The objectives of the chapter can be accomplished best by con-
centrating upon two basic points which the analysis of the data
caused to stand out: (1) mechanized farming is still in an early
stage of development; and (2) the presence and use of modern,
mechanized equipment (as typified by the tractor)-and, hence,
mechanized agriculture itself-varies greatly from one part of the
state to another.
The Incipient Stage of Mechanization
Although it is readily obvious to any observant person who travels
extensively through the rural sections of Minas Gerais that mecha-
nized farming is merely in a beginning stage of development, this
point hardly can be overemphasized. This is necessary because the
modern implements and machines now coming into use in some of
the important regions of the state may give the impression that
mechanization has made great headway. Moreover, the statistical
materials required for the study of the degree of development of
mechanized agriculture may make it appear that some places already
are mechanized to a considerable extent, when definitely this is not
The writer was forced into the conclusion that mechanized farm-
ing is merely in an elementary stage of growth in Minas Gerais by
the observations made during the five months he spent visiting the
rural portions of the state and also by his detailed analyses of quan-
titative data given in the 1960 Brazilian census of agriculture. For
example, Table 10 provides data showing the number of tractors
and the number of persons engaged in agriculture per tractor for
each of the twenty-three states, four territories, and the Federal
District which comprise present-day Brazil. These materials indicate
that in the nation as a whole there was in 1960 a total of 245 work-
ers on the farms and other agricultural and pastoral establishments
for every tractor in use. The corresponding ratio for Minas Gerais,
however, is 413, or almost twice as high. The position of the state
we are concentrating upon is in this respect extremely unfavorable
in comparison with that of neighboring Sdo Paulo, with an index of
42 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
NUMBER OF TRACTORS, NUMBER OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN AGROPASTORAL
ACTIVITIES, AND NUMBER OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN AGRICULTURE
PER TRACTOR IN BRAZIL, BY STATES AND
Number of Number of Number of Persons
Tractors Persons Engaged in
Engaged in Agropastoral
Activities Per Tractor
Brazil 63,493 15,521,701 245
Rond6nia (Guapor6)" 8 4,188 524
Acre 16 28,938 1,809
Amazonas 24 166,259 6,928
Rio Branco" 1 8,225 3,225
Para 194 329,815 1,700
AmapA 23 4,194 182
Maranhgo 41 928,801 22,654
Piaui 59 355,187 6,020
CearA 816 816,720 2,585
Rio Grande do Norte 246 296,494 1,205
Paraiba 361 544,797 1,509
Pernambuco 999 1,258,479 1,260
Alagoas 296 364,890 1,281
Sergipe 96 243,896 2,585
Bahia 575 1,857,771 3,231
Minas Gerais 5,024 2,076,829 413
Serra dos AimorBsb 8 176,646 22,081
Espirito Santo 490 269,041 549
Rio de Janeiro 1,469 240,853 164
Guanabara 123 18,937 154
Sao Paulo 28,101 1,683,038 60
Parana 4,996 1,276,854 256
Santa Catarina 1,049 619,989 591
Rio Grande do Sul 16,675 1,277,890 77
Mato Grosso 997 184,340 185
GoiAs 1,299 492,745 879
Distrito Federal 7 2,885 841
Source: Compiled and computed from data in Anudrio Estatistico do Brasil,
1963, Ano XXIV (Rio de Janeiro: Conselho Nacional de Estatistica, 1968),
b. Territory in dispute between Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo (resolved in
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 43
only sixty persons per tractor, and also relative to the situation in
Rio Grande do Sul, the state of Rio de Janeiro, Parana, and even
Mato Grosso and Goias. However, with the exception of Goids, all
of the states situated to the north of Minas Gerais have felt the im-
pact of the tractor to an even lesser degree than the state itself. The
fundamental point for present purposes is that with only one tractor
for each 413 persons in the agricultural labor force we have elo-
quent proof that in 1960 the mechanization of agriculture was only
beginning. It may be interesting to note for comparative purposes
that in the forty-eight adjacent states of the United States the 1959
Census of Agriculture indicated a ratio of only 1.2 workers engaged
in agriculture for each tractor on the nation's farms.3
While the foregoing analysis is quite conclusive, an appraisal of
the extent of mechanization in the most important farming region of
the state (based upon both census materials and the personal ob-
servations of the writer) serves to emphasize even more the begin-
ning stage of mechanized agriculture in Minas Gerais as a whole.
Despite the tendency for statistical data (Table 11) and the fre-
quently witnessed use made of modern machines throughout the
Triangulo to suggest a high degree of mechanization in this region,
modern farming there still is in an early phase of development. This
is best supported by data presented earlier in Tables 2 and 3 (Chap-
ter 2), although they are drawn from the 1950 census of agriculture.'
These data indicate that 68 per cent of all the farms in the region
were dependent solely upon manpower (largely hoe culture) while
on another 30.2 per cent some form of animal power still was being
used. Since the writer encountered a considerable amount of ele-
mentary plow culture as late as February, 1966, it is not unreason-
able to assume that almost one-third of the farmers (the 30.2 per
cent referred to above) relied heavily upon the wooden plow and
the ox in 1950. Thus, even allowing for a remarkable improvement
in the situation since the publication of the earlier census, mecha-
nized agriculture must still be considered in an early stage of growth
at the present time. Furthermore, even where mechanized farming
tends to be heavily concentrated on the municipio level, that con-
clusion is supported by the most recent census materials. For ex-
ample, in 1960 the farmers of the most highly mechanized munici-
3. See United States Census of Agriculture, 1959, Vol. II, Chapter III, p. 214
and Vol. III, Chapter IV, p. 308.
4. Resort is made to the earlier census of agriculture since the preliminary
reports for 1960 do not give the necessary data.
44 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
pios, those of Ituiutaba, Tupaciguara, Frutal, Capin6polis, and
CanApolis, reported totals of only 305, 263, 151, 111, and 105 trac-
tors, respectively (Table 12). Again it is interesting to note, by way
of comparison, that in the state of Iowa in the United States the
farm operators of the least and most mechanized counties, Monroe
NUMBER OF TRACTORS, NUMBER OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN AGROPASTORAL
ACTIVITIES, AND NUMBER OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN AGRICULTURE
PER TRACTOR IN MINAS GERAIS, BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1960
Physiographic Number of Number of Number of
Zones Tractors Persons Persons
Engaged in Engaged in
M6dio Baixo Jequitinhonha 2 20,553 10,277
M6dio Jequintinhonha 13 32,952 2,535
Murcuri 71 152,328 2,146
Rio Doce 169 256,719 1,519
Mata 601 348,209 579
Itacambira 19 112,152 5,903
Alto Jequitinhonha 11 96,344 8,759
Metalirgica 279 88,266 316
Campos da Mantiqueira Mineira 78 60,923 781
Sul 1,195 335,720 281
Oeste 444 158,580 357
Alto M6dio Sao Francisco 16 38,616 2,414
Montes Claros 104 136,993 1,317
Alto SLo Francisco 148 31,251 211
Urucuia 34 38,806 1,141
Paranaiba-Rio Grande 184 78,627 427
Triangu o 1,656 89,790 54
TOTAL 5,024 2,076,829 413
Source: Compiled and computed from data in "Sinopse Preliminar do Censo
Agricola," VII Recenseamento Geral do Brasil, Estado de Minas Gerais, 1960
(Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, 1963), pp. 2-17
and pp. 66-81.
and Kossuth, reported 1,717 and 6,692 of these machines.5 Finally,
the mere fact that the farm operators of the single county of Kossuth
reported more tractors than all the operators on all of the farms or
agropastoral units of Minas Gerais indicates conclusively the incipi-
ent stage of mechanized agriculture in this Brazilian state.
5. See United States Census of Agriculture, 1959, Vol. I, Part 16, pp.
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 45
Regional Variations in the Importance
of Mechanized Agriculture
The preceding section has demonstrated that mechanized farming
is merely beginning in Minas Gerais. Attention now is directed to
the variations in the extent to which it is used in the different
regions of the state.
All of the data indicate that there are tremendous variations from
one part of Minas Gerais to another in the extent to which the
MuNICiPIOS OF MINAS GERAIS IN WHICH THIRTY-FIVE OR MORE TRACTORS
WERE REPORTED, BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1960
Municipio Physiographic Number of
Lagoa da Prata
Conceigo das Alag6as
Patos de Minas
Source: Same as Table 11.
Alto Sao Francisco
46 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
mechanized system of agriculture has become a functional part of
the economy. In a few places the tractor and associated implements
presently are used in producing large crops of sugarcane, cotton,
rice, and other commercial crops, whereas in great expanses of the
huge state these modern machines and implements still are virtually
unknown. This high degree of variability is brought out by every
line of investigation feasible to employ. It stood out in every trip
the writer took in the course of travels throughout the state. It was
evident from the hundreds of conversations he had with state and
local officials and other informed persons with whom he came into
contact in the course of his field work. It is demonstrated in a highly
conclusive manner in the statistical materials derived from the 1960
census of agriculture.
Nature and Extent of the Variations.-As indicated in the preced-
ing paragraph, evidence of the tremendous variations in the impor-
tance of mechanized agriculture in Minas Gerais (as revealed by
marked differentials in the use made of modern motorized equip-
ment) is provided by the 1960 census of agriculture. These differ-
ences appear on two distinct levels: on a broad regional plane and
on a more localized plane within the different physiographic zones.
Therefore pertinent data have been extracted from that census
and assembled along with the necessary computations in Table 11.
Arranged so as to highlight the broad regional differences in the
use of mechanization (as was done previously in the case of the
nation), these show the number of tractors and the number of per-
sons engaged in the agriculture per tractor in the various physio-
graphic zones as of 1960. These variations are considerable. They
range all the way from one tractor for each 10,277 farm operators
and workers in the zone of M6dio Baixo Jequitinhonha, in the ex-
treme northeastern corner of Minas Gerais, to one for every fifty-
four such persons in the zone of the Triangulo, located in the far
western or panhandle section of the state (see Figure 2 for the
location of the zones). A closer inspection of the data in Table 11
reveals three broad regional variations in the extent to which mod-
ern equipment is used on the farms and agropastoral units: (1) the
mechanized system of agriculture is making the most headway in
the zone of the TriAngulo; (2) insofar as mechanized agriculture
may be said to have developed in the rest of Minas Gerais, it ap-
pears to have made considerably more progress in the southern and
more centrally located zones than in the remainder of the state; and
(3) the tractor is virtually unknown throughout the vast region ex-
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 47
tending north and east of the state capital as far as the boundaries
of the neighboring states of Bahia and Espirito Santo. In fact, as
the writer proceeded in a northerly direction through the main por-
tion of Minas Gerais, he noticed that the distribution of the tractor
becomes steadily more spotted until, for all intents and purposes,
it disappears altogether from the rural scene as the northern bound-
ary of the state is approached. Thus, census materials indicate three
regions in which the use of equipment usually associated with mech-
anized agriculture is remarkably varied. Indeed, the differences be-
tween them are tremendous. For example, as has been indicated
above, in the Triangulo there was in 1960 a total of fifty-four work-
ers on the farms and agropastoral establishments for every tractor
in use on those places. The corresponding ratio for the seven south-
ern and centrally located zones (those of Mata, Sul, Campos da
Mantiqueira Mineira, Metalirgica, Oeste, Alto Sao Francisco, and
Paranaiba-Rio Grande) is 436, or eight times as high. In even more
startling contrast, that for the nine remaining zones to the north and
east of Belo Horizonte amounts to 2,035, or almost thirty-eight times
as high as that for the panhandle zone of the TriAngulo. This is not
surprising when one considers that in 1960 the Triangulo, with a
mere 4 per cent of the state's agricultural labor force, accounted for
one-third of all the tractors and that the northern and eastern zones
(the traditionally pastoral portion of the state), with over 40 per
cent of all the persons engaged in agropastoral activities in Minas
Gerais, reported scarcely 8 per cent of all the tractors. At this time,
suggesting a rather intermediate stage of development of mechaniza-
tion, the central and southern regions accounted for somewhat more
than one-half of both the total agricultural population and the total
number of tractors in the state. Such data as these are more than
enough to indicate amazing variations on a broad regional plane,
not only in the distribution and use of tractors but in the degree of
development of the system of mechanized agriculture as well.
Besides revealing these large regional variations, an analysis of the
statistical materials of the 1960 census of agriculture also indicates
an almost limitless variation in the extent to which modern machin-
ery is being used on the landholdings of the seventeen physio-
graphic zones of Minas Gerais. The employment of a cartographic
device permits pertinent data extracted from that census (along
with appropriate computations) to bring this out very effectively.
Thus Figure 1 was designed to indicate the varying degree of
development of mechanized agriculture within the different physio-
48 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
graphic zones by showing the number of persons employed in agro-
pastoral activities per tractor in each municipio. Moreover, addi-
tional light on the distribution of tractors is provided by other data
derived from the same census and arranged in Table 12 to show
the municipios of the state in which thirty-five or more tractors
were reported in 1960.
All of these data indicate that at the stage reached by 1960 in the
adoption of the mechanized system of agriculture by the farmers
and herdsmen of Minas Gerais, the distribution of the tractor was
still very spotted throughout all of the zones into which the state is
divided. Thus, even in 1960 the tractor, the basic component of the
mechanized farming complex, had not even appeared in 105 of the
483 municipios. The data in Table 12 further emphasize its uneven
distribution. Along with the fact that only nine of the seventeen
physiographic zones are represented among the twenty-nine muni-
cipios listed as having reported thirty-five or more tractors, one
notices that a mere five of the 483 municipios account for 18.6 per
cent of all the machines on the farms and ranches of Minas Gerais,
although they contain only 1.6 per cent of those engaged in agro-
pastoral activities. Moreover, the entire twenty-nine municipios,
while constituting only 6 per cent of the state's "counties" and con-
taining the homes of only 9.3 per cent of those with agropastoral oc-
cupations, account for more than 44 per cent of all the tractors on
the farms and agropastoral establishments of Minas Gerais. Further-
more, of all the twenty-nine municipios listed in Table 12, sixteen
are located in the single zone of the TriAngulo, a point that further
stresses the unequal distribution of the tractor, as well as the amaz-
ing variations in the development and use of mechanized agriculture.
Factors Responsible for the Variations.-The preceding para-
graphs demonstrate that there are tremendous variations in the ex-
tent to which the mechanized system of agriculture presently is be-
ing utilized in the different sections of the state. Undoubtedly there
are specific reasons for these vast differences. Obviously it would
be impossible to identify precisely the factor or factors responsible
for either the absence, presence, or particular degree of develop-
ment of mechanized farming in any given area. One may indicate,
however, some of the more important determinants that have
worked and continue to operate in certain areas to influence the
degree of agricultural mechanization. Before this is attempted,
though, it should be indicated that generally the factors affecting
the process of modernization are highly correlative since they
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 49
are essentially components of the same social system. Although in
some instances related determinants might be considered as a single
factor, they are listed separately for purposes of specificity and
clarity. Since there is no way to gauge with any degree of certainty
their relative importance, the various determinants are ranked in
the order in which they are evaluated by the writer.
Undoubtedly the most significant of the complex of factors that
account for the variations in the importance of mechanized agri-
culture, and one closely related to all the others, is a highly impor-
tant and long-continued trend in Brazil in general and especially in
Minas Gerais. It consists of the gradual superimposition of an agri-
cultural economy upon the old traditional pastoral economy of the
nation. In such states as Rio Grande do Sul and Sao Paulo this
process already is far advanced, whereas in others such as GoiAs
and Mato Grosso it is barely beginning. In Minas Gerais it already
has made considerable headway, and it continues to progress. As
things now stand, however, the extent to which agriculture has sup-
planted grazing is an important factor influencing the development
-or retarding the process-of mechanization. Where the farmer
now has control of the land, the tractor and the implements associ-
ated with it are coming into use; but where the huge grazing estates
still reign supreme, the use of mechanized equipment is still a thing
of the future.
One of the most important reasons for the variations in the de-
velopment of mechanized farming in Minas Gerais unquestionably
is the proximity of the area to Sao Paulo. To a considerable extent
the mechanization of agriculture represents the diffusion of the sys-
tem from the fazendas of its southern neighbor, the more highly
mechanized state of Sao Paulo. This is suggested by the fact that
the mechanization of agriculture has made substantial headway in
all of the physiographic zones adjacent to Sao Paulo (especially in
the most westerly of these, the Triangulo), while elsewhere in the
state the tractor is in fairly consistent use only in the zones sur-
rounding Belo Horizonte, the state capital, and in those in the rather
immediate neighborhood of the great city of Rio de Janeiro.
Another factor which contributes substantially to the higher de-
gree of mechanization in some areas than in others is the proximity
of certain zones to the various stimuli of the great urban centers.
This is suggested by an inspection of Figure 1 which indicates that
there has been considerable development of mechanized farming in
many of the municipios along the southern boundary of the zone of
50 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
Mata, relatively close to the city of Rio de Janeiro. This moderniza-
tion of the system of agriculture seems also to have progressed
appreciably in a number of the municipios in the vicinity of the
rapidly growing capital of Minas Gerais. This is particularly true of
those grouped about Mateus Leme, in the zones of Oeste and Meta-
16rgica southwest of Belo Horizonte, and those clustered about
Paraopeba, in the zones of Oeste, Metal6rgica, and Alta Sao Fran-
cisco, to the northwest of the city. Since many businessmen in
Brazil's larger urban centers are the owners of fazendas in nearby
areas and since fazendeiros who live on their holdings frequently
visit the cities to transact business, if they do not actually maintain
additional urban residences, the influence of the great centers gen-
erally is felt keenly in the surrounding regions. This is largely be-
cause the farmers in both categories very likely take part in, or at
least are exposed to, discussions involving such subjects as agrarian
reform, the necessity of mechanization in the cultivation of com-
mercial crops, the latest improvements in farming machinery, and
so on. Since it is in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte
that federal and state agricultural policies are formulated and many
of the principal plants manufacturing equipment are located, the
contribution of urban influences to the variations in the extent to
which modern farming has developed in Minas Gerais is apt to be
The presence or the absence of improved highways and access
roads is another important determinant of these variations in the use
of the mechanized system of agriculture. This is indicated by an
inspection of Figure 1 and reference to the endleaves. Note that
mechanized agriculture has developed to a rather marked extent
in a number of municipios strung out along the paved SHo Paulo-
Belo Horizonte highway in the southwestern zone of Sul. The
same is true of many of the administrative subdivisions located on
or near the paved Rio-Salvador highway in the southeastern Mata
zone. Many of those along the excellent highway extending in a
northwesterly direction from Belo Horizonte to Curvelo are equally
advanced in the use of modern farming practices. In addition to
these examples of progress in areas adjacent to paved highways, a
relatively advanced degree of mechanization has taken place in
many of the municipios which are in close proximity to the unpaved
but improved road connecting the state capital and the TriAngulo
zone. In fact it appeared to the writer that the greater development
of the system of mechanized agriculture in the latter regions owes
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 51
much to the excellent condition of its highways and connecting
roads. Even here, however, mechanization appears much less ad-
vanced where roads are in a poor state of repair or still undeveloped.
Thus in almost every instance it seems that the municipios in which
mechanized farming has developed to an appreciable extent are
located along or near paved or improved roads.
This observation is supported by an analysis of some of the sta-
tistical materials in the 1960 census of agriculture. Pertinent data
drawn from that census are assembled in Table 13. These are ar-
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE NUMBER OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN
AGRICULTURE PER TRACTOR AND THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF
IMPROVED ROADS IN THE MUNICiPIOS OF MINAS GERAIS,
Number of Persons Number of Municipios
Engaged in Municipios
Agropastoral Served by Not Served by
Activities Improved Roads Improved Roads
Per Tractor Number Per Cent Number Per Cent
1 to 149 64 50 78.1 14 21.9
150 to 299 73 58 79.5 15 20.5
300 to 599 76 54 71.1 22 28.9
600 to 899 33 23 69.7 10 30.3
900 to 1,199 38 32 84.2 6 15.8
1,200 and over 94 72 76.6 22 23.4
No tractors 105 51 48.6 54 51.4
TOTAL 483 340 70.4 143 29.6
Source: Same as Table 11, and Mapa Geral do Estado de Minas Gerais, 1st
ed., Edit6ra J. E. Schaeffer, Ltda. (Rio de Janeiro: Conselho Nacional de
ranged to show the relationship between the degree of development
of mechanized agriculture and the presence or absence of improved
roads in these county-like subdivisions. Statistical analysis of these
materials reveals a highly significant relationship between the pres-
ence of improved highways and the use of the tractor for agricul-
tural purposes. Therefore the location on routes of better developed
highways and other roads appears to bear considerable responsibil-
ity for the tremendous differences in the extent to which agricultural
mechanization has taken place.
Since the data presented earlier in Table 11 indicate such vast
differences in the use of the tractor between the predominately
pastoral region in northern Minas Gerais and the remainder of the
52 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
state, it is of interest to determine if the same relationship between
improved roadways and the use of modern farming equipment holds
true in the latter region. Therefore pertinent data and appropriate
computations for the southern half of Minas Gerais and the Tri-
Angulo region are assembled in Table 14. An inspection of the table
reveals that the relationships are similar. An analysis of the data
indicates that the association between the presence of good roads
and the development of agricultural mechanization in the southern
and western zones of the state is statistically significant. Hence the
materials in Table 14, as well as those in the preceding table, point
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE NUMBER OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN
AGRICULTURE PER TRACTOR AND THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE
OF IMPROVED ROADS IN THE MUNICIPIOS OF THE EIGHT
SOUTHERN AND WESTERN PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES
OF MINAS GERAIS, 1960
Number of Persons Number of Municipios
Engaged in Municipios
Agropastoral Served by Not Served by
Activities Improved Roads Improved Roads
Per Tractor Number Per Cent Number Per Cent
1 to 149 65 50 76.9 15 23.1
150 to 299 69 56 81.2 13 18.8
300 to 599 68 48 70.6 20 29.4
600 to 899 31 21 67.7 10 32.3
900 to 1,199 30 25 83.3 5 16.7
1,200 and over 53 37 69.8 16 30.2
No tractors 63 36 57.1 27 42.9
TOTAL 379 273 72.0 106 28.0
Source: Same as Table 13.
to the important contribution of the location of properties along the
better roads to the variations in the development of agriculture
throughout the state.
Still another important determinant of the many differences found
in the use of modern farming practices in Minas Gerais are differ-
entials in the extent to which the cultivation of commercial crops
is taking place in the various sections of the state. To provide for
the normal needs of the rapidly growing population as well as the
almost insatiable requirements of the residents of Brazil's expanding
cities, processing plants of various types and warehousing facilities
have been and are being constructed in many of the regions more
suited to commercial farming. Such plants are contributing to the
complete mechanization of many farms that previously were only
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 53
partially mechanized. The writer witnessed the ongoing change at
more than one place. For example, in the TriAngulo region a plant
for the processing of sesame and sunflower seeds and peanuts had
been completed recently on the outskirts of Itumbiara, Goias, im-
mediately across the Rio Paranaiba from the vila of Arapord in the
municipio of Tupaciguara. Farmers in this and the neighboring
municipios of CanApolis and Centralina who had used tractors
merely for plowing the land and planting and cultivating the crops
of peanuts were acquiring implements for the harvesting process
which heretofore had been accomplished by hand.
Several days spent in visiting fazendas in the nearby municipio of
Capin6polis revealed a similar intensive change-over from partial to
complete mechanization on the part of the operators specializing in
the cultivation of rice. Many modern mills using the latest equip-
ment are located in the seat of the municipio. Although the harvest-
ing season was just getting underway, the streets were congested
with tractors and trailers bringing in and unloading sacks of this
dietary staple, as well as with harvesters being serviced for the fol-
lowing day's activities. Moreover, plants for the processing of both
rice and cotton are stimulating the use of modern farming practices
in the municipio of Frutal, farther south in the valley of the Rio
Grande which forms the boundary line between the states of Minas
Gerais and Sao Paulo. There, fazendeiros with extensive holdings
for the most part have fully mechanized their farming operations
and frequently allot unusually large plots to sharecroppers who
work them with their own modern equipment. Nor is activity in-
volving the modernization of farming practices confined to the
municipios of the Triangulo region. It is occurring also in muni-
cipios like Ouro Fino with its eleven rice mills and Pouso Alegre
with as many, both in the zone of Sul, as well as in others else-
where. Modern processing plants unquestionably are encouraging
a higher degree of mechanization than had been attempted before
their construction. Developments of this kind here and there in the
state are contributing to the great variations in the extent of agri-
cultural mechanization encountered as one travels from place to
Also highly important to the varying degree of mechanization
portrayed by the data in Figure 1 is the contribution to the use of
modern farming practices made by the experimental farms con-
ducted by the Ministerio da Agricultura in several of the state's
farming regions. An example of this is provided by the greater de-
54 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
velopment of mechanized agriculture in the municipios clustered
about Sete Lagoas in the zone of Metal6rgica. This is due largely to
such a farm located just south of the seat of the municipio. The same
is true of the municipio of Araguari and others bordering upon it in
the TriAngulo. In a similar fashion the Companhia Agricola de
Minas Gerais (CAMIG) has stimulated the mechanization of agri-
culture by its operation of demonstration areas in the municipios of
Montes Claros (zone of Montes Claros), Governador Valdares
(Rio Doce), Ponte Nova (Mata), Varginha (Sul), and Uberlandia
(TriAngulo), as well as by its farm-development services.6
Dwellings of the meeiros, or sharecroppers, along the Paranaiba River.
Factors which retard the development of agricultural mechaniza-
tion also are important to an explanation of the observed variations
in the extent to which mechanized agriculture is utilized since they
function to maintain traditional methods of farming.
One of the most important of these in Minas Gerais today is com-
prised of the host of attitudes and values generated within a system
6. The Companhia Agricola de Minas Gerais (CAMIG), with headquarters in
Belo Horizonte, is a state-controlled organization concerned with the improve-
ment of the agricultural sector of the state's economy. It almost defies de-
scription because of the multiplicity and diversification of its activities. For
operational purposes, the state is divided into six zones, further subdivided into
thirty districts in which sixty-five retail outlets are maintained. In addition,
CAMIG has four demonstration farms, and operates eight plants having to do
with the manufacture or preparation of such varied products as fertilizer, feed,
vegetable oils, manioc products, fruit preserves, phosphates, mineral salts,
insecticides, cottonseed products, and so on. Not the least of its activities has
to do with the sale of farming equipment, seeds, in fact almost everything even
remotely associated with farming and ranching, even the service of land clear-
ing and soil preparation.
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 55
of large estates and transmitted from one generation to another.
Today's agriculturists, having inherited a disdain for manual labor,
do not as a rule participate actively in the performance of any of
the tasks connected with their farming enterprises. Relying ex-
cessively upon cheap manual labor, they see no particular advan-
tage in making the large capital investment required for mechaniza-
tion. Even when an estate has been greatly reduced in size, the
activities generally are left in the hands of a large number of
Ancient monjolo used for grinding corn and other grain on small farm, sitio.
meeiros, or sharecroppers, and day laborers who use primitive
methods of agriculture. This goes a long way in explaining the
amazing variations of agricultural mechanization observed through-
out Minas Gerais. Thus as has been indicated, in the zone of the
TriAngulo, adjacent to the more highly mechanized state of Sdo
Paulo and accessible to its influences, a relatively high degree of
mechanization has been attained. The fact that the bulk of the
zone's residents resemble the Paulista farmers, in that they appear
relatively free of the traditional mindset which holds manual labor
to be degrading and generally participate in the activities of their
farming or ranching enterprises, suggests that this weakening of
traditional attitudes and values has contributed to the greater de-
velopment of the region. In the rest of the state and especially in
56 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
the South where many fazendas and sitios (small farms) are quite
isolated by the rugged terrain, the traditional mindset remains
highly influential, limiting the development of modern farming in
many areas. Farther north, while geography plays a less significant
role in isolating the residents from the influences of the modern
world, factors associated with the latifindia tend to be even stronger
since they are bolstered by the traditional pastoral economy of the
region. All this appears to contribute considerably to both regional
and local differences in the extent to which mechanization has de-
veloped on the farms and ranches. Another important factor inhibit-
ing agricultural mechanization in certain areas of the state and
making inevitable many of the variations being considered is the
multiplicity of minifundia and near-minifindia which has resulted
from the excessive subdivision of originally large landholdings
through inheritance. The Brazilian legal requirement that land be
equally divided among the heirs of the owner has resulted (espe-
cially in the South of Minas Gerais) in a large number of farms so
reduced in size that they no longer can produce a living for the
families who occupy them.' Such a proliferation of minifindia se-
verely inhibits the development of mechanization in some areas and
contributes to the number of gaps and variations in shading one sees
on the map (Figure 1). At the present time many landowners
throughout the state, and particularly in parts of the southern zones,
do not possess properties of sufficient size to warrant individual
ownership of tractors and associated implements. A few examples of
the proportions of small holdings in some of the municipios are
enough to demonstrate this situation. In the southern portion of the
zone of Oeste, according to the data in the 1950 census of agricul-
ture, 40 per cent of all agropastoral establishments in the municipio
of Pains were under twenty hectares in area; the corresponding pro-
portions for the eight neighboring administrative subdivisions were
Campo Belo, 61; Luz, 62; Arcos, 63; Itapercerica, 65; Piui and Bam-
bui, 66 each; and Candeias and Formiga, 72 each. While the situa-
tion in the zone of Sul is very similar, for instance, seven municipios
7. Smith insists that such subdivision of the large estate leads to a deca-
dence of the old system of large-scale agricultural exploitation rather than to
the development of a more desirable system of small farms because inheritance
operates upon the land (as indicated above) and not upon the man and the
system of social relationships (since it neither enables him to acquire new
values, attitudes, habits, skills, and motivations, nor frees him from his cus-
tomary disdain for manual agricultural labor). T. Lynn Smith, Brazil, pp. 338-
39; cf. Erly D. Brandao, "A Sucessdo da Propriedade Rural," Ceres.
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 57
in the vicinity of Machado have an average of 68 per cent of all land-
holdings under twenty hectares in size, the proportions are even
more extreme than in the Mata zone. In the municipio of Tocatins,
for example, 49 per cent of the holdings are under five hectares in
size, 65 per cent under ten hectares, and 78 per cent under twenty
hectares; while in Uba the corresponding proportions are 45, 69, and
82, respectively. Even the lightly shaded portion of Figure 1 repre-
senting the huge area east and southeast of the state capital, Belo
Horizonte, which approaches the border between Minas Gerais and
Espirito Santo, appears to be indebted largely to proliferation of
tiny holdings for its slight degree of development of mechanized
farming. A few examples will suffice. The proportions of properties
under five, ten, and twenty hectares in size for the municipio of
Lajinha are 24, 39, and 55 per cent; those for Manhuacu' are 27, 52,
and 68 per cent; while those for Carangola are 19, 35, and 56 per
cent, respectively. In addition, 65, 66, 68, 71, and 78 per cent of all
the agropastoral establishments in the municipios of ErvAlia, Alvi-
n6polis, Raul Soares, Ponte Nova, Dom Silverio, and Teixeiras, re-
spectively, are less than twenty hectares in area. Although other fac-
tors undoubtedly enter the picture, variously affecting the degree of
mechanization in each individual case, it is obvious that the multi-
plicity of smaller properties severely hampers the development of
agricultural mechanization and contributes substantially to the vari-
ations depicted in Figure 1.8
Foreign aid, technical as well as financial, under the auspices of
various agencies (the United States Agency for International Devel-
opment, the American International Association for Economic and
Social Development, the Organization of American States, the Insti-
tute of Inter-American Affairs, and others) undoubtedly is playing an
important role in the highly unequal development of the system of
mechanized agriculture in the state of Minas Gerais by its introduc-
tion of modern equipment and practices. For example, the American
International Association has made a number of exhaustive studies
of the agricultural potential of the Planalto Central of Brazil. This
8. This conclusion is substantiated by the fact that ACAR is interested only
in properties of from ten to one-hundred hectares in area whose operators
have legal titles, live on the holdings, and are engaged actively in their opera-
tion. Those of less than ten hectares generally are too small to provide adequate
family income no matter what is done. Their owners can be helped only by
resettlement in agricultural colonies or by being enabled to acquire skills needed
in industry. The owners of properties in excess of one-hundred hectares can
secure financial assistance through the usual banking channels.
58 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
is a tremendous area including large portions of the states of Goias,
Mato Grosso, and Sao Paulo, as well as the western and northwest-
ern parts of Minas Gerais as far east as the Rio Sao Francisco. This
agency's provision of both technical and financial assistance for the
development of such areas has contributed substantially to the vari-
ations in the importance of mechanized agriculture indicated by an
analysis of the statistical materials in the census of agriculture. For
example, the relatively high degree of mechanization attained on
the farms and on the pastoral and agropastoral units in the muni-
cipio of Pirapora in the zone of Alto Sao Francisco is due largely to
the assistance of the American International Association. The same
is true of the development of other municipios in the great valley
of the Rio Slo Francisco, such as Cortino in the same zone and Jodo
Pinheiro in the neighboring zone of Urucuia.
A similar example of the influence of international agencies was
witnessed by the writer. In collaborating with the state in the con-
struction of highways, the Alliance for Progress provides a tractor
rental service for the farm operators whose properties are located
along construction routes in various parts of Minas Gerais. This
agency furnishes tractors, appropriate implements, and experienced
operators for a nominal charge per hour whenever construction
work is at a standstill, as on weekends. By encouraging many farm-
ers to purchase their own equipment, it is not unreasonable to
assume that this practice has influenced a greater development of
agricultural mechanization in some sections of Minas Gerais than
in others where agriculturists have not been introduced personally
to the advantages of using modern equipment.
It is likely also that the Agricultural College at Lavras and the
Rural University at Vigosa contribute substantially to the observed
variations in the use of mechanized agriculture. Their instruction
of the sons of the owners of farms and agropastoral establishments
in many parts of the state probably accounts in no small measure
for the spotty distribution of modern farming equipment. In addi-
tion, the popular short courses offered organized groups of farmers
and ranchers from various municipios by the Rural University quite
possibly contribute to the greater development of mechanization in
some localities than in others. The fact that even in the North where
pastoral activities are predominant the writer from time to time
encountered groups of neighboring fazendeiros with degrees in
agronomy and veterinary medicine from these institutions is highly
suggestive of this possibility.
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 59
Somewhat related to the above factor is another having to do
with the activities of ACAR. The range of its activity only gradually
is being extended over Minas Gerais. The purpose of the organiza-
tion is not only to raise the level of living of the rural people by in-
structing them in modern farming practices, the use of modern
equipment, farm management, and home economics, but to raise
the agricultural production of the state. Therefore, it is highly prob-
able that mechanization has increased in areas in which the agents
have been working to the point where results are reflected in the
census data. Moreover, the fact that there are almost 200,000 farms
and agropastoral establishments in Minas Gerais would make it
inevitable that large areas give evidence of a very low degree of
Partial views of Rural University of Minas Gerais, Vigosa, showing construction
of additional facilities.
There can be little doubt but that the well-known propensity of
the wealthier Brazilian to use land as an "asylum" for capital ac-
counts to no little extent for the lack of mechanization in some areas
of the state. This is suggested by the complaints of many persons
in the federal and state extension services; and its elimination is one
of the prime objectives of agrarian reform. Until such measures are
passed, which should include among other things the imposition
and collection of a substantial tax on the land so as to reduce the
latter's use for speculative purposes, there is small chance for the
development of mechanized farming in some regions.
Factors such as the transitional period through which the econ-
omy of Minas Gerais is passing with the gradual ascendancy of
agricultural over traditional pastoral activities, the proximity of the
state to another in which the system of mechanized agriculture is
60 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
more highly advanced, the various stimuli emanating from the great
urban centers, and so on, undoubtedly are the chief explanations
for the tremendous variations in mechanized agriculture indicated
by census materials and witnessed by travelers in the state. How-
ever, in a highland region such as Minas Gerais certain geographic
and climatic factors cannot be written off. Unquestionably they
have some bearing on the observed variations. For example, the
extremely mountainous terrain in parts of the South retards and
may limit severely the extent of mechanization, especially when the
sizes of the holdings are greatly reduced as happens in some areas.
In the northern zones, while traditional pastoral activities probably
Pau-a-pique dwelling of itinerant workers in the sertao region of the state.
constitute the most retarding factor, the sertao environment of much
of the vast region undoubtedly checks the development of agricul-
ture proper. There, modern farming is developing for the most part
along the Rio SAo Francisco and its tributary streams, and there is
little chance of its expansion until irrigation is greatly extended.
These two examples are sufficient to indicate the influence of such
factors on the adoption and development of the system of mecha-
The factors just considered are by no means the only ones which
affect the development of the system of mechanized agriculture in
Minas Gerais and bring about the amazing variations noted earlier
in the chapter.9 Very likely many others just as variously influence
the diffusion of the use of the tractor and its associated implements.
9. In the following chapter, the bearing of some of the same factors on
detectable trends in the mechanization of the state's farms will be explored.
The Extent of Mechanized Farming 61
The data indicate that by 1960 this important machine had made
its way into almost four-fifths of the county-like subdivisions of the
state (see Figure 1). Therefore one reasonably may conclude that
most agriculturists in Minas Gerais have had at least an oppor-
tunity to view a practical demonstration of the tractor's power and
utility. Perhaps even more important, they have seen that the tractor
4. Trends in the mechanization
THE FOREGOING ANALYSIS of the degree to which mechanized
agriculture presently is being utilized in Minas Gerais indi-
cates that despite the persistence of traditional farming prac-
tices the process of agricultural development is far from static. In
fact the tremendous variations in the use of modern equipment
suggests that definite trends in the mechanization of agriculture
have been and are underway in the state as a whole. Closely associ-
ated with the highly important phenomenon to which attention was
directed in the preceding chapter-the gradual superimposition of
an agricultural economy upon the old traditional pastoral economy
of the nation-these trends in recent years have considerably al-
tered the customary ways of life in certain areas of Minas Gerais.
Furthermore, as time goes on, they increasingly will affect the lives
of all who depend upon the production of food and fiber for their
livelihood. This chapter therefore is devoted primarily to a consid-
eration of the principal trends in the process of the mechanization
of agriculture. It consists of analyses of pertinent statistical ma-
terials derived from successive reports of the Brazilian census of
agriculture (those for 1920, 1940, 1950, and 1960). These clearly
reveal certain definitive trends in the introduction and rate of adop-
Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture 63
tion of improved farming practices based upon the use of modern
equipment. For example, the tractor was relatively late in appearing
upon the rural scene in Minas Gerais as compared to its earlier
debut in some of the southern states of Brazil. Even then its dis-
tribution long continued to be extremely limited. Only after an
exceedingly slow start did it more rapidly enter into use in the
better farming regions of the state. Undoubtedly there are reasons
for this particular course of development of agricultural mechaniza-
tion. Consideration therefore is given in the latter portion of this
chapter to some of the more important factors which either promote
or retard the modernization of farming practices in Minas Gerais.
The Lateness of the Beginning of Mechanization
Pertinent quantitative data given in the 1920 and 1940 reports of
the census of agriculture clearly indicate that mechanized agricul-
ture, which had shown signs of development in the southernmost
state of Rio Grande do Sul as early as 1920 and in Sao Paulo shortly
thereafter, had an extremely late beginning in Minas Gerais. In fact,
so limited was the distribution of the tractor before 1940 that one
is entirely justified in stating that at that time mechanization had
just begun in the highlands state. This conclusion is supported by
relevant data in the 1920 and 1940 census reports. Thus, although
data in the 1920 census report show only 1,706 tractors for the
whole of Brazil, almost one-half (817) of these were on the farms
of Rio Grande do Sul. At that time a mere 153 of these machines
were reported for the 115,665 agropastoral establishments of Minas
Gerais. By 1940, when the census of agriculture indicated 3,380
tractors in the nation, Sao Paulo led all other Brazilian states and
territories with 1,410, or almost 42 per cent of the total. Even then
this progressive state gave evidence of developing a relatively high
degree of mechanization. On the other hand, at the end of the
twenty-year interval between 1920 and 1940, Minas Gerais was able
to report only 253 tractors, barely 100 more than the number indi-
cated at the beginning of the period. These data suffice to prove
conclusively the absence of anything but the faintest beginnings of
mechanized agriculture before 1940.
In spite of this poor showing at the time of the outbreak of World
War II, the quantitative data given in the 1950 census of agriculture
indicate that a start had been made toward mechanizing the agri-
cultural units of Minas Gerais in the course of the preceding decade
(see Table 15). In Table 15 the data are arranged to show the
NUMBER AND PROPORTION OF THE STATE'S TRACTORS REPORTED ON THE ESTABLECIMENTOS AGROPECUkIOS OF MINAS
GERAIS, BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1940, 1950, AND 1960
Physiographic Zones Tractors Reported
1940 1950 1960
Number Per Cent Number Per Cent Number Per Cent
M&dio Baixo Jequitinhonha 0 0 2 *
M6dio Jequitinhonha 0 0 13 0.2
Murcuri 1 0.4 14 1.8 71 1.4
Rio Doce 17 6.7 23 3.0 169 3.4
Mata 45 17.8 140 18.4 601 12.0
Itacambira 0 2 0.3 19 0.4
Alto Jequitinhonha 3 1.2 0 11 0.2
Metalirgica 25 9.9 50 6.5 279 5.5
Campos de Mantiqueira Mineira 4 1.6 7 0.9 78 1.5
Sul 62 24.5 140 18.4 1,195 23.8
Oeste 58 22.9 42 5.5 444 8.8
Alto MBdio Sao Francisco 1 0.4 3 0.4 16 0.3
Montes Claros 7 2.7 11 1.4 104 2.1
Alto Sao Francisco 9 3.6 14 1.8 148 3.0
Urucuia 0 0 34 0.7
Paranaiba-Rio Grande 9 3.6 25 3.3 184 3.7
TriAngulo 12 4.7 292 38.3 1,656 33.0
TOTAL 253 100.0 763 100.0 5,024 100.0
Source: Same as Table 11; and "Censos Econ6micos," Recenseamento Geral do Brasil, 1940, Part XIII, Minas Gerais, Tomo 3 (Rio
de Janeiro: Serivigo GrAfico do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, 1950), pp. 101-5.
a. Less than 0.1 per cent.
Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture 65
number and proportion of tractors reported on the agropastoral
establishments of the various physiographic zones of the state for
three consecutive census periods. These materials reveal first of all
that between 1940 and 1950 a relatively substantial increase in the
number of tractors was reported for the state, although the average
annual increase amounted to a mere fifty machines. More important,
however, is the fact that the data indicate a modest beginning of
mechanized farming in several of the zones less traditionally ori-
ented toward pastoral activities, especially those of Mata, Sul, and
the Triangulo. Significantly, these materials reveal a shift in the
relative importance of mechanization among the different regions of
the state. Whereas in 1940 the zones of Sul, Oeste, and Mata ac-
counted for the largest number of tractors and very few were re-
ported in that of the Triangulo, only ten years later in 1950 the
TriAngulo region had taken the lead which it has maintained to this
day, leaving Mata and Sul to compete for a rather poor second
place. Despite the increases in absolute numbers of tractors in
many areas, though, that machine remained relatively unknown
throughout the greater part of Minas Gerais as late as 1950.
Some additional light on the extreme slowness of the adoption of
mechanization during the 1940-50 period is provided by an exami-
nation of other statistical materials extracted from the two census
reports. These data are assembled in Table 16 to show the extent
to which the tractor appeared or failed to appear in the various
municipios of the state in 1940, 1950, and 1960. Focusing attention
on the figures relating to the two earlier years, one immediately ob-
serves that only slight diffusion took place during the 1940-50 dec-
ade. Although the data indicate that the use of the tractor had spread
into 40 per cent of the state's 288 county-like subdivisions by 1940,
ten years later only 42 per cent of the 386 municipios of which the
state then was comprised reported a tractor or tractors on one or
more farms. While this represents a modest increase, the fact remains
that in six of the state's thirteen zones which reported tractors in
1940 and 1950 the proportions of municipios in which they were to
be found were considerably lower at the end of the decade than in
the beginning. Mechanization, however, appeared to have increased
substantially in at least five of the physiographic zones during the
ten-year period. Particularly was this true of Mata and the Tri-
angulo. Thus the 1940 and 1950 data point conclusively to the ex-
ceedingly slow start made in the mechanization of the farming and
ranching enterprises of Minas Gerais in the decade ending in 1950.
NUMBER AND PROPORTION OF THE MUNICiPIOS OF MINAS GERAIS IN WHICH THERE WAS ONE OR MORE TRACTORS,
BY PHYSIOGRAPHIC ZONES, 1940, 1950, AND 1960
Physiographic Zones Total Number Municipios in Which Tractors Were Reported
of Municipios 1940 1950 1960
1940 1950 1960 Number Per Cent Number Per Cent Number Per Cent
M6dio Baixo Jequitinhonha 1 5 6 0 0 2 33
M6dio Jequitinhonha 2 7 7 0 0 1 4 57
Murcuri 6 10 11 1 17 2 20 6 55
Rio Doce 19 31 42 7 37 9 29 27 64
Mata 54 64 89 22 41 35 55 70 79
Itacambira 6 7 9 0 1 14 5 56
Alto Jequitinhonha 6 8 10 2 33 0 3 30
Metalirgica 23 35 42 11 48 17 49 30 71
Campos da Mantiqueira Mineira 11 13 21 3 27 3 23 15 71
Sul 83 104 123 38 46 46 44 110 89
Oeste 33 44 56 18 55 15 34 45 80
Alto Medio Sao Francisco 4 4 4 1 25 3 75 3 75
Montes Claros 5 8 9 1 20 4 50 8 89
Alto Sao Francisco 4 7 9 4 100 5 71 9 100
Urucuia 3 4 5 0 0 5 100
Paranaiba-Rio Grande 15 17 18 4 27 8 47 15 83
Triangulo 13 18 22 3 23 14 78 22 100
TOTAL 288 386 483 115 40 162 42 379 79
Source: Same as Table 15.
Trends in the Mechanization-of Agriculture 67
Mechanization Becomes Important, 1950-60
In spite of the late beginning of mechanization and its extremely
slow start in Minas Gerais, the modern tractor and other machines
and implements characteristic of the most advanced system of agri-
culture began to enter more rapidly into use on the landholdings in
the state during the decade ending in 1960. This is supported by
statistical materials given in the 1960 census of agriculture. Thus in
1960 more than 5,000 tractors were reported on the farming and
ranching establishments. Moreover, the materials indicate that be-
tween 1950 and 1960 there was an average annual increment of more
than 425 tractors. Although this figure is negligible by comparison to
Sao Paulo's annual increase of 2,428 tractors and Rio Grande do
Sul's gain of 1,443 per year over the same period, it constitutes a
vast improvement over the yearly change during the preceding
Undoubtedly more important, however, the data show average an-
nual additions of 46, 105, and 136 tractors in the three physiographic
zones of Mata, Sul, and the TriAngulo, respectively. This in itself is
indicative of the growing importance of mechanized farming opera-
tions. Furthermore, by 1960 this indispensable feature of the mech-
anized farming complex had appeared in every one of the state's
seventeen physiographic zones. Therefore, one may logically con-
clude not only that the tractor had ceased to be a novelty in the
greater part of Minas Gerais but also that the majority of the state's
agriculturists had had a chance to appraise for themselves its use-
fulness as a source of power in everyday farming and ranching
The data in Table 16 emphasize even more forcefully than the
materials presented in the preceding table the increasing importance
of mechanization. They indicate that by 1960 the modern tractor
was present in almost 80 per cent of the state's 483 municipios as
contrasted with only 42 per cent of the 386 subdivisions in Minas
Gerais in 1950. Furthermore, a comparison of the 1950 and 1960
data indicates for the two densely settled, mountainous zones of the
South, Mata and Sul, not only a greatly increased diffusion in the
use of the tractor but also a complete reversal in the relative im-
portance of mechanization. Whereas Mata had been the more im-
portant of the two in this regard in 1950, by 1960 Sul had forged
Visual indication of the growing importance of agricultural mech-
anization in the course of the 1950-60 decade is provided by Figures
1 Medio Baixo Jequitinhonha
2 M6dio Jequitinhonha
4 Rio Doce
7 Alto Jequitinhonha
9 Campos da Mantiqueira Mineira
12 Alto M6dio Sao Francisco
13 Montes Claros
14 Alto Sao Francisco
16 Paranaiba-Rio Grande (Alto Paranaiba)
Fig. 2. Distribution of the Tractor in Minas Gerais, by Muni-
* One tractor
1 M6dio Baixo Jequitinhonha
2 Medio Jequitinhonha
4 Rio Doce
7 Alto Jequitinhonha
9 Campos da Mantiqueira Mineira
12 Alto M6dio Sio Francisco
13 Montes Claros
14 Alto Sio Francisco
16 Paranaiba-Rio Grande (Alto Paranaiba)
Fig. 3. Distribution of the Tractor in Minas Gerais, by 1
* One tractor
.5. :...~ "-
*~ ..: ... **L-''.*
t :: 9 p.
SI'; .~\ Horizonht
..~~::: ..': ::' :..~;. .:
'-::.: i~~:~-;:..f ~12~:~:
72 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
2 and 3. A comparison of these provides eloquent testimony of the
increasing importance of mechanization during the decade ending
in 1960. Despite the heavy concentrations of tractors in certain
areas, the use of this important machine became much more widely
diffused throughout the state between 1950 and 1960.
In Arm PAmi., mi
None One 2 to 4 5 to 9 10 to 24 25 to 49 50 and over
Fig. 4. Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture in Minas Gerais, 1940, 1950,
Source: Compiled and computed from data in "Censos Econ6micos," 1950, and
"Sinopse Preliminar do Censo Agricola," 1963.
The magnitude of this trend is brought out also by the data
charted in Figure 4. This shows the proportions of the municipios in
Minas Gerais in which specified numbers of tractors were reported
in 1940, 1950, and 1960. One should note the successively lower pro-
portions of municipios in which no tractor or only one tractor was
reported and also, conversely, the successively higher proportions
of those in which larger numbers of tractors were declared.
Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture 73
Indications of Further Gains
It is interesting to note that a recent statistical report compiled
by the Secretaria da Agricultura of Minas Gerais indicates not only
a continuation of the 1950-60 trend but a substantial acceleration in
its pace.' According to these data, 12,169 tractors were reported for
Minas Gerais as of June 30, 1965, indicating an increase of 7,145
machines (over 142 per cent) in approximately four and one-half
years. This amounts to an average annual increase of 1,588 tractors,
a considerable improvement over the yearly gain of about 425 re-
corded for the decade ending in 1960. In addition, these data show
for Brazil as a whole a total of 110,230 tractors by mid-1965. In ac-
counting for 11.8 per cent of the national total, Minas Gerais falls
somewhat short of the proportion attributed to Rio Grande do Sul,
12.1 per cent. Both states, though, are completely outdistanced in
this regard by Sao Paulo, whose farmers report almost one-third
(31.1 per cent) of all the tractors in Brazil.
The substantial improvement of mechanization in Minas Gerais
indicated by the data presented above is reflected in the sales re-
ports of the Deutz-Minas FAbrica de Tratores, located in Belo
Horizonte, and of the Companhia Agricola de Minas Gerais, the
state-controlled distributor of farm equipment (mentioned in Chap-
ter 3), with headquarters in the same city. Both organizations report
large increases in the sale of their products since 1960.
Factors Influencing Trends in Mechanization
The foregoing analyses of pertinent census material demonstrate
conclusively that the mechanization of agriculture in Minas Gerais
got substantially underway between 1950 and 1960. Furthermore,
from the later report it appears to be steadily increasing in impor-
tance. Obviously certain factors are responsible for such changes in
its course and rate. It would be impossible, of course, to determine
all of the details of the complex of elements that may have con-
tributed in one way or another to these trends. It is possible, though,
to indicate some of the more important determinants and to suggest
in a general way the manner in which they have functioned and
1. A copy of the report, compiled at the request of a special federal com-
mission appointed to investigate the cost of tractors destined for agriculture, is
in files of the Secretaria da Agricultura, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Tabelas
e Grdfico Anezos, Referentes a Estatistica, ProduCao, e Comdrcio de Tratores.
Sent to the Presidente da Comissao Parlamentar de Inquerito, criada pela
Resolugdo 128/65, Camara dos Deputados, Brasilia (Belo Horizonte, 11 de
Setembro de 1965).
74 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
continue to operate to influence the modernization of farming prac-
tices on the landholdings in the state. Before proceeding with this,
however, it is well to indicate that most of the factors which influ-
ence the process of mechanization are highly correlative. Related
determinants are considered separately, although at times some com-
binations might be regarded as single factors. Furthermore, the
various determinants are ranked in the order in which they are
evaluated by the writer.
Before attempting to analyze the various determinants which
either promote or impede mechanization it is advisable to stress
once more the overwhelming importance of the gradual superimpo-
sition of an agricultural economy upon the traditional pastoral econ-
omy of the nation. Without doubt, this single long-continued trend
is of primary significance in relation to mechanization wherever
agricultural improvement is attempted in Brazil. This is particularly
true in Minas Gerais where in several large areas grazing currently
is being supplanted by crop cultivation. Only as the latter activity
gains ascendancy do the tractor and other modern equipment
come to be used more generally.
Obviously all of the determinants that were considered in Chapter
3 as having influenced regional variations in the importance of
mechanized agriculture may have contributed substantially to the
trends now under consideration. The prime importance of several
of these should be stressed. The first and most significant is the
proximity of certain areas of Minas Gerais to the highly mechanized
farming regions of her southern neighbor Sio Paulo. Another is the
influence exerted by the various stimuli emanating from the great
urban centers. A third is the contribution made to mechanization
by the location of certain areas on improved roads. Finally, and of
no little importance to the development of mechanization, is the
persistence of attitudes and values that were generated within the
system of large estates and transmitted to later generations of land-
owners. Of all the determinants treated in the preceding chapter
which to varying degrees influence trends in mechanization, these
four appear to be the most significant.
While falta de bragos (literally the lack of arms, the equivalent
of the English shortage of hands) is a cry familiar to all generations
of Brazilians, past and present, never was it so well supported by
fact as at the present time. With the cities draining off much of the
excess rural population, farm operators everywhere who always
have relied upon the abundance of cheap manual labor are experi-
Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture 75
encing difficulty in finding large numbers of low-paid, docile, un-
skilled workers for their farming enterprises. The fact that the small
operators are quite as prone to use excessive amounts of manual
labor as are their neighbors living on extensive holdings means that
many farmers of Minas Gerais are being compelled to consider and
adopt more modern equipment and methods.
Somewhat related to the situation of falta de bragos is another
factor, the distinct possibility of the complete disappearafice of
cheap labor from the rural scene. Although Brazilidn minimum-
wage laws apply to both the agricultural and industrial labor force,
their enforcement in the rural areas has been extremely lax. The
writer noticed, especially in the TriAngulo, that many farmers were
alarmed at increasing indications of a federal investigation of the
notoriously low wages and other arrangements with farm laborers.
The prospect of more rigorous enforcement of the laws is causing
many to invest in labor-saving equipment. It is interesting to note
that, although forced into the change, many operators now are ex-
pressing satisfaction with the more economical operation and in-
creased productivity of their farms. Their satisfaction, in turn, is
encouraging others to follow their example. Thus the importance
of mechanization is enhanced. The fact that the national govern-
ment, hitherto preoccupied with industrial expansion, is devoting
increasing attention to the agricultural sector of the economy is in-
dicated by its concern with tentative policies of agrarian reform, its
roles in the manufacture and distribution of modern farm ma-
chinery, its attempts to improve credit facilities for agriculturists,
its interest in adequate wages for farm laborers, and so on. Although
largely ineffectual thus far, the increasingly firm attitude of the
government is a factor influencing mechanization whether its effect
be positive, as generally is the case, or negative, as sometimes is
The establishment of a tractor rental service in a number of the
municipios is another factor of importance. Such services are con-
ducted under the auspices of the Minist6rio da Agricultura (a fed-
eral agency) or the SecretAria da Agricultura (a state agency),
depending upon the sites of their respective regional offices, and are
assisted financially by a foreign source. Tractors, appropriate imple-
ments, and experienced operators are furnished for a nominal
charge per hour or per hectare to any farm operator who may wish
to take advantage of the service regardless of the size of his holding.
Usually from two to ten of these units are stationed in the seat of
76 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
most of the municipios of the principal agricultural regions. The re-
sponse has been impressive. But the demand far exceeds the supply
of equipment, and an applicant often may have to wait more than
a year for his turn. It is obvious that this service has done much to
stimulate mechanization during the past decade.
The adoption of mechanization itself frequently functions as a
determinant encouraging further mechanization. This was alluded
to but not developed in an earlier paragraph when it was men-
tioned that farmers often follow the example of a neighbor who ex-
presses satisfaction with the use of modern equipment. Moreover,
as indicated in the preceding chapter, the writer encountered in the
Triangulo region sharecroppers who had purchased and were using
Rural school in north central Minas Gerais, near Curvelo.
their own tractors and related implements. Undoubtedly many such
workers eventually buy land of their own and in this way also the
process of mechanization has a cumulative effect.
Among the factors contributing to the observed trends in mecha-
nization some frequently stand out more prominently than others.
For example, some of the more serious inhibiting factors have to do
with the farm operators' apprehensions of, or at least misgivings
about, the agricultural policies of the federal government. Hence a
number of factors of this type might be considered as parts of a more
comprehensive determinant which in the past and at the present time
has limited the development of mechanization. The national govern-
ment has failed to take prompt, positive, and adequate steps to
enact and put into effect some basic agrarian reform measures.
Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture 77
Examples of these would be the removal of excessive taxes on vital
farm equipment (now as high as 60 per cent), the elimination of
taxes imposed by the state on farm products at time of sale (these
amount to 8 per cent in Minas Gerais and 6 per cent in Sao Paulo),
and the imposition and collection of a substantial tax on the land.
Without the land tax the mechanization of Brazilian agriculture will
never become a reality. This expedient would reduce the use of
farm land for speculative purposes, and it could provide the funds
needed for the development of a system of education that would
enable the rural masses to become genuine members of a middle
Interior of same school.
class prepared to take full advantage of the system of mechanized
farming. As things now stand, the government appears to be appre-
hensive of the consequences of such a step since most of the influen-
tial citizens always have been landowners vitally interested in
maintaining the status quo. Its vacillating policy has given rise to
a myriad of factors which hamper the progress of mechanization.
Apprehension about the techniques that the national government
might adopt in implementing its agrarian-reform program consti-
tutes a fairly serious retarding determinant. Despite the assurances
of agents of the federal government, given publicly in the seats of
many of the municipios, that agrarian reform does not involve the
78 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
expropriation and redistribution of productive farms among the
landless workers, the writer encountered many landowners who
voiced their misgivings. It appeared that many farmers are deliber-
ately delaying the mechanization of their enterprises for this reason.
As mentioned above, fear that the minimum-wage laws may be en-
forced also plays a role in holding back the process of mechaniza-
tion. Some of the farm operators with whom the writer conferred,
especially in the highly developed Triangulo section of the state,
already had returned to pastoral activities despite the prospect of
greatly reduced incomes. Many others are seriously considering
turning the fields in which they were growing rice, corn, and cotton
into pastures for beef cattle.
The high cost of equipment is another factor which long has re-
tarded the process of mechanization and presently constitutes a
brake on the speed of its development in Minas Gerais. Closely as-
sociated with this are the decidedly unfavorable credit terms used
by the Banco do Brasil. This problem is not of recent origin but
with inflation it has steadily become more serious. As a result many
farm operators feel compelled to continue using the traditional
methods of farming. Eloquent testimony to the seriousness of the
problem are the complaints frequently published by the manufac-
turers of farming equipment. They report that production must be
curtailed because of excessive stocks of vital equipment which the
farmers want but cannot purchase.
The paucity of modern, paved highways also adversely affects
the development of mechanization in Minas Gerais by severely
limiting the marketing of farm products. There are as yet only three
important paved highways in the state: the Sao Paulo-Brasilia
highway which passes through UberlAndia in the TriAngulo; the
Rio-Brasilia highway which goes through Belo Horizonte; and the
one connecting the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Bahia,
which runs through Leopoldina, Governador Valdares, and Te6filo
Otoni, along the eastern border of Minas Gerais. Other paved roads
extend only relatively short distances from Belo Horizonte, and not
even the rapidly developing region of the Triangulo is connected
by pavement with the capital of the state.
One of the most serious of the factors hampering the moderniza-
tion of farming operations is the persistence of traditional systems
of agriculture (see Chapter 2). That in this day and age the great
bulk of the agriculturists in Minas Gerais continue to rely upon
fire agriculture, hoe culture, and elementary plow culture points to
Trends in the Mechanization of Agriculture 79
"4-S" club meeting in the Southeast, slowly but
improvement in farming practices.
definitely bringing about
grave defects in the Brazilian system of education. There is a des-
perate need for Brazilian youth to be instructed in both agriculture
and mechanics in secondary schools that should be established in
the municipios; and such necessary subjects should be added to the
usual curriculum. At the present time agents of ACAR are attempting
to remedy this deficiency by working with the rural youth, many
of whom do not receive adequate formal schooling. While their
4-S Clubes (the Brazilian counterparts of our 4-H Clubs) have
been highly successful, deficiencies in both personnel and resources
naturally limit such work to relatively few of the vast number who
should have such training. Until the majority of the state's farmers
become personally acquainted with modern and efficient farming
methods and farm management, there is little likelihood of a high
degree of mechanization in Minas Gerais.
HE 1960 BRAZILIAN CENSUS of agriculture appeared at a most
opportune time for an investigation of the extent to which the
traditional pastoral economy of Minas Gerais has given way
to one based upon agriculture centered about the use of modern
equipment. The data given in the preliminary reports of this latest
census, in conjunction with the materials provided by the 1940 and
1950 enumerations of the census of agriculture, make possible a
fairly comprehensive study of contemporary change in the systems
of agriculture in general, and the extent of development of the
mechanized system of agriculture in particular.
In the course of this study many census data have been as-
sembled, organized, and analyzed so as to insure a dependable
assessment of the degree of development of the most advanced sys-
tem of agriculture in Minas Gerais. In each case specific conclusions
have been checked carefully against information gathered by per-
sonal observations, conversations with informed persons, pertinent
and reliable publications, and special tabulations of materials kept
in the files of the various agencies engaged in agricultural develop-
ment. This brief final chapter consists of a short summary of the
most important generalizations and conclusions, taken in the se-
quence in which they appear in the text.
A careful analysis of the use presently made of traditional farming
practices in Minas Gerais shows conclusively that improved systems
of agriculture have made but little headway in replacing the anti-
quated and frequently aboriginal complexes. The stubborn persist-
ence of the latter is indicated by instances of riverbank planting
and by abundant evidences of fire agriculture. The hoe, along with
the ax and billhook, are the principal "improved" implements em-
ployed by the vast majority of the state's agriculturists. Those de-
signed to free man from some of the drudgery formerly associated
with tillage of the soil are represented mainly by the heavy, wooden
plow and the two-wheeled wooden cart, both pulled by oxen. Little
use is made of the light, steel plow, the horse collar, horses or mules
-- -- 1 /. ..
Carro de bois, oxcart still used for transporting produce about the farm.
as draft animals, and the four-wheeled farm wagon which are the
principal features of advanced plow culture. Such is the emphasis
placed upon the mechanization of agriculture today, that it is en-
tirely conceivable that the advanced plow culture system of agri-
culture may largely be passed over in the process of agricultural
Detailed analyses of the latest census data, supported by personal
observations made throughout the state, force the conclusion that
mechanized farming in Minas Gerais is merely in an elementary
stage of growth. They indicate, in addition, the existence of astound-
ing variations from one part of the state to another in the extent to
which the mechanized system of agriculture has become a functional
part of the economy.
The amazing differences in the use made of modern farm equip-
ment and technology suggest definite trends in the process of de-
82 THE MECHANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE
velopment of mechanization. Analyses of pertinent census data
show that, after a late beginning about 1940 and exceptionally little
headway in the course of the following decade, the system of mech-
anized farming began to make greater progress in the state between
1950 and 1960. The most recent data not only indicate a continua-
tion of the 1950-60 trend in the years that have elapsed since the
1960 census enumeration, but suggest a considerable acceleration in
the pace of development of mechanization in Minas Gerais.
Some of the major determinants which have worked and continue
to operate in certain areas of the state to influence the degree of
agricultural development are identified and described. Undoubtedly
the chief explanations for the tremendous differences in the use of
agricultural mechanization are: the transitional period through
which the economy of Minas Gerais presently is passing with the
gradual ascendancy of agricultural over pastoral activities, the prox-
imity of Minas Gerais to another state, Sao Paulo, in which mecha-
nized agriculture is relatively highly advanced, and the various stim-
uli emanating from the great urban centers. Among the most serious
of the factors inhibiting the growth of mechanization are those
which have their origin in the host of attitudes and values generated
within the system of large estates and transmitted to successive
generations of landowners. While the preference of many farm
operators for farming practices inherited from their forebears con-
stitutes a sufficiently serious limiting factor, the process of mechani-
zation appears to be greatly retarded by the apprehensions of, or at
least misgivings about, the agricultural policies of the national gov-
ernment on the part of many farmers and ranchers. There is little
doubt that a prompt enactment and strict enforcement of some of
the basic agrarian-reform measures would encourage many farm
owners and operators to concentrate on farm modernization and
greatly stimulate the development of mechanized agriculture in the
state. Although the latest trend suggests that the factors impeding
mechanization slowly are losing force and that those that tend to
promote its growth are gaining in strength, such determinants can-
not be ignored. Their presence and the extent of their influence on
the adoption and diffusion of modern farming practices suggest for
social scientists and social planners a more intensive study of these
largely sociocultural factors.
In the consideration of these determinants which in various ways
and to varying degrees affect the development of the most advanced
system of agriculture in Minas Gerais, agricultural mechanization
was treated as a dependent variable. Logically, the equation then
should be reversed so as to consider some of the consequences of
the adoption of modem equipment and the use of the latest tech-
nology. This procedure is not followed. Although a few changes
which presently are taking place in the social and economic attri-
butes of the more important regions of Minas Gerais may be associ-
ated with the degree of mechanization thus far attained, investiga-
tions of this nature undoubtedly will have to await the further
evolution of modern farming in the state.
The present study, of necessity exploratory and limited, shows the
value of sociological analysis. It demonstrates one of the ways of
selecting pertinent data from the mass of reliable and costly mate-
rials assembled in the modem census of agriculture and of organizing
them in a meaningful manner so as to permit the drawing of infer-
ences as to the present status and trends of mechanized agriculture
in a given area. This procedure also makes possible comparisons of
the degree of development of mechanization in one area with that
reached in others. Although limited to the state of Minas Gerais, the
results of the analysis probably are applicable to many other parts
of Brazil which presently are undergoing agricultural development
along modern lines. Thus, besides adding to the growing fund of
sociological knowledge of this important aspect of man-land rela-
tions, "this investigation may stimulate the sociological study of the
systems of agriculture in other regions of Brazil and also contribute
to the formulation of more effective programs of agricultural de-
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ABCAR. See Associavgo Brasileira de
Cr6dito e Assist&ncia Rural
ACAR. See Associacgo de Cr6dito e
Agrarian reform: recognition of need
for, 75; failures regarding, 76; land-
owners' misgivings about, 76, 78,
82; basic measures required in, 77
Agricultural development: importance
of, in Brazil, 5, 8; impeded by
primitive methods, 8; influenced by
topography, 16, 37, 55, 56, 60;
advanced by ACAR, 22, 37, 59;
aided by educational institutions,
23, 58; current emphasis on, 37;
hindered by traditional systems,
40; of Sdo Paulo, 49; as a dynamic
process, 62; accelerated pace of, 82
Agricultural economy: need for atten-
tion to, 8; superior position of, over
pastoral economy, 49, 62, 74, 80
Agricultural mechanization. See Ag-
ricultural development; Mechanized
Agriculture: primitive vs. mechanized,
8; slow pace of mechanized, 31
Agropastoral units: relation of size of,
to dependence upon human labor,
17, 18; dependence upon human
labor, 19, 22, 23; use of animal
power on, 27, 28; use of plows on,
28, 29; use of oxcarts on, 29, 30; use
of other animal-drawn vehicles on,
32, 33; use of human labor on, by
states, 35, 37; mentioned, passim
Alliance for Progress, 57, 58
American Association for Economic
and Social Development, 57
Associado Brasileira de Cr4dito e
Assistdncia Rural: origin of, 23n
Associacao de Credito e Assistdncia
Rural: mentioned, 4; opposition of,
to fire agriculture, 15n; origin of,
22, 23, 23n; objectives of, 57n;
range of activities of, 59; as factor
in agricultural development, 59; 4-
S clubes, 79
Attitudes: and process of agricultural
development, 2; of residents of
TriAngulo, 33, 33n; as factor ham-
pering agricultural development, 54,
BRAZIL: farm production and stand-
ards and levels of living in, 2;
cultural diversity of, 4; principal
farm implements of, 16; passim
CAMIG: demonstration areas of, 54;
organization and range of activities,
Carrete: description and significance
of use of, 32, 33
Census of agriculture: mentioned, 1;
as source of data, 3; difficulties en-
countered in use of, 11; incomplete
1960 enumerations of, 1ln
Climate and topography: as factors
in development of mechanization
of agriculture and in observable
trends, 16, 28, 37, 55, 56, 60
Colleges and universities: contribution
of Presbyterian Agricultural College
to agricultural improvement, 23;
development of Rural University of
Minas Gerais, 23n; contribution of
Rural University of Minas Gerais
to agricultural development, 23, 58
Commercial crops: types of, 46; proc-
essing plants for, 52; as factor in-
fluencing mechanization, 52, 53
Companhia Agricola de Minas Gerais,
Contour plowing: limited extent of,
Cultural change: importance of "lag"
concept in, 10; resistance to, 10,
DEERE, John: construction of first
steel plow, 30n
Derrubada e queimada. See Fire agri-
Developing nations: characteristics of,
7, 8; similarity of Minas Gerais to,
Digging stick: as forerunner of hoe,
Draft animals: use of oxen as, 24n,
26, 27, 28; use of horses and mules
as, 25, 25n, 26, 31; failure to use
horses and mules as, 37; attempts to
substitute mechanical power for, 39
EDUCATION: development impeded by
lack of land tax, 77; defects in the
system of, 78, 79; needed curricu-
lum in, 79
Establecimentos agropecuarios. See
Falta de brapos: defined, 74; becom-
ing a reality, 74; as factor influenc-
ing mechanization, 74, 75; related
to cost of labor, 75
Farming equipment, modern: farm
wagon, 31; use of, hindered by
topography, 37; appraisal of use of,
40-61; influence of foreign aid
upon, 57, 58; high cost of, 76, 77,
78; complaints of manufacturers of,
Farming methods: current change in,
2; as sociocultural systems, 4, 5;
importance of concept of, to rural
sociologists, 5n; interest of govern-
ment in, 11; description of, 17;
recognition of need of modern, 24,
25; acceptance of improved, in Tri-
angulo, 33n; lack of improvement
in, 37, 40
Fire agriculture: description of, 12-
15; indigenous derivation of, 12n;
inefficiency of, 13; as traditional
system of land rotation, 13n; in-
stances of, 13-15; prevalence of,
14, 15; sets limits to own survival,
Foreign aid, 57, 58
HAND LABOR: dependence upon, 17,
Highways: as factor influencing mech-
anization, 50-52, 74; and trends in
Hoe: as principal element in system
of hoe culture, 16; failure of, to
supplant use of ax and fire, 16n;
extensive use of, 17
Hoe culture: description and origin of,
16; development of, by Incas and
Chibchas, 16; distribution and rele-
vance of, 16-19, 23; dependence of,
in production of commercial crops,
17; as dominant system of agricul-
ture, 17-19; fundamental conditions
for displacement of, 38; importance
of, in Minas Gerais, 38, 81
Human energy: dependence upon,
22; expenditures of, in two systems
of plow culture, 25; extent of de-
pendence upon, 26, 27
IMMIGRANTS: influence of, upon agri-
Institute Brasileiro de Geografia e
Estatistica: as a source of informa-
JEFFERSON, Thomas: contributions of,
to development of turning plow,
LABOR, manual: extent of, 18, 22,
26, 27; accorded fullest recogni-
tion, 35; national dependence
upon, 35; inherited disdain for, 54,
55, 74; highly regarded for cheap-
ness, 74, 75; scarcity of, 75. See
Falta de brapos; Attitudes
Land use: criticism of, 15n; as
"asylum" for capital, 59; rotation
of, vs. crop rotation. See Fire agri-
Latifindia: influence of, on mecha-
nized farming. See Mechanized
Levels and standards of living: wide
variations of, in Brazil, 7; factors
responsible for variation in, 8; and
systems of agriculture, 8, 9
MECHANIZED FARMING: support of, by
Brazilian press, 15n, 37n; as most
advanced system of agriculture, 39;
contrasting development of, in
United States and Brazil, 40; mis-
apprehensions regarding adoption
of, 41; beginning stage of, 41, 43,
44; variations in, 45-48; factors
responsible for variations in, 48-
61; late appearance of, 63; in-
creasing importance of, 67, 72; re-
cent gains in, 73, 73n; factors in-
fluencing trends in, 73-79; empha-
sis upon, 81; differential adoption
of, 82, 83
Middle-class farmers: mentioned, 23
Minifindia: and excessive subdivision
of land through inheritance, 56;
effect of, on development of mech-
anized farming, 56, 60. See also
Subdivision of estates
Minist6rio da Agricultura: mentioned,
3, passim; attempts of, to eliminate
fire agriculture, 15; experimental
farms of, 53, 54; as sponsor of
tractor rental service, 75, 76
OXCART: as an element of elemen-
tary plow culture complex, 29; as
an indicator of extent of elementary
plow culture, 30
Oxen: as an element in elementary
plow culture complex, 23, 24. See
also Draft animals
Parceiros. See Sharecroppers
Pastoral economy. See Agricultural
Physiographic zones: description of,
Plow: evidence of early origin of,
24n; continuing use of slightly im-
proved type of, 25; early advocacy
of use of, and introduction to
Minas Gerais, 25n; continued scar-
city of, 26n; reports of possession
of, 28, 29; still a rarity in Brazil,
31, 32n; extent of use of, in state
and nationally, 35, 37
Plow, steel: development of, 30, 31;
as a central element in advanced
plow culture complex, 31. See also
Deere, John; Jefferson, Thomas
Presbyterian Agricultural College, 23
RESEARCH: procedures involved in
study, 2-4, 80; major sources of
frame of reference and techniques
of, 3n; importance of observation
in, 3, 4, 26.
Riverbank planting: description and
importance of, 12; instances of,
12, 81; indigenous development of,
Roceiro: involvement of, in fire agri-
culture, 13; definition of, and role
as itinerant farmer, 13n
Rural University of Minas Gerais, 23,
SXo PAULO: influence of, upon mech-
anization in Triangulo region, 23,
41, 43, 55, 63, 74
Secretiria da Agricultura: mentioned,
3; as sponsor of tractor rental serv-
ice, 75, 76
Sharecroppers: on smaller farms, 18;
in TriAngulo, 33; ownership of
equipment by, as factor in mech-
Smith, T. Lynn: mentioned, 5n, 6;
classification of agricultural systems
proposed by, 9, 10. See also Systems
Sociocultural system: definition of,
and systems of agriculture as, 4, 5
Sociological analysis: need for, 1, 2;
demonstrated in present study, 83
Subdivision of estates: in southern
and western zones, 23; influence
of, on mechanized farming, 56n.
See also Minifindia
Systems of agriculture: and levels
and standards of living, 9; classi-
fication of, 9, 10; description of
various systems of, 12, 13, 15, 16,
23, 24, 30, 31, 39; need of further
study of, 83. See also Smith, T.
Lynn; Sociological systems
Systems of agriculture, traditional:
indigenous derivation of, 2; in
Minas Gerais, 9, 10; persistence of,
10; difficulty in determining distri-
bution of, 11, 12; preference for,
25, 82; entrenched position of, 40;
as impediment to mechanization,
TAXES: excessive tax on farm imple-
ments and produce, 76, 77; need
for land tax, 77
Topography and climate. See Climate
Tractors: first appearance of, 26; high
cost of, and unfavorable credit ar-
rangements for purchase of, 40; en-
couragement of manufacture of, 40;
number of, and number of persons
per tractor in state and nationally,
41, 42; persons per tractor in
TriAngulo and in United States, 43;
municipios reporting use of, 43;
variations in use of, 45-47; spotted
distribution of, 48; use of, and
condition of roads, 50-52; late ap-
pearance of, in state, 63; increas-
ing use of, 63, 65, 73n; rental of,
as factor influencing mechanization,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF
AGRICULTURE: mentioned, 5