Institutional factors
 Agricultural and environmental...
 Socio-economic factors
 Discussion and conclusions
 Biographical note

Title: Agricultural sucess and failure among Transamazon Highway colonists
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095686/00001
 Material Information
Title: Agricultural sucess and failure among Transamazon Highway colonists
Physical Description: 42 leaves : map ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Poats, Susan V
Copyright Date: 1979
Subject: Agricultural colonies -- Amazon River Region   ( lcsh )
Rodovia Transamazônica (Brazil)   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Brazil
Summary: This paper examines the factors causing agricultural success or failure among colonists in the Transamazon Highway colonization project. A brief description of the project includes resons why, after only five years of operation, the focus of the project turned from small farmers to large agro-business or corporate development.
Statement of Responsibility: Susan Poats.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaf 41).
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: "June 1979."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095686
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 436089187

Table of Contents
        Page i
        Page 1
        Page 1a
        Page 1b
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Institutional factors
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Agricultural and environmental factors
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    Socio-economic factors
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
    Discussion and conclusions
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
    Biographical note
        Page 42
Full Text

(7^ 65P




JUNE 1979

AESTRACT- This paper examines the factors causing agricultural
success or failure among colonists in the Transavzon Highway
colonization project. A brief description of the project includes
reasons why, after only five years of operation, the focus of the
project turned from small farmers to large agro-business or cor-
porate development. Specific examples are drawn from one section
of the Itaituba colonization sector. Four case studies are.pre-
sented to illuminate the agricultural problems colonists faced,
and how some colonists were able to develop the means of coping
with these problems, while others were not.


On ,i-iarch 18, 1970, Brazil's President Eimilio Garrastazu

Medici announced that work was to begin on a new Erazilian

highway, the Transamazonica or Transamrazon (See Figure 1.).

Originating on the Northeastern Coast of Brazil and extending
A 1
westward across Amazonia' below the Amazon River, it would

eventually reach the town of Cruzeiro do Sul, near the border

with Peru. At a point near the town of Itaituba, Para, the

Transamazon would cross another highway, already under

construction, running north from Cuiaba to the town of

Santarem located on the Amazon River halfway between the

cities of Belem and Manaus. These two highways, the Transamazon

and the Cuiaba-Santarem would form the beginning of an

extensive highway system designed to provide a means of

transportation to towns and regions heretofore accessible

only be airplane or by lengthy boat trips. President i iedici

made the announcement while personally visiting the North-

eastern areas most affected b/the severe drought of 1970.

Amazgnia is defined as lying between the parallels
5 0 and 16 s and meridans 44 and 74' Wr. and co...-prises the
States of Para, Amazonas, Acre, western i.laranhao, northern,
Mato Grosso and Goias, and the Federal Territories of Amapa,
Roraima, and2Rondonia. It has an area of approximately
5,000,000 km" which represents about two-thirds of Brazil's
national territory (Serrao 197513).

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At this time it was clear to him and to many other Brazilians

that the Superintendencia de Desenvolvimento do Nordeste

(Superintendency for Development of the Northeast, SUDENE),

which had been established in 1959 to further the integrated

development of the Northeast, "had not been able during the

1960's to develop the region socially and economically

sufficiently to limit the harmful effects of severe drought"

(Kleinpenning 1975:77). Pie~ident i edici declared that the

new highways would open up Amazonia and connect "men without

land in tne Northeast," to "land without men in the .Amazon"

(cited in Davis 1977:39). Thus drought and poverty-stricken

northeastern and other Brazilians, could gain access to a

better life there. Northeasterners would be employed on

construction crews and could settle along lands opened up by

the highway. As plans progressed; permanent relocation of
northeasterners to Amazonia rather than job opportunity became

the emphasis of Amazonia development.

On June 16, 1970, the Program of National Integration

(Programa de Integracao Nacional, PIJ) was established.

"One of the points of this program was that, during the period

1971-4, a sum of 2,000 million cruzeiros2 should be invested

in the areas under the influence of the SUDIN and the SUDAod,3

to be used not only for further industrialization and

2This was approximately equivalent to U.S. ?266,666,666
in 1970. At the ti:ne of research the U.3, dollar equaled 7.5
cruzeiros. The actual cost of PIN by 1974 was much higher.

3SUDAIi is the Superintendencia de Desenvolvirmento da
Amazonia, Superintendency of Dovelopm-ent of Amrazonia. It was
established in 1966. Like SUDILN, it is a regional development

agricultural development in the Northeast, but also for the

construction of the two highways referred to above and for

colonization along their borders" (Kleinpenning 1975,78). To

carry out the work of permanently populating or colonizing

Amazonia, PIN provided for the establishment of the Instituto

Nacional de Colonizacao e Reforma Agraria, INCRA (National

Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform).

The principal objective of the colonization project was

to settle 100,000 families on 100 hectare lots (500 meters X

2,000 meters) along the highway between 1971 and 1974. By

1972, colonization fever was rampant in the INCRA administra-

tive centers at Maraba, Altamira and Itaituba. A frontier-like

spirit and excitement literally invaded these previously

quiet, sleepy river towns as the barely navigable, two-lane

"Highway" brought truckloads of hopeful colonists each day.

Young, ambitious agrinomos and assistentes socials (agricultural

technicians and social assistants) worked to receive the new-

comers and to carry out the INCRA directives.

More colonists arrived than could be processed. INCRA

was not equipped with either plans or personnel to handle all

the people who came, nor were they able to provide necessary

agricultural support to the fledgling colonists. By 1974,

only 5,717 families had been settled along the highway, far

short of the original optimistic goal. The colonization

scheme, hailed initially as an innovative effort to stimulate

successful small farm enterprises, gradually began to de-celerate.

agency which functions as an independent governmental unit
responsible for promoting the agricultural, industrial, and
social development of Ar!azonia through large-scale financial aid.

The emphasis of Amazon development turned to large agro-busi-

nesses and multi-national corporations. By the end of 1974,

the colonization project had virtually died and INCRA was left

to maintain its few remaining administrative services for the

colonists who were by.this time, learning how to cope success-

fully with the Amazonian environment.

This paper focuses on the differences among individual

colonists within a segment of the Transamazon Highway near

Itaituba. Although almost all colonists had very low agri-

cultural yields during the first two years after project

initiation, by late 1974, it was obvious that some colonists

were able.to cope successfully with the institutional inadequa-

cies and environmental problems, while others were not. In

essence, though all suffered from the inadequacies of the pro-

gram some were still able to succeed. This paper attempts to

show why these colonists were able to succeed and how, and

what factors prohibited success among others.

The research for this paper was carried out during three

different time periods. The first was a three-month

reconnaissance trip to.the Transamazon Highway in December

1972, soon after colonization got under way. The second was

an extended stay from June 1974 to i.iarch 1975. During this

time, one highway segment community in the Itaituba sector of

the colonization project and the thirty-four colonist families

located within it was selected and studied as an example of the

colonization program.

A Master's thesis (Poats 1975) was the result of this
field experience as well as a preliminary draft of the present
paper which was presented at the Southern Anthropological Society
meetings, Clearwater, Florida, April 3-5, 1975.


In order to select an appropriate community, extensive

interviews with INCRA officials and other persons familiar with

the highway residents in the Itaituba sector were conducted to

determine which community was representative of the sectOr in

terms of number of colonists, length of time settled on the

highway and level of agricultural productivity. After visiting

several highway locations, a research site meeting these quali-

fications was selected. This community is referred to as

Kilometer 42, since it is located about forty-two kilometers
east of the town of Itaituba where INCRA administrative head-

quarters for the sector were established. The kilometer 42

research site was revisited in February 1977 in order to update

the information collected in 1974-75.

The body of the paper is divided into three sections, each

dealing with one of the three kinds'of factors which determined

success or failure among the colonists; institutional factors,

agricultural and environmental factors, and socio-economic
factors. Institutional factors refers to the colonization

agency itself and the manner in which the program was organized

and implemented. The section of agricultural and environmental

factors deals with the nature of the colonists' production

system, the manner in which each -nust make a living, and the

problems involved. In the third section, rather than discussing

the socio-economic factors of the community as a-whole, four

case histories are presented representing two successful colonists

and two uns ccessful colonists. The case histories reveal the

complex web of personal, familial, social and managerial factors

pertaining to individual colonists which influenced their

abilities to cope with the institutional and agricultural

difficulties of the colonization environment.


The Maraba sector, as well as the Altamira sector of the

Traha*mazon Highway were colonized primarily using the agrovila

or agricultural town system whereby colonists are organized

into small frontier towns of forty-eight family units. These

are located every ten kilometers on the highway and every ten

kilometers to the interior off the highway on some of the

transectin-g roads. Agrovilas are an attempt to provide nucleated

communities for the frontier colonists. They were designed to

organize the colonists into distinct groups for political,

instructional, agricultural and social purposes. Each aErovila

was planned to contain, in addition to family living units, a

primary school, a government subsidized food store, an infirmary,

a water tower, grain storage warehouse and recreational facilities.

In reality, very few agrovilas were completed. Most

lacked many or all of the planned features. Others never left

the drawing board stage. INCRA, the various churches and

other institutions acted within the agrovilas to stimulate

social activities. Some colonists' lots adjoined the agrovila,

but the majority were located at some distance. Husbands and

older sons would either walk every day to the lot or live there

all week and come home only on weekends, depending on the

distance of the lot from the agrovila. Some families elected

to live on their lots rather than in the a irovila. As INCRA

services diminished, more colonists became dissatisfied with

the agrovila and moved to their lots to live.

Although the Itaituba sector was also to have received

the agrovila pattern, plans changed abruptly and no agrovilas

were constructed. Every colonist family was located on their

own lot facing either the highway or one of the side roads.

Without agrovilas to act as the focal points for community

organization, INCRA and other institutions affiliated with

colonization decided that the ten lots on either side of the

highway between the two transecting side roads would form a

rural community. Lots to the interior of the highway would

also be included within the community. One lot, preferably in

the center of each community, was designated as the community

lot and a primary school was located there. The school also

served as the meeting place for both religious and community


INCRA standards for colonist selection were minimal.

Briefly, a man had to be a Brazilian citizen, a non-landowner,

over eighteen years of age, married and preferably with several

children. INCRA planned to settle a nuclear family on each lot

and did not want to maintain extended family groups as units

on the highway. They also planned to disperse the northeastern

colonists so that groups of people from one state would not be

together. Additionally, colonists from the south of Brazil,

assumed to be more technologically advanced, were to be dispersed

among the northeasterners in an attempt to improve northeastern

agricultural methods by demonstration. INCRA promised the

colonists that they would provide all the necessities and

inputs needed for them to adapt successfully as small farmers.

Rather than supplying only the bare essentials and encouraging

the colonists to "help themselves," the project planners con-

tended that quicker and more positive results would occur if

the government were to anticipate virtually all of the colonists'

operational requirements. These requirements included:

---transportation for each colonist family from their state

of origin to the colonization site,

---room and board at colonization sector headquarters until

occupancy of a highway lot,

---aid in the selection of a lot,

---help in clearing the front two hectares of each

colonist lot,

---construction of a four-room wood frame house on each lot,

---one daily minimum wage for each colonist family during

the first six months while establishing themselves on their new


---and, adequate provision of medical needs for the whole

family, educational needs for colonists children, and agri-

cultural needs to insure successful food procudtion for family

subsistence as well as income generation.

INCRA further defined the necessary agricultural needs or inputs

as beings

---extension agents to serve each colonist community

---supervised credit

---improved rice seed varieties

---agricultural implements

---transportation of produce to market

---guaranteed markets for all designated cash crops and

competive prices.

Although on paper the above description of colonists

selection and the promises of operational requirements seemed

weel-planned, INCRA made several assumptions which later turned

out to be invalid. In particular, INCRA assumed that it could

prohibit kin groups or other related groups from settling to-

gether. INCRA also assumed that the project budget would allow

for enough money and trained personnel to actually provide each

family with the operational inputs.

In Kilometer 42, the colonists did not settle as isolated

nuclear units. Over eighty percent of the colonists belonged

to previously established groups of kin or friends who settled

together in the community, or at least within twenty kilometers.

No one in the community was a. native southerner. Even though

some colonists had spent time in the south, most identified

themselves as northeasterners.

With regards to the operational requirements, few promises

were kept. Although transportation existed for new colonists,

waiting lines for available spac.' discouraged many frailies who

finally found their own means of transportation. For others,

transportation provided by INCRA meant a two to three week trek

overland while sitting on a wooden seat in the flat bed of a

mercedes truck. "Room and board" in translation was one room

per family in a barracks with communal cooking facilities. Aid

in lot selection meant being dropped off beside the road in

front of a solid green wall of forest with no idea of what lay

under or behind it. Less than a fourth of the Kilometer 42

colonists had help from INCRA in clearing their lots. No houses

had been constructed when they arrived. Some were completed

over the next two years, but many waited almost three years for

the tiny and incredibly expensive houses.5 A minimum wage was

given to all colonists initially settled in Kilometer 42, but

for subsequent colonists thie program was cancelled. Adequate

medical services were available in Itaituba, and a medical post

was only 25 km east of the community, but the lack of transporta-

tion or the high cost of what little transport was available

made access to these services limited. Provision of educational

needs was really the only promise that was kept. Free tuition,

uniforms, books and materials were provided to all the colonists'

children and for most Kilometer 42 colonists the primary educa-

tion on the highway was superior to what they had left behind

in their home states.

Concerning the promised agricultural inputs, INCRA as well

as the extension service, had many good agents working on the

highway, but there were far too few to handle the job well.

Kilometer 42 would often only see the extension agent once a

year. Supervised credit proved to be a burden and detriment

to many colonists. Agricultural implements and seed varieties

were not always suited to the colonist situation. Transportation

5Housing costs were added on to the growing debt of each
colonist to INCRA and the Bank of Brasil which had to be repaid
eventually with profits from crop production. Debts included
value of the lot, cost of all implements and seed initially
supplied, cost of the house and any expenses incurred at the
medical post.

at marketing time was scarce and markets became glutted as all

colonists tried to sell their rice at the same time. These

problems and others concerning the farming activities of the

colonists are discussed in the following section on agricultural

and environmental factors.


The colonists of Kilometer 42, as well as all other

Transamazon Highway colonists initially planted upland rice

(Oriza sativa) as their primary cash crop. The selection of

upland rice as the colonization project's cash crop was made

by INC~R. In order to understand the problems the colonists

faced in producing their cash crop it is necessary first to

examine the type of farming system in which they operated.

Slash and burn agriculture, the method used by the colonists,

is a type of traditional agriculture practiced on many types

of soils in the humid tropics and relies on periodic reversion

of the land to its natural state in order to regain its fertility.

It has five sidtinctive features that vary from place to place,

depending upon who is using the system and the kind of environ-

ment in which it is practiced. These features arex under-

clearing, burning, coivara or re-burning, planting and harvesting.
In Amazonia, prior to colonization, traditional forms of slash

and burn had been practice by indigenous populations for

hundreds of years. In the traditional manner, the farmer

selects a piece of land, usually judging 3V the quality of' '".

the soil by the type of vegetation. Using a machete or bush

knife, the farmer will slash and clear the underbrush and vines

to a height of about four feet. This activity, called broca,

kills the vegetation and thereby disconnects the tree crowns

prior to felling. Felling is also'done with the machete or an

axe. The vegetation is allowed to dry for six to eight weeks

after which it is burned. Burning, the second distinctive

feature, has two results. The first is the conversion of the

vegetative matter into carbon and ash, which act as fertilizers

for the new plants. Although nitrogen and sulfur in the vege-

tative matter are volatized by burning, burning also seems to

activate a "nitrate pulse." This pulse is actually the result

of soil microorganisms which are stimulated by the high carbon

to natrogen ratio resulting from burning, to fix great quantities

of nitrogen from the air into the soil. This pulse reaches its

height during ,the first two weeks of the rainy season. and then

as the carbon is washed away, microorganism activity drops

sharply as does the level of nitrate in the soil. For this

reason, it is important to plant the crop just prior to the

beginning of the rainy season in order to take advantage of the

fertilizing effects of burning before the rains wash them away.

If all of the vegetation is completely burned, then the

farmer can go ahead and plant. However, if the burn is not

good ani. there are large areds that the fire skipped over, then

coivara, or re-burning is necessary. Coivara involves cutting

up all the matter that did not burn into smaller pieces,

stacking it into piles and burning it as large bonfires. The

ash is spread over the ground. The traditional farmer then

plants subsistence crops such as maize, beans, squashes, sweet

potatoes and manioc. These crops are mingled together in what

sometimes appears to be an imitation of the forest. The

farmer will crop the land for two or three years. By then the

weeds and pests will have multiplied several times and soil

fertility will have decreased considerably, so the farmer moves

on to a new plot and the old one enters a fallow period allowing

return to a forest state.

The colonists of Kilometer 42 have made three major changes

in the traditional system. First is that they are stationary.

They ov.n 100 hectares of land and no more, so although they

moved deeper into the lot each year, they could not move off

their land. Colonists in Kilometer 42 were clearing an average

of 6.5 hectares per year in 1974, and some colonists cleared

as many as 10 and 12 hectares each year. At this rate, many

colonists could easily reach the end of their lots in just over

15 years. However, INCRA prohibited total clearing of any lot.

At first, regulations stipulated that fifty percent of the

lot must remain forested. These regulations were not strictly

followed and a few colonists had cleared over fifty hectares by


The second change is that the colonists must clear new

fields each year in order to plant rice. Rice depletes the

soil of its nutrients very rapidly and will not produce a

good crop if grown on second-year fields. The old fields are

not allowed to fallow, b'.t rather they are planted with

subsistence.crops for the family such as manioc, corn, and some

beans. Sugar cane is also grown, as well as bananas, pineapples

and other food items. In early 1975, more and more colonists

were purchasing grass seed to convert their old fields to

guinea or elephant grass pasture lands. In 1974, INCRA was

planning to implement cattle programs. Those colonists with

the most capim or pasture were to be selected as participants;

thus, the reason for developing pasture. In November 1974,

there were over 123.5 hectares of pasture within Kilometer 42.

However, INCRA never followed through with this program. In

1977, a few colonists in Kilometer 42 had a couple of head of

cattle, but most were still waiting to save enough money to

purchase their own.

The third change was that Kilometer 42 colonists used

small-farm loans, available to them through the Bank of Brazil,

to finance their activities. In 1974, these loans amounted to

approximately 750 cruzeiros (US 4100.00) per hectare to be

planted in rice. This amount covered the costs of clearing,

seed, planting, pesticides, and harvesting. The loans had to

be paid back at harvest time, either with cash, or rice itself.

Loans were distributed to colonists in three parcels; one during

clearing, one during planting, and the last in time for har-

vesting. The major problem with this system of disbursement

was that with the bureaucratic delays in processing the loans,

the money was often only available long after it was needed to

clear, plant or harvest. Additionally, since extension agents

were too few to visit each lot, every colonist had to go to the

colonization sector headquarters to receive the parcels. In

many instances, up to 50%o of the total disbursement was either

consumed in transportation costs to receive the money, or lost

in terms of the number of working days sacrificed to make the

trips to receive each parcel.

These were the major differences between traditional

Amazon slash and burn and colonization slash and burn. But

colonization slash and burn also altered each of the four dis-

tinctive features of traditional agriculture. INCRA made it

possible for the colonists to make a major change in the

clearing process by permitting them to take out loans to buy

chain saws. The price of the saw was 4,953.00 cruzeiros

(US$600) in 1974. There was also a 10% interest rate, which

raised the price to 5,448.00 ruzeiros (US3681). Six colonists

owned chainsaws in early 1974.

Theoretically, the saws would increase a man's productivity

many times over. For example, it takes an average of four

man-days to brocar or underclear one hectare and six man-days

to fell the trees on the same hectare. The type of forest,

however, can increase or decrease the time involved in the

clearing process. With a chain saw, all of the work to clear

one hectare could be completed in a day. It was thought

that colonists with saws could clear their own fields very

quickly and then clear their neighbors' lots, charging 100

cruzeiro per day plus gasoline to run the saw.

Burning is carried.out almost identically to the tradi-

tional way. The only real difference is that colonists with

adjoining fields can work together and burn both at the same

time. Burning is the most crucial 3tep in the slash and burn

system. The colonists must wait until the brush is thoroughly

dry or else it will not burn well. They cannot wait too long

or the rainy season will begin. If it rains, the burn will

be reuined. The colonist must also be sure that the wind is

blowing enough to push the fire across the fields towards the

forest, but not so fast that there will be unburned spots left.

Also, if the wind shifts, the fire can change direction, often

burning down the house instead of the dried vegetation. If the

burn is bad, the colonist must still perform the coivara. The

only improvement in this stage came from the use of a chain

saw to cut up the material rapidly in order to burn it again.

Planting of rice takes place in late December, and rather

than using a stick to plant with, it is-done with a hand-seeder

called a matraca. The matraca consists of two long wooden

slats with a metal slit at the end where the two slats are

hinged together, flat sides facing each other. A small, cy-

lindrical box is attached to one of the wooden slats and it is

filled with rice. When the meta. slit is punched into the

ground the slats are punched together and about eight seeds

fall out into the hole. With this tool, one can plant a

hectare rapidly, and can plant around obstacles in the field

such as large hardwood trees which do not burn well and take

several years to rot.

The rice varieties grown take five to six months to mature.

This allows them to grow over the whole rainy season, from the

end of December until late ilay. While the rice is growing,

the colonists occupy themselves with the care of other crops,

such as fruit trees, odd jobs around the house, and building

storage sheds for their rice out in the fields. Some insecti-

cides'are applied at this time, although not to rice, but to

fruit, corn and bean crops. Rice is reckoned to be mature then

the panicles and grains turn brownish-tan and the plant is

still green. The grain should be fully formed and not chalky.

Col6nists check moisture content by seeing how difficult it is

to crack the grains between their teeth.

Rice harvesting is done with short knives or an s-shaped

hand-cutter, with which one man can cut almost as rice as two

men with knives. The stems are cut-dff about 10 to 15 cm from

the ground and laid over logs to dry with the rice grains

hanging down. Once dry, they are gathered up and held by the

stem and beaten over a log to loosen the rice from the straw.

The rice is collected from the ground, placed in 60 kilo sacks,

and stored in the field sheds.

In some highway communities a threshing machine, owned

and operated by INCRA, was available for colonists who had

roadways into their lots which would allow the thresher to

enter. The operation of a thresher takes five to six men.

Rice cut off close to the ground or up close to the panicles

can be threshed by machine. It takes longer to cut rice rice

close to the panicles, yet it will dry quicker and run through

the machine faster if it is cut this way. Short-cut rice,

however, cannot be beaten by hand because there is nothing

to hold onto. The thresher and an experienced six-ian team

can do 100 sacks of rice in 2.5 hours. The same numberof sacks

beaten by hand would take about 34 man-days. Cost to use the

thresher in 1974 was approximately US30.25 per sack plus gaso-

line, or about -32.25 for 100 sacks. Total salary for the team

would be 15.63. Total cost of mechanized threshing of 100

sacks would be approximately 747.93. To perform the threshing

through manual labor would take 34 man-days at P2,50 per day

for a total cost of approximately 885.00. Unfortunately, there

was no thresher available for use in Kilometer 42 in 1974, but

by 1977 a colonist owned one and rented it to neighbors.

In June the rice is marketed. Colonists either sell their
rice directly to the bank to repay their loans, or to local

merchants who would bring their trucks right up to the colon-

ists' doors to buy their rice. Santarem merchants pay more

than anyone else locally, so almost all the colonists tend to

sell to them. With the money from the sale, the colonists go

to town to pay off their debts to the bank. Soon afterwards,

they meet with ACAR extension agents to discuss the next year's

agricultural plan.

The colonization program, at least in theory, intended to

provide an equal opportunity for the poor rural masses of

Brazil to start anew as Amazon farmers. INCRA attempted to

make th,. program equal for all colonists by providing equal

amounts of land for each colonist, and by backing a financing

program that would lend them equal parcels of money for each

hectare to be utilized. All colonists were subject to similar

constraints of the agricultural system such ass the the risk

of burning, problems of rice storage due to rats, bureaucratic

delays in processing loans, inavailability of a threshing

machine, lack of extension services, difficulty of coivara,

access to chain saws, risk of pests and plant diseases, lack

of adequate inputs such as fertilizers or pesticides, or the

accidental dangers involved in clearing the forest. Barring

climatic difficulties or unforeseeable catastrophes, it was

also assumed that if all the colonists were given an equal

start on equally sized lots with equal amounts of technical

help, they should all get equal harvest results. Unfortunately,

this did not happen. One of the major reasons was that al-

though the lots might be equal in size, they were not so in

quality. The pattern in which the colonists' lots were laid

out totally ignored relief, fertility, drainage and water

availability. Thus soil fertility differed from lot to lot,

terrain varied tremendously, and water was not uniformly

distributed. Therefore, all colonists received the same amount

of land, and used the same agricultural practices, but since

the natural ability of the land to produce varied,some colonists

began with a "natural" headstart.


Wide variety existed between the colonist lots along the

highway, but even greater diversity was found among the people

who occupied each lot. INCRA officials assumed that the major-

ity of the colonists would have come with similar farming

abilities. A second assumption was that all the colonists

really lacked was a place to utilize this ability. It seemed

logical to them that if given a piece of land, the colonists

would be able to make it produce. They believed, apparently,

that each colonist would adapt equally well to the new environ-

ment of the highway. They also assumed that each would be

able to understand and work with the institutional environment

composed of colonization offices, agricultural extension agents,

and the bank personnel responsible for disbursing the loans.

A majority of the colonists were indeed farmers previously.

Idost had also produced basic subsistence food crops using modi-

fied versions of the slash and burn technique. But most had

been sharecroppers, or farmers on rented lands. Few had ever

owned their own lands, Many had never worked with a bank or

an extension agent before- In addition to this, each colonist

family was different. Some colonists were older and some

younger. Some families were large; others were small. Some

had received several years of education; others were illiterate.

Some were highly motivated, innovative and receptive to new

kinds of technology; others were inexperienced, cautious and

leary of risk-taking. Managerial expertise was highly variable.

It was not one simple factor that determined the success or

failure of each colonist, but rather the sum of, and complex

interaction between the traits, qualities, knowledge, skills,

behavior patterns and experience of the individual colonists

that determined whether or not each one could adapt to the

environment, manipulate the available resources, handle the

institutional limitations and be successful.

In order to demonstrate how this complex web of factors

pertinent to each colonist resulted in either success or

failure as a small farmer on the Transamazon highway, four

colonists, Z2 Moreira, Santana, Migelao, and Delmiro were

chosen from Kilometer 42 as case studies.

In late 1972, both Ze idoreira, 55, and Santana, 42, left

the rural northeastern town of Cajazeiras, Paraiba along with

six other families. Prior to becoming colonists, these

Paraibanos had been little more than acquaintances. But during

the long trip to Itaituba, they became a very close-knit group.

When lot selection finally took place, they all chose adjoin-

ing lots on the eastern end of the Kilometer 42 strip of high-

way. Delmiro, one of the youngest colonists at age 26, came

at the same time and settled in the middle of the community.

ivliguelao did not arrive until 1973, and it was too late to

start a crop of his own, so he worked for another colonist in

return for a portion of the rice harvest. All the lots facing

the highway were taken by the time he arrived so he selected

a lot six kilometers in on one of the side roads perpendicular

to the highway and spaced every five kilometers. The since road

was actually a two-lane dirt track, passable by truck for only

the first three kilometers, due to the lack of a bridge.

Ze iloreira

Ze IMlorcira came with his wi e and six sons. The youngest

was only six in 1974, but the others ranged from 14 to 26

years of age. Prior to becoming a colonist, Ze had worked as

a small farmer in various regions of rural Paraiba. He had

The names of the colonists are pseudonyms.

never Mwdned the land he farmed, but was always a renter, paying

the landowner with an agreed upon portion of his cash crop of

cotton, rice and beans. During the sixties, he and his family

left Paraiba and moved to S'ao Paulo, near the town of Aragatuba,

where Ze worked on a coffee plantation. He became the manager

of a section of the plantation and was exposed to agricultural

technology he had not experienced in Paraiba and also learned

how to use agricultural loans from the bank. In 1970, he was

forced to return to Paraiba to take care of family matters.

Finding Paraiba hit by a devastating drought, he considered

moving elsewhere. At this time, word about the colonization

program reached.Cajazeiras and he began the-application proce-

dures. Although accepted almost immediately, he and the others

from Paraiba waited over a year for travel authorizations.

Ze was one of the better educated colonists of Kilometer

42 having attended four complete years of primary school. His

oldest four sons had all completed primary school and were

studying in the ginasio when they left Paraiba. One son,.Tico,

lacked only a year until completion. When the school was or-

ganized shortly after the colonists arrived, Tico became the

teacher, a position which earned him a sizeable salary of over

$100.00 per month. Ze's wife, Slena, was employed as the school

merendeira to prepare the midday and mid-afternoon snack for

the school children. Tico devoted most of his weekday time to

school and only worked on the lot on weekends and holidays. But

Ze still had four other sons to work with him.

Like most colonists in the Itaituba sector, Ze's first rice

crop did very poorly in 1973. This failure was due to an

improved rice seed distributed by INCRA. This seed, although

having produced well in the south, had not been tested along

the highway and there it proved to be a disaster. Ze had re-

ceived a loan from the Bank of Brazil to finance rice production

on three hectares. His total crop came to 1,500 kilos or only

500 kilos per hectare. Fortunately, none of the colonists

were required to repay their entire loans that year. Even so,

Ze was better off-than many since he had begun with only three

hectares. Those who gambled on a huge harvest and took out

loans for four and five hectares were in much greater debt. Ze

took out a loan for 10 hectares the following year and then

produced two more hectares on his own. The rice seed used this

time was a different variety and one that had done exceptionally

well for another Kilometer 42 colonist; the only colonist to

produce over 1,000 kilos per hectare during the first year. Ze

bought some of his seed, and with one years experience behind

him, was able to harvest 18,300 kilos of rice, more than any

colonist within seventy-five kilometers. This enabled him to

pay off all his loans which made him eligible for new loans for

the coming year. He also had enough.profit to buy new household

items, some new tools, a manually operated stone shargener for

his axes-and bush knives, and a hack-pack pesticide sprayer.

Ze obtained loans for planting ten hectares of crops for

the 1975 harvest, in addition to establishing 20 hectares of

pasture. This was part of a plan to purchase cattle in the

future. In the fall of 1974, he and his sons cleared over 10

hectares but when they burned it, the fire skipped over or only

scorched large portions of the area. This meant that he and

his sons had to spend 30 days doing coivara, or a total of almost

150 man-days, in order to recut the unburned timber, stack it,

burn it and spread the ash.

A major problem with the loans made to each colonist for

each hectare to be planted was that neither the bank nor INCRA

had taken into account the possibility of a bad burn. If one

occurred, the colonict had to absorb the costs of coivara out

of the total amount of money allocated per hectare. If a colonist

had sons to help when fields burned badly, as in Ze's case, then

the problem was much less severe and depended only on whether

there was enough time to accomplish the work before the rains.

came. But if the family had only small children, there was much

less chance for the colonist to reclaim all of the land with a

bad burn. He would not be ablt to do it alone, nor could he

afford to hire someone to help him. In such cases, the colonist

usually had to make do with what did burn well.

Ze did have enough time to complete the coivara and plant

all of his cleared land before the rains began. If he had not,

he would still have been responsible for repaying the loan on

each hectare, even if they were non-productive.

Ze was one of the oldest men in the community. Although

silent and usually conservative, his opinion was often sought

on agricultural matters. Because he had always repaid his loans,

he was considered a successful colonist by the bank and the ex-

tension agents, Other colonists also achieved this recognition.

However, some colonists repaid their loans, but then had nothing

left over and were forced to use the following year's agricul-

tural loans to live on as well as to finance their crop

production. These colonists were "successful" in the bank's

terms, but in reality were unable to subsist once they repaid

their loans. Because Ze had four sons to help him, he paid for

no outside labor except at harvest time and in this way his pro-

duction costs were kept down. Household expenses were also

greatly offset by Tico's and Elena's salaries. Ze could be

classified as a truly successful colonist by the bank's defini-

tion, as well as in terms of his family's welfare, and in spite

of INCRA's inefficiencies and the difficulties involved in

agricultural production.

Due to his success as a farmer, and the additional incomes

generated'by Elena and Tico, Ze's family was able to enjoy a

more comfortable lifestyle than many other colonists. Their

economic position also enabled them to do favors for less-

successful farmers. Ze and Elena were also the most sought

after couple to become godparents (compadres) of any newborn

children in the community. Though they had no relatives when

they arrived in Kilometer 42, by 1974 they had established

"fictive" kin ties through godparenting or compadrio with nine

other families. These relationships formed a social network
which, when necessary, fnctioned for mutual assistance to those

who belonged to the group.


Santana's previous farming experience was entirely limited

to Paraiba. He had always worked as a sharecropper and planted

what the patrao or landowner dictated. He had never worked with

a bank, but charged everything at the store on the plantation

where he lived. Whenever problems arose, the patrao handled

them. When Santana arrived at Kilometer 42, he was on his own

for the first time. There was no patrao to support him, only

the bank which had to be repaid on time. Santana had a large

family, nine persons including himself. Only one some, however,

was old enough to help him, the other six included two teenage

daughters and four younger children, two of which were under six.

Santana was functionally illiterate, yet he could write

his name and do some elementary math. Since his wife was illit-

erate, he relied on one of his daughters to read for him.

INCRA, optimistic about the colonists' abilities, encouraged

them to commit themselves to clear large areas of land; therefore,

Santana applied for loans for four hectares of rice the first

year. Due to the bad seed, in conjunction with poor soils high

in lateritic concretions of his first fields, he produced only

540 kilos of rice which left him deeply in debt and with barely

enough for his family to eat. The next year he again financed

four hactares of better land and yielded 4,200 kilos of rice.

However, rather than paying the bank, he sold the rice to a

private merchant and kept the money, assuming he could finance

his own production. But the money was spent on food and other

items and when time for clearing came, he did not have enough

to hire help. Since he had not repaid.his previous loans, the

bank refused him credit. He and his son managed to clear about

six hectares, but it burned even worse than Ze's land. He had

no money to hire anyone to help with the coivara so he and his

son worked to recover as much land as they could. At this time,

Santana's wife fell very ill and suffered a mental breakdown.

After much confusion, INCRA arranged for her to be taken to the

state capital 1,000 kilometers away to be treated. Santana had

to accompany her, leaving behind his badly burned unplanted

fields. This catastrophe would have meant complete ruin if

Santana's neighbors had not organized a cooperative effort or

mutirao to plant his fields for him. Still they were only able

to plant a little more than three hectares since the rest was

already a tangle of brush and fallen trees. Although the neigh-

bors were sympathetic, they had their own work to do and could

not offer further help. Santana did not have any other nearby

relatives to aid- him; nor did he belong to a network of fictive

kin, such as Z6 did. INCRA did not provide any form of aid to

his family during this time. Since there was no one to provide

assistance, Santana and his family'were on their own. Additionally,

Santana was not highly motivated according to community opinion.

Neighbors stated that Santana was lazy and though he "talked

big" and bragged about his skills, he actually never accomplished

what he declared he would. It was doubtful that he would be

able to improve his situation with this setback.


Delmiro, born near the towr- of .Laraba, was not north-

easterner, although his parents were. They had left the north-

east to become Brazil nut collectors in the forests near MIaraba.

Delmiro grew up learning how to hunt and collect the nuts, but

had never done much farming except to plant a few subsistence

crops. He married the daughter of a i.araba shopkeeper in the

late sixties and after working a while for the highway

construction company, he decided to become a colonist.

When he arrived, his family was small, only two young

children. Like Santana, he was also advised:to begin on a

large scale. So he took out loans for five hectares of rice

the first year and produced only 1,980 kilos. Heavily in debt,

he did not take any loans the next year, but worked for others

instead. He did not save the money to make up for his losses.

Instead, he spent it at a local tavern, drinking with friends

or playing pool. Delmiro would drop all work whenever an oppor-

tunity arose, to play soccer with the Kilometer 42 team. Delmiro

managed to support his family through odd jobs and by means of

his prowess as a hunter. He became a favorite of the bank's

loan supervisor who visited the colonists frequently to see how

they were using their loans. With the exchange of some valuable

jaguar skins, the officer was able to arrange for Delmiro to

receive one of six chainsaws to be distributed in Kilometer 42.

Although the idea of chainsaws seemed good at first, serious

drawbacks soon became apparent.

The saws were of poor quality, and when used to cut the

extremely hard tropical woods by inexperienced men, they tended

to break easily. Repairs took as long as three months and could

cost up to 50.00. The major problem was that most colonists

upon receiving the saw, also made agricultural plans with exten-

sion agents involving the clearing and planting of more land

than they normally could accomplish using only hand tools.

Then if the saw broke, they were obligated to clear-a lot more

land than was possible. If they could not clear the total

amount of land, they would not earn enough to repay the leans

for the committed number of hectares. The colonist was not only

unable to repay the production loans, but fell behind in the

saw payments and still had to pay for repairs. The chainsaw,

with adequate training and a maintenance program, could have

been an important agricultural improvement. However as it was,

the chainsaw was more of a problem than it was worth.

For Delmiro, this was certainly the case. He worked to

clear.four hectares of his own in the fall of 1974, and then

worked to clear other colonists' lots. However, many could not

afford to pay Delmiro for his services. Then his saw broke and

he did not have the money to buy enough seed to plant his fields.

As the rains came, he was still trying to clear and plant, but

to little avail.

Unlike Santana, whose many dependents ate up any excess

money and most of the funds for production costs, Delmiro could

have used his initial loans to hire a laborer. Instead. he

worked for others, purchased a chainsaw, and found himself

deeply in debt. His lack of managerial expertise or adequate

farming experience was evident. In March, 1975, he was consider-

ing trying his luck in the goldfields south of Itaituba.

1Miguele5 o

Miguelao, like Delmiro, also had a small family, but he

had come with several years of farming experience in the north-

east on lands belonging to his father and uncle. Unlike many

families who arrived almost destitute, he brought his savings

with him to help start a new life on the Transamazon. He also

brought many household items to facilitate setting up a house-

hold on his lot. Although the first year was spent working for

another colonist, he used spare time to begin clearing his own

lands. With the produce he received from his labors, he was

able to support his family while all of his first agricultural

loan went into production. Even though he only financed three

hectares, he produced 3,600 kilos of rice, enough to repay the

loan and make him eligible for continued bank support. Migeuiao

not only planted rice, but immediately began establishing fruit

crops, a vegetable garden and pastures. In the fall of 1974,

he cleared six hectares for rice and two for pasture with his

agricultural loan. He also purchased a pair of hogs.

Although he arrived late in the community, Miguelao came

with enough resources so that he did not have to be dependent

on INCRA. Not living on a lot facing the highway was a disad-

vantage, since it made transporting the rice to market more diffi-

cult, but he hired a truck to bring the rice out to the road and

did not wait for INCRA to come in and help him.
Although younger, M.iguelao was like Ze in terms of managerial

experience. He was able to compensate for the lack of sons by

using his agricultural loans to finance what he, plus one or

two men could handle. He started out with a small area and

gradually increased the size of this clearings. 3y only risking

what he could adequately handle with his own abilities, he

achieved success not only in the bank's terms, but within his

personal realm as well.

In 1977, a revisit was made to Kilometer 42 to find out

what had l-mnncdr.cd to th.e colonists. Ze's three oldest sons

.had married. Tico remained on Ze's lot but in a separate house.

The other two occupied lots to the rear of Ze's and facing the

same side road as Miguelao. All still worked together. Ze had

greatly diversified his agricultural system. By this time he

had thoroughly explored his lot and determined which areas were

best suited to certain cash crops. He had discovered a large

low-lying area with organic soils. On this particular piece of

land he was experimenting with closer-spaced rice plants and

was attempting to produce two crops of rice per year on the land.

Other areas of the lot were devoted to corn, beans, manioc and

sugar cane. He also now had six hogs, a number of ducks and

other fowl, and was negotiating for a few head of cattle. Tico

was producing vegetabels in a large garden in the low-lying

organic soils near the family well. A coffee grove with over

fifty seedlings was beginning to produce. Ze had purchased a

chainsaw from a dealer in Itaituba who also provided a course

on the use and maintenance of the saw. Within the main house,

there were several improvements. A new stove and other new

furniture had been purchased and an extension on the kitchen

provided a pantry.

A recent arrival from the northeast with his truck had begun

a daily passenger route from Kilometer 42 to Itaituba. Since he

lived far back on a side road, he kept his truck at Ze's'and in

return, Ze and his family had free access to Itaituba. By di-

versifying his activities and continuing his relationship with

the bank as well as with other Itaituba merchants, Ze was becoming

more and more successful.

idiguelao was also expanding production, diversifying his

crops according to the soil micro-environments he had identified

on his lot and had added animals to his agricultural system.

Like Ze he was raising pigs and already had a few head of

cattle. Since INCRA did not build houses on side roads, he had

considerably improved his initial house to allow for his expanding

family. idiguelao had bought a small truck and had convinced

highway officials to improve his road so the truck could pass

through more easily. His wife was teaching school to the children

on the side road and thus earning an additional salary. Like

Ze, Iiguelao had improved his relationships within the banking

and commercial sectors of Itaituba to guarantee both agricultural

production and marketing.

Santana and Delmiro, on the other hand, were not doing well.

Santana had never repaid his bank loans and was largely subsis-

tence farming, selling occasional surpluses in Itaituba. Both

daughters had married and left home; one to Ze's eldest son.

Although now linked by their offspring' marriage, Ze and Santana

were hostile enemies due to a community disagreement which

essentially left Santana isolated from his other Paraiban neigh-

bors. With barely enough to eat in the house, Santana's wife

had had two more children in succession. Santana was now talking

of selling out and returning to Paraiba.

Delmiro had completely abandoned his farming and had recently

sold his lot for very little. He had gone to the goldfields

and no one had heard from him for over a month. His wife and the

children, including a new baby, had gone to live on the outskirts

of Itaituba in a rented shack.


In view of the fact that INCRA was unable to supply the

necessary support mechanisms enabling colonists to cope more

easily with the environmental, agricultural, and institutional

limitation, it is easy to see why to focus of Amazon development

shifted at the end of 1974 to large-scale agro-business or corporate

ventures. These entities, by virtue of their structure and

resources, already had the support mechanisms that successful

Amazon development requires.

The four case studies from Kilometer 42 demonstrate that

without these support mechanisms the colonists' ability to adapt

to the highway environment, to deal with the institutions involved

in operating the colonization project, and to become successful

farmers depended on each one's individual web of personal, social,

economic and technical factors. Among these factors, five had

primary importance in determining success or failure.

Family size alone was not of major -ignificance since the

studies showed that colonists with both large and small families

could be successful. What was significant was the composition,

and more importantly, the life cycle of the family. In comparing

Ze and Santana, both had large families, but of Ze's six children,

five were old enough to work as full-time laborers. Only one

was a non-productive dependent. Santana also had a large family

but it was in an earlier stage of the life cycle. Only one son

was old enough to help Santana with the agricultural labor, which

was the family's only source of income. Although he had

two teenage daughters, neither had enough education to work as

a teacher. One daughter would occasionally do laundry'for elena,

Ze's wife, who had no daughters to help her with the household

chores. But the money she earned was very little. The rest of

Santana's children were too young to work. Thus the major portion

of the family's income went to support of non-productive members.

Both Delmiro and iIiguelao had small families with young children

to support. Their very different outcomes as farmers were due

to factors other than family composition and life cycle.

Miguelao and Ze both had previous managerial experience;

Ze in the south of Brazil on the coffee plantation and iiguelao

in the northeast. Both had utilized banking structures for

agricultural loans, managed their own farms and made their own

decisions prior to becoming colonists. With this kind of

background, they were able to immediately function more easily

within the colonization program, and manipulate it for their

own benefit. Santana however, had very little managerial ex-

perience. The patrao of the plantation where he had lived had

always made the decisions. When he arrived in Kilometer 42,

he was easily led into making poor decisions by those in deci-

sion-making positions within the colonization program, such as

the extension agents. Repeated failure showed Santana's lack

of managerial expertise, yet the colonization program provided

no training for colonists deficient in this aspect. Growing

up in the vIcinity of .laraba, Delmiro was comfortable with the

physical environment of the highway, but he had always used

the environment as a base for extractive enterprises such as

Brazil nut collection or hunting, and never for farming. His

expertise was of little value to him on the highway where he

had to produce a cash crop to become successful.

Arriving with cash reserves also enabled colonists, like

Miguelao, to get off to a good start since they did not have

to become immediately indebted. Although Miguelao did not, some

colonists who arrived with cash reserves used this capital to

set up small stores which sold some of the basic necessities

to local colonists. These stores then generated an additional

source of income.

Those colonists who came and settled as units within 'larger

family groups had the benefit of ready-made social networks to

aid in establishing new life-styles in the frontier environ-

ment. They could rely on other relatives for cooperative labor,

foodsharing, and child care. Others, though arriving as single

family units, were soon able to establish social networks by

means of compadrio. Ze and elena's economic status, achieved

early in the life of the community, enabled them to become

community leaders and to be sought out as compadres or co-parents

for other families. These relationships helped strengthen the

morale of the community and inspired cooperation among families.

Santana and Delmiro both became aligned with Ze through comDadrio

and marriage, which benefited them and their families. Al-

though Ze was well-off in colonist terms, he was far from being a

wealthy man. He could not function as a patrao within the

community, even though some members tried to treat him as such.

When Santana's wife fell ill, Ze and Elena did what they could,

but they were unable to entirely support the family. When

Delmiro had financial troubles, they sympathized with him, but

again, they were unable to do more than this. Though Ze and

Elena acheived status in the community, they could still not

act as benefactors. The social networks established through

compadrio were most effective in sustaining morale among families

who were separated from their own kinship groups, left back

in the northeast. When Santana fought with his neighbors and

compadres, he broke off from this network and both he and his

family suffered from the social isolation.

;The last factor of major importance was the ability to generate

off-farm income. It was mentioned that some colonists arriving

with cash reserves were able to establish small businesses.

This was also true of some of the few colonists who were able

to make a profit on their early harvests. However, the success

of such a business again depended on managerial expertise.

Some colonists who tried to run stores found that they could

not collect on the credit they extended to their neighbors.

They were unable to make a profit and were forced to close down.

Some were very successful though. One Kilometer 42 colonist

made an "arrangement" with the bus drivers on the highway to

make a rest stop at his cafe on the trip to and from Itaituba.

This brought him an assured daily clientele. All of the house-

hold expenses were paid from the cafe's profits, which was run

by the colonist's wife, formerly a cook at a rural hospital in

the Northeast. This colonist could then put all of his loans

from the bank into agricultural production.

None of the colonists in the case studies had a store.

Other forms of income were generated by salaried jobs within

the community. Ze's son Tico and wife, .Jlena, both earned

salaries to supplement family income. 1iiguel!o's wife also be-

came a salaried schoolteacher. Santana's daughter also earned

some money as a laundress, but that income ended for Santana

when she married Ze's son. Delmiro tried to earn money by clearing

the forst with the chainsaw, but this avenue of income ended

when the saw broke. lie also tried to earn extra money hunting

and selling animal pelts, but this activity was increasingly

hampered as more lands were cleared and the forests and animals

were pushed deeper into the interior. Laws and heavy fines to

prevent the sale of pelts also increased the riskiness of Del-

miro's off-farm activities. In summary, the ability to earn

money in addition to the income generated by farming, also

served as an important factor in successful adaptation to the

colonization program.

All of the factors discussed--family composition and life

cycle, managerial experience, cash reserves, social networks

and off-farm income--combined to form a colonist's ability or

potential to succeed. They also formed a kind of "insurance

policy" enabling colonists to take certain agricultural risks,

such as planting more hectares or trying out new crops, or pro-

vided support in times of crisis. The burn that Ze experienced

in 1974 could have been disastrous if he had not had five able-

bodied sons to perform the coivara and thus recuperate the badly

burned areas. The same kind of .burn for Santana was disastrous

because he could no do the coivara. 3antana had no strong social

or familial network to aid him in this crisis, and when his wife

fell ill, his problems were magnified. Due to his lack of

managerial expertise, the composition and life cycle of his

family, the lack of cash reserves or sufficient off-farm income

and the fact that he had no supporting social networks all led

to Santana's inability to cope with or manipulate the agricul-

tural or colonization systems and he therefore became an unsuc-

cessful colonist. He was still able to produce some subsistence

crops, in order to sustain his family, but given an appropriate

offer, he would probably sell out immediately.

Delmiro, however, was the ultimate victim of the coloni-

zation scheme. Totally unprepared as a farmer, he was selected

to become a colonist and placed in a position where he had to

make difficult farm management decisions. Failing at first,

he was not given adequate advice on how to improve his situation,

but instead received a chainsaw which only served to make his

situation worse. When he tried to use his own expertise in

hunting, his efforts were thwarted by laws, and the expansion

of the colonists into the forest. Delmiro could not survive

as a colonist, not because he lacked sufficient motivation, but

because the program itself selected against individuals with

Delmiro's background. MLoving to the goldfields returned to the

extractive activities with which he was familiar. In fact, his

background as a .razil nut collector equipped him more adequately

for golimining than for colonization, and it is possible that

while success was elusive in Kilometer 42, it might be closer

at hand 6n familiar territory in the goldmines.

In conclusion, this paper, and.in particular the case

studies, have shown how some colonists were able to successfully

cope with the Transamazon highway colonization program. In

spite of the program's inefficiencies, faults, and shortcomings,

as well as local environmental limitations, and because of the

factors cited some were able to develop alternative modes of

production, thus improving their economic and social situations.

Plans for colonization of heretofore undeveloped or un-

occupied lands continue to be devised and implemented through-

out Latin America, and elsewhere in the tropics. What must be

learned from the Transamazon experience is that no "formula"

exists for successful small farmer colonization. There is no

standard colonist family, but rather each varies in its adapt-

ability and potential for agricultural success. Environmental

differences cause some lands within a project to be easier to

farm whil6 others are more problematic. A program must be

flexible enough to deal with this range. of variation. Flex-

ibility would also enable unanticipated events such as crop

failure or disabling illness to be handled in ways that would

not permanently handicap the victims. Finally, a colonization

project must have an appropriate time frame. The old adage
"change does not happen overnight" is applicable to colonization

programs. INCRA and other officials anticipated immediate

success on the Transamazon highway. When this did not occur,

the program was reduced and finally droppedin favor of supporting

large-scale, capital-intensive development.

Wood and Schmink (1978) examine the demise of the coloniza-

tion project and demonstrate that"the rationale for the turn-

about in public policy Ewas] in some measure a case of blaming

the victim" (p.3). They show how colonists were blamed by

colonization authorities and national policy makers for their

early failures which were, according to the authors, actually

the result of INCRA and other support institution failures.

The policy makers did not allow enough time to give the

colonists a chance, in spite of the difficulties and limitations

imposed upon them, to develop ways of manipulating the system

successfully. By the time many colonists like Ze and idiguelao

had achieved a measure of success, the program as a whole was

being judged as a failure. With as many as half of the colonists

in the Itaituba sector having left their lots by 1977, it was

difficult for the officials to justify maintenance of the

colonization grogram.

Yet what of the successful colonists? What of the fifty

percent who have remained on their lots and managedto survive

by different means? These are the individuals who should be

more thoroughly studied in order to improve the design of

colonization projects for future use in other parts of the

developing world.


Davis, Shelton H.

1977 Victims of the i.liracle: Development and the In-
dians of Brazil. New York: Cambridge University
Kleinpenning, J.LI.G.

1975 The Integration and Colonization of the Brazilian
Portion of the Amazon Basin. Nijmengen, Nether-
lands: Institute of Geography and Planning.
Poats, Susan Virginia

1975 Kilometer 42: A Transamazon Highway Comminity.
M.A. Tnesis: University of Florida.
Serrao, Emanuel Adilson

1975 "The Adaptation of Tropical Forages in the Amazon
Region." Unpublished ilanuscript.

Wagley, Charles (.d.)

1974 ilan in the Amazon. Gainesville, Florida: University
of Florida Press.

Wood, Charles H. and iMarianne Schmink

1978 "Blaming the Victim: Small Farmer Production in
an Amazon Colonization Project." Journal of
Third World Studies (In Press).


Susan Poats will receive her Ph. D. in Anthropology in
the summer of 1979. She has been awarded a Post-Doc-
torate by the Centro Internacional de la Papa, CIP, a
Rockefeller supported agricultural research center in
Lima, Peru. She will be at CIP for the next three years
working as an anthropologist in the fields of applied
nutrition and agricultural development.


I would like to thank Marianne Schmink, Jayne Lyons, Michele Lee
-So.nacL roaoos,
and Sandra Powers-Westmoreland for their suggestions and criticisms

of this paper. I assume, however, sole responsibility for the

material presented in this paper.

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