AGRICULTURAL SUCCESS AND FAILURE
TRANSAMAZON HIGHWAY COLONISTS
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
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).
FIGURE 1, BRAZILIAN AMAZON HIGHWAY SYSTEM
SOURCE .CHARLES WAGLEY, ED. MAN IN THE AMAZON, p. 292.
............. PTO. VELHO-MANAUS-CUIABA RD.
-- TRANS-AMAZON HIGHWAY
---- NORTH PERIMETRAL RIM ROAD
-.---- CUIABA-SANTAREM HIGHWAY
6ojb& to Ith icq f 5 eCcOo
Sik4irdl- Cola : Zcn- 3I)'cwc*O
XIo-'^ -C^ bP C-0 /on' z 4'0> ^'eCf0
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
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
---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
---extension agents to serve each colonist community
---improved rice seed varieties
---transportation of produce to market
---guaranteed markets for all designated cash crops and
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
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.
AGRICULTURAL AND ENVIRONiETNTAL 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
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 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
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.
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.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
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
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
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
Davis, Shelton H.
1977 Victims of the i.liracle: Development and the In-
dians of Brazil. New York: Cambridge University
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
and Sandra Powers-Westmoreland for their suggestions and criticisms
of this paper. I assume, however, sole responsibility for the
material presented in this paper.