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The collapse of colonization efforts in the Bragantina zone east of Belém at the turn of the twentieth century has been cited as evidence of the unfavourable environment for agricultural development in Amazonia. Although ecological constraints can certainly play a role in undercutting agricultural production, socio-economic problems are as much to blame for farm failures in the region (Falesi, Baena, and Dutra 1980). The Amazon is neither a "green hell" on the verge of turning into a "red desert" nor an Eden with a cornucopia of resources that can be heavily exploited with little regard for conservation. Rather, the region is a mosaic of environments with different constraints and potentials. Even highly leached oxisols and ultisols can be productively managed, as evidenced by dense indigenous populations in some upland areas in the distant past, and as farmers have recently demonstrated near Tomé-Açu and in parts of the Bragantina zone.
Flush with cash from the Amazon rubber boom of the late nineteenth century, the state government of Pará, financed the construction of a 230 km railroad linking Belém with Braganca between 1883 and 1907 (Penteado 1968). Soils of the Bragantina zone are at least 87 per cent oxisols, the most weathered type of soils in the Amazon, and, because of the abundant rainfall (which usually exceeds 3,000 mm/year), are highly leached. Low soil fertility and poor guidance for farmers were major factors behind the failure of settlers from the drought-plagued North-east region and from Europe (Lima 1958; Penteado 1974).
Annual crop production posed great difficulties for colonists in the Bragantina zone in the early part of the twentieth century, even with the presence of a railroad linking two growing cities. Perennial crops, on the other hand, have been planted successfully in the past, such as during the colonial period when productive sugarcane and cacao plantations were established for the export trade.
The mix of perennial cash and food crops has changed constantly in the Bragantina zone in response to market conditions and disease and pest attack. In the 1940s, for example, coconut, banana, orange, avocado, and guava were the most important perennial crops in the region (Penteado 1968: 15). Except for coconut, these crops have ceded space to other more profitable species. All the perennial crops important in the 1940s are still grown, but their relative contribution to the area's economy has declined. Bananas, for example, are struck by too many diseases in the Bragantina zone to be grown on a large scale. More recently, other perennial cash crops that are ecologically better suited to the generally poor soils than annual crops are spearheading an economic revival in the area.
African oil-palm, papaya, passionfruit, Barbados cherry, coconut, and citrus currently reign as the main perennial cash crops in the Bragantina zone. Oil-palm is cultivated by large operators, as described in the previous chapter, and by small-scale farmers. Some farmers with oil-palm groves on properties in the 25-100 ha range belong to Cooperativa Agricola Mixta de Santa Isabel, which processes oil-palm. Started by Japanese-Brazilians, this co-op is headquartered some 50 km east of Belém and contains members from diverse ethnic origins. In the vicinity of Belém vegetables are grown profitably, and some communities still derive appreciable income from selling manioc, flour, the region's basic staple.
Yellow passionfruit has emerged as an important cash crop in the Bragantina zone within the past decade. Passionfruit is grown as a monoculture and as an intercrop, particularly with citrus and African oil-palm. Brazil is a leading producer of passionfruit juice in the world market, and Pará, has quickly emerged as the most important state in Brazil for passionfruit production (Falesi and Osaqui 1992). AMAFRUTAS, a large passionfruit juice processing plant near Belém recently provided a stimulus for production of the succulent fruit. Independent truckers contract with individual growers and take freshpicked passionfruit to the processing facility, where the load is weighed and the truckers paid.
AMAFRUTAS is owned by a Swiss pharmaceutical company, CIBAGEIGY, and the juice is exported to Europe. The appetite of Europeans and North Americans for exotic tropical fruits is growing, and more fruit-processing facilities are likely to be established in the Bragantina zone. For example, Swissair serves passionfruit sherbet between courses on some first class flights - the tip of an iceberg of potential demand for passionfruit juice in Europe. In up-market stores in London, for example, purple passionfruit from Kenya were selling briskly for US$0.50 each in December 1989.
Another indication of Bragantina's dynamic agriculture is the emergence of Barbados cherry, known locally as acerola, as a viable cash crop in the 1980s. Introduced by Japanese-Brazilians, Barbados cherry has become a popular fruit drink and ice-cream in Belém The bright red berries are exceptionally high in vitamin C and the tasty pulp is frozen in plastic bags and sold in stores for home consumption, restaurants, and snack bars. Native to the West Indies and northern South America, Barbados cherry is an ideal hedgerow around fields and backyards. Belém already has over 1.2 million inhabitants and the market for Barbados cherry is growing. In 1991, the prices for Barbados cherry pulp declined somewhat in Pará as more producers came on line, but the crop is still profitable and growers rarely grow the bush as a monocrop.
Papaya, indigenous to tropical America, has been grown in Amazonia for a long time, where it also occurs as a bird-dispersed volunteer plant. Local seedling papayas are highly variable and, because they can reach the size of watermelons, often do not ship well. "Sunrise Solo," a papaya variety developed in Hawaii, has revolutionized papaya cultivation in the Bragantina zone and other parts of tropical Brazil. "Solo Sunrise" has elevated papaya from a door yard plant to a plantation crop in the Brazilian Amazon, often as an intercrop with rubber or other perennials. "Sunrise Solo" is the size and shape of a large pear, so it travels with minimal damage. Also, "Sunrise Solo" is a convenient serving size and its deep-orange flesh is widely appreciated. "Sunrise Solo" papayas from the Bragantina zone are sent to Belém and urban centres in central and southern Brazil along the asphalted Belém-Brasília highway. Market prices for "Sunrise Solo" are sufficiently high to justify mechanical preparation of the land, fertilizers, and, in some cases, irrigation. Although the Bragantina receives heavy rainfall from December to June, a week or more may pass during the dry season without a shower.
As in the case of black pepper and African oil-palm, diseases and pests are sure to raise the production cost of current hits such as passionfruit, Barbados cherry, and "Sunrise Solo" papaya. Farmers are adopting several strategies to overcome these constraints, such as multiple-cropping, the deployment of pestresistant cultivars when available, and the testing of new crops.
Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is one of the premier fruits of SouthEast Asia, but hitherto has lingered as a botanical curiosity in tropical America. Several Japanese-Brazilian farmers in the Bragantina zone have modest plantings of young mangosteen trees, which were planted in the late 1980s. The sweet, white pulp of mangosteen is finding a ready market in fashionable shopping malls in São Paulo, such as MorumbiShopping.'
Japanese-Brazilians, with their intensive input of family and hired labour, cooperative spirit, and keen business sense, have often been the catalysts for economic change in the Bragantina zone and some other areas of Amazonia. Other factors behind the agricultural revival of the Bragantina zone include relatively large, nearby urban markets and all-weather roads. Along the hardtop road to Vigia, for example, one Japanese-Brazilian farmer has intercropped "Sunrise Solo" papaya, orange, mangosteen, bell pepper (Capsicum annum), and Barbados cherry, with the latter forming a thick hedge around the field. This thriving 10 ha farm was formerly planted to black pepper.
Japanese-Brazilians are not the only innovative farmers in the greater Bragantina area, however. A former extension agent from Sergipe, a relatively dry state in the Brazilian North-east region, introduced commercial citrus cultivation to the vicinity of Capitao Poço in 1976 (fig. 6.3). Initially helped by bank loans, Antonio Soares soon found orange-growing highly profitable, and managed to increase his holdings from 25 ha to 400 ha by 1990. Close to 2 million orange trees are now planted around Capitão Poço, making it the citrus capital of Amazonia. When the nearby municipality of Irituia is included, some 3 million orange trees are planted in north-eastern Pará, and these recently planted groves now supply close to 40 per cent of the state's market for orange (Falesi and Osaqui 1992).
Although São Paulo still accounts for 90 per cent of Brazil's citrus production, Amazonia's contribution (about 1 per cent of national production) is growing. Orange planting in the Bragantina zone has reached a sufficient scale to justify investments in an orange juice factory. CITROPAR plans to inaugurate an orange juice factory in the Bragantina zone in 1997 to cater for the local and regional markets. By the late 1990s, CITROPAR plans to have 1 million orange trees planted, which will be managed with technical assistance from the Faculty of Agronomical Sciences (FCAP - Faculdade de Ciencias Agrárias do Pará, in Belém
Most of the orange groves are planted to "Pêra," with smaller areas devoted to the "Baianinha" and "Valencia" varieties. Some growers still plant a few of the older varieties, such as a farmer at Belterra who maintains some grafted "Selecta," introduced to Brazil in colonial times (Rosengarten 1991: 23). Many orange groves are established in old pastures or former second growth. Oranges from Capitao Poço are sent as far as Manaus and Imperatriz in the neighbouring states of Amazonas and Maranhão, respectively. Oranges are harvested all year round, thereby providing steady employment, although production peaks during the dry season.
Aware of the dangers of relying too heavily on one crop for income, some citrus growers in the Capitão Poço area are diversifying their farms. For example, 16 km from Capitão Poço the owner of Sitio Rabo de Couro plans to cut back his orange acreage to make room for other crops. In 1992, the 50 ha property had 32 ha in "Pêra" orange, 7 ha in passionfruit intercropped with coconut, and an experimental 1 ha area planted to orange and cotton.
In response to the strong market for citrus products, other farming communities are seizing the opportunity of growing oranges, and to a lesser extent limes and tangerines. Near Castanhal, Pará, for example, Sitio Andiroba has established 5,000 orange trees from seedlings grafted in Capitão Poço (fig. 6.4). Several growers have taken to commercial citrus cultivation along the Manaus-Itacoatiara Highway in Amazonas; in the vicinity of Santarém Pará, and around Rolim de Moura in southern Rondônia. Commercial orange-growing near Santarém dates to the early 1970s, when Miguel das Freiras and the Parente family began selling grafted oranges, particularly along the Santarém-Belterra stretch of the BR 163 highway.
Approximately 90 per cent of the orange groves in the Brazilian Amazon are planted to the "Pêra" variety, typically grafted on rough lemon (limão-cravo or limão galego). "Pêra" is popular because it remains juicy even when the dry season is accentuated, thus commanding a premium price when other varieties are either too dry or not producing. Still, the proliferation of "Pêra" is a risky proposition in case of a disease outbreak. Some growers in Rondônia. are importing grafted oranges from São Paulo, a practice that may help spread diseases such as citrus canker and CVC, a disease of unknown aetiology in southern Brazil.
The Bragantina experience is a good indicator of what is likely to happen in other areas of Amazonia as they become increasingly altered and populated. Occupation of Amazonia does not necessarily lead to a swidden tailspin with declining yields, devastation of the landscape, and rural misery. With a network of all-weather roads, sizeable urban markets, and new technologies supplied by the private and public sectors, farmers can flourish on some of the poorest soils in South America with high rainfall and intense disease and pest pressure. Intensification of land use without resorting to excessive use of agrochemicals has helped raise living standards in rural and urban areas of the Bragantina zone.
Perennial crops are also becoming more common along the Transamazon and the Cuiabá-Porto Velho highways, both pioneered in the 1970s. Initial settlement efforts along the Transamazon were fraught with difficulties owing to such factors as settlers arriving with little if any farming experience, bureaucratic delays, and limited access to markets (Moran 1981; Smith 1982). As perennial crops, such as cacao and cashew, came into production, many farmers have prospered in the Altamira region of the Transamazon (Moran 1988b).
In Rondônia. cacao, robusta coffee (Coffea canephora), and even rubber, when planted as an intercrop, have emerged as important crops (Alvim 1989). The Brazilian Amazon was the first entry point for arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) into Brazil when coffee seeds and seedlings were brought to Pará, from French Guiana in 1727. As early as 1749, Pará, was exporting arabica coffee to Lisbon (Magalhães 1980: 38, 39). Coffee subsequently declined as a cash crop in Amazonia owing to poor yields until the arrival of more productive robusta coffee in the late 1970s. A few colonists keep small groves of arabica coffee, mostly for domestic consumption. "Canelon" is the principal robusta coffee variety planted along the Transamazon and in Rondônia.
Robusta coffee is grown extensively on monocultural plots by some farmers in Rondônia. and along the Transamazon Highway (fig. 6.5). Colonists from Espírito Santo introduced robusta coffee to the Altamira region of the Transamazon in 1972. By the late 1980s, robusta coffee had emerged as the principal cash crop in Rondônia. Low coffee prices in the late 1980s led some growers to neglect the crop. In some cases, coffee groves were simply not harvested, while in other cases, such as near Ji-Paraná in Rondônia. farmers cleared all or parts of coffee groves to make room for cotton or cattle pasture. As coffee prices began to rebound in 1993, however, more farmers are harvesting and weeding the crop. The 1994 freeze in southern Brazil further propelled coffee prices upwards on world markets, and coffee growers in Amazonia are sure to benefit from the resulting shortfall in production in the states of São Paulo and Parana.
To counteract dependency on a single crop for the bulk of earnings, some farmers along the Transamazon have planted robusta coffee with other crops, such as orange and banana (fig. 6.6). Most of the coffee produced along the Transamazon is sent to Espírito Santo and São Paulo. Some colonists from southern Brazil use the discarded pulp surrounding coffee beans as an organic mulch for backyard vegetable patches.
Cacao prices also dropped in the late 1980s, prompting many farmers along the Transamazon and in Rondania to diversify their crop base. Cacao prices plunged from a high of US$4,000 per ton in the early 1980s to a low of US$800 per ton by 1989. Farmers responded by neglecting their cacao orchards and turning their attention to other crops, such as maize and citrus. Between km 80 and km 90 of the Altamira-Itaituba stretch of the highway, some cacao growers have concentrated on intensive tomato cultivation for markets in Altamira, now with close to 100,000 inhabitants, and the new boom town of Uruara at km 180 of the Altamira-Itaituba stretch of the Transamazon. Low cacao prices have prompted some farmers in parts of Rondônia and along the Transamazon to cut down orchards partially or totally.
Cacao nevertheless remains a significant cash crop along pioneer highways in Amazonia. In Rondônia. 20,000 ha of cacao have been planted in the municipality of Ariquemes, while cacao covers some 11,000 ha in the municipality of Jarú; all told, some 50,000 ha of cacao were planted in the state between 1975 and 1992. Approximately 30,350 ha of cacao have been planted within a 250 km radius of Altamira, and the area devoted to the crop is holding steady. Most of the cacao along the Transamazon is concentrated along km 70-110 of the Altamira-Itaituba stretch of the highway where fertile alfisols abound.
Spurred by concern about drought in West Africa, dry conditions in Malaysia in 1991 and 19g2, a dock strike in Ghana, some pest and disease problems with cacao in Malaysia,3 and low inventories of major chocolate manufacturers, cacao prices began to recover in the early 1990s. By 1992, cacao prices had rebounded to US$1,100/ ton, reaching US$1,200/ton by September 1993. By June 1994, cacao prices had climbed to US$1,400/ton. Many growers are consequently tending their orchards again, mainly by pruning branches infected with witches' broom, caused by Crinipellis perniciosa. This fungal pathogen first became a significant disease problem for cacao growers along the Transamazon in 1985.
One farmer near Cacaulandia, Rondônia. kept his 40 ha cacao orchard intact during the trough in cacao prices because he has two married sons living on his 250 ha farm and cacao provides employment for them. He also employs a family from Bahia as sharecroppers (meieros). The farmer, originally from Santa Catarina, reasoned that, if he expanded his 60 ha of pasture (Brachiaria brizantha and B. humidicola), his children would have to move on and find their own land to work. A significant reduction in the area of planted cacao coupled with an expansion of pasture could thus exacerbate social problems by increasing rural-urban migration.
When a neglected cacao orchard is once again cared for, yields soon increase. Some farmers around Cacaulandia have even secured credit to fertilize their cacao orchards, a sure indication that prices are looking up for the commodity. Most of the cacao has been planted on relatively fertile soils, so fertilizer applications are light. Cacao plantations protect the soil well; near Manaus, for example, a four-year-old cacao plantation had a thicker organic layer and better-developed root mat than nearby old-growth forest on similar soil (St. John 1985). Virtually all cacao grown in Amazonia has been planted in fields that were cleared from the forest by hand, thereby minimizing the disturbance of topsoil. One farmer near Agrovila Nova Fronteira found that cacao yields were much lower in an area formerly planted to sugarcane that had been scraped by a bulldozer compared with cacao planted in manually cleared forest or second growth.
Small-scale agro-industry is further brightening the prospects for cacao growers in parts of Rondônia. and along the Altamira-Itaituba stretch of the Transamazon. Two mini-factories for preparing cacao pulp have recently been established in these pioneer zones, and a chocolate factory, employing 100 people, has been built in Altamira. Dicacau opened a cacao-processing plant at km 140 of the AltamiraItaituba stretch of the Transamazon in 1988 with a capacity to process 400 kg of pulp a day. The cacao pulp plant employs 16 people and the frozen product is dispatched in plastic bags mostly to Belém for sale in snack bars and in supermarkets; smaller quantities are sold in Altamira and Santarém People in the Brazilian Amazon are not accustomed to drinking juice made from cacao pulp, unlike the inhabitants of Bahia. Tastes are changing, however, and the market for cacao pulp in the North region appears to be growing.
Near Cacaulandia in Rondônia. cacao farmers successfully applied for credit from the Banco de Rondônia. to build a small plant to process cacao pulp for markets along the Porto Velho-Cuiaba Highway. A decisive factor in obtaining funds for this project was the initiative of cacao growers to form an association (APRUCC - Associação de Produtores e Criadores de Cacaulandia) in 1989. APRUCC had some 50 members in 1992.
Diverse agro-industries, on both a small and a large scale, can thus help sustain farming efforts, particularly as growers diversify their crops. A guaraná factory in Altamira, for example, has provided a further crop option for growers along the Transamazon in the Xingu area. Bottled "Guaraná Xingu" is marketed as far away as km 108 of the Santarém-Cuiabá Highway, approximately 400 km north-west of Altamira. Many of the smaller guaraná bottling plants have closed in the Amazon during the past three decades in the face of the marketing muscle of firms based in southern Brazil. Taste is always a highly personal affair, but some of the smaller operators used to put out a richer-tasting product, and it is to be hoped that "Guaraná Xingu" will be around to slake the thirst of Transamazon settlers for years to come.
Innovation with agro-forestry systems in Amazonia is thus widespread and not confined to the environs of Tomé-Açu Given the right support, in particular efficient credit, communities of farmers from various parts of Brazil, including the North, are successfully experimenting with novel crop combinations (Barros 1990). Even without credit, Paraense communities in the Tomé-Açu area are already adopting various agro-forestry systems (appendix 2). Some of the Paraenses in the Tomé-Açu area have acquired knowledge about mixed cropping with perennials either by working for Japanese-Brazilians in the past or by observation.
Now that perennial crops are increasingly planted in fields on a commercial scale by small-, medium-, and large-scale operators alike, demand for seedlings is on the rise. Farmers are particularly eager to buy planting stock of such hot-selling crops as cupuaçu Barbados cherry, and certain cultivars of sweet orange, particularly "Pêra" In addition to traditional networks of seed supply, mainly from home gardens, communal nurseries and private companies are increasingly stepping in to meet the growing demand for planting stock.
Communal nurseries are often fostered by NGOs as a means of fomenting social cohesion among members of rural syndicates (Sindicatos de Trabalhadores Rurais). At the Cuxiu 42 and Cuxiu 44 communities near São Domingos, Pará, for example, two communal nurseries have been established with the assistance of CAT (Centro Agro-Ambiental do Tocantins), a researchoriented NGO headquartered near Marabá. In August 1992, nine farmers were participating in the communal nursery at Cuxiu 42, which had seedlings of Brazil nut, cupuaçu peach palm (Bactris gasipaes), and mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla).
In the Paragominas area, the World Wildlife Fund and the Ford Foundation have helped the rural syndicate to set up eight communal nurseries in seven communities. The communal nursery in Colonia del Rei some 30 km north of Paragominas, for example, has seedlings of cupuaçu Barbados cherry, sweet orange "Pee-Rio," ingá xicote (Inga sp.), soursop (Annona muricata), biribá (Rollinia deliciosa), balsa (Ochroma sp.), mahogany, and Job's tears (Coix lachrymajobi); seeds of the latter annual grass are used to make beads. The nursery is partially thatched with fronds of inajá palm (Maximiliana maripa), collected from the forest. The del Rei nursery has 14 members who contribute labour while international donors help them buy fruit in markets (for their seeds) and plastic bags to start the seedlings. A watering tank has also been purchased. The Canadian government has enabled the syndicate to obtain a pickup truck, which is used to service the nurseries.
Greater attention will need to be addressed to selecting a mix of cultivars for each crop being promoted in order to reduce the dangers of genetic heterogeneity. Also, communal nurseries should strive to be self-sustaining as soon as possible, otherwise they will have to be propped up indefinitely by external donors. International donors are playing an important role as catalysts in this process, but eventually communities themselves will have to carry more of the financial and technical burden of supporting the work of nurseries.
The private sector is also stepping in to meet the rising demand for seedlings of perennial crops. Enterprising individuals sometimes organize their own small nurseries, particularly if they have ready access to a stream or river, and sell or barter some of the seedlings to neighbours (fig. 6.7). In addition, trucks periodically appear along Amazonian highways with seedlings of some perennial crops, such as coffee and sweet orange. Such operators often purchase their seedlings in central and southern Brazil, and may be introducing pests and diseases to Amazonia.
The organization of nurseries for perennial crops is a promising trend, but the success of agro-forestry operations depends on a host of factors, including research into appropriate agronomic practices and disease and pest control. One farmer near the community of São João Batista in the municipality of Itupiranga, Pará, planted approximately 100 Brazil nuts after clearing the underbrush in a patch of forest on his lot. Unfortunately for the farmer, agoutis (Dasyprocta sp.) allegedly absconded with all the seeds before they could sprout. The farmer is considering erecting a fence to keep out the ubiquitous rodents next time. This farmer selects seeds from large Brazil nut capsules for his door yard nursery, even though he acknowledges that large capsules and seed size do not appear to be related. Furthermore, a Brazil nut tree reportedly produces both large and small capsules.
One striking difference between the agro-forestry systems currently adopted by commercial farmers in Amazonia compared with those in tropical Asia and Africa is the paucity of intercropped annual food crops. Food crops such as maize and rice are occasionally intercropped in Amazonia, but rarely with perennials. Also, farmers are not currently interested in intercropping perennials to ameliorate soil, to supply fuelwood, or to provide fodder for livestock, major criteria for agro-forestry research in India (Nair and Dagar 1991). Trees are interplanted if their fruit, nuts, or timber command a high market value.
Farmers generally do not plant trees just to restore soil, provide fodder, or to establish living fences because they do not bring any immediate remuneration. For example, a farmer in the Tomé-Açu area will no longer interplant Erythrina with cacao to provide nitrogen and shade because the leguminous tree does not provide any tangible products. Similarly, a nearby farmer is discontinuing the practice of using Erythrina sp. as living stakes for black pepper because pepper yields have not increased, and because the labour costs of pruning the Erythrina trees are too high. Although Erythrina enriches the soil with nitrogen, it may compete with crops for other nutrients if planted close by. Labour costs also appear to be the main reason cattle ranchers do not use living fences; perhaps some tree species may be found that require little if any pruning.
Two palm species offer the potential for heart-of-palm (palmito) production in Amazonia and other parts of the humid tropics: peach-palm and açai. Peachpalm has been cultivated in Amazonia and other parts of lowland tropical America for thousands of years for its vitamin D rich fruits. Costa Ricans have pioneered the use of peachpalm for palmito, particularly around Guapiles, and now export significant quantities of heart-of-palm, particularly to Europe. Selections have been made that can be harvested for palmito within 18 months.
Entrepreneurs in Amazonia are also exploring the potential of peach-palm for palmito production. Both small and large landholders could benefit from growing peach-palm for the canning industry. The owner of Fazenda Carapana, at km 86 of the Manaus-Itacoatiara Highway in Amazonas, has established an experimental plot of 0.5 ha of peach-palm for palmito production. At the moment, he is test-marketing jars of palmito in restaurants in Manaus, but plans to expand his peach-palm orchard to 30 ha, all for heartof-palm. Palmito is prepared manually at the ranch, and by-products are fed to pigs and cattle. Cattle are also fed leaves of peach-palm, because spineless forms are used for heart-of-palm. Heart-of-palm production thus fits well with livestock production on the 150 ha ranch.
The owner of Fazenda Carapanã obtained 400 spineless seedlings of peachpalm from the National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA - Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia) in Manaus. INPA in turn received some of its peach-palm germ plasm from Yurimaguas in the Peruvian Amazon. At a nearby property, Fazenda Baxica, the same owner has established 250 ha of peach-palm, much of it for seed production. The owner hopes to obtain financing for a small palmito factory on the Carapanã ranch to process his own production and eventually for neighbours. He also anticipates generating income from the sale of peach-palm seedlings from the Baxica ranch. Both ranches were established exclusively for cattle-raising but, as pastures have become more difficult to maintain, the owner has diversified into perennial crops.
In addition to cattle, pig, and palmito production, Fazenda Carapanã is also expected to produce coconut, açaí, cupuaçu Barbados cherry, and "Sunrise Solo" papaya for the Manaus market in the near future. Over the long term, the ranch may diversify further with Brazil nut and timber trees, such as mahogany and cedar (Cedrela odorata).
The largest plantation of peach-palm in the Brazilian Amazon is managed by Fazenda Bonal at km 70 of the Rio Branco-Porto Velho Highway (BR 364). Approximately 400,000 peach-palms have been planted on 275 ha, all for palmito production. Peach-palm seedlings are given 100 g of P205 at planting; thereafter no further fertilizer is applied except for groves set aside for seed production. A thick ground cover of Pueraria fixes nitrogen and helps reduce soil erosion. The red-yellow ultisols on the ranch are relatively fertile for Amazonian uplands, but some top dressing with phosphorus will likely be needed in the future. Fazenda Bonal has a small plant to bottle the heart-of-palm, which is sold mainly in São Paulo. An old wood-burning boiler from England is used to sterilize the jars, thereby reducing energy costs.
The 10,247 ha Fazenda Bonal was originally purchased to set up a rubber plantation. Rubber was first planted on the property in 1976, and now 900 ha are planted to the tree crop. But the need to doublegraft for high latex production and resistance to South American leaf blight, combined with the virtual elimination of subsidies for rubber in Brazil, has signalled a need to diversify. Fazenda Bonal still plans to stay in rubber production by specializing in high-quality rubber (folha clara brasileira) for medical purposes, but some of the rubber trees are being cut down to make room for peach-palm. Most of the property remains in forest.
In flood-plain environments, açaí (Euterpe oleracea) could be planted for palmito production. Native stands of this graceful, waterloving palm produce much procured purple fruits from February to September, which are mashed and mixed with manioc, flour or made into thick, carbohydrate-rich drinks and savoury ice-cream. Within the past two decades, açaí stands have been felled for palmito production, particularly north of Marajó Island. As in the case of peach-palm, açaí coppices readily if cut from the base. Plantations using rapid-growing selections might be economically feasible in some flood-plain areas near palmito factories.
Another potential cash crop for small- and medium-scale growers is superior mangoes. Several farmers in the vicinity of Tomé-Açu and Castanhal, Pará, have experimental plantings of "Keitt" mango, a selection from Florida (Smith and Popenoe 1992; Smith et al. 1992). Consumers in large Amazon cities, such as Belém and Porto Velho, pay high prices for premium mangoes, such as pear-sized "Haden" and giant "Keitt," which are trucked from southern Brazil, particularly São Paulo. Some farmers in the Brazilian Amazon have noted the large price discrepancy between locally grown mangoes, which tend to be small and fibrous, and the generally larger, less stringy commercial cultivars.
Our review of perennial cropping has identified some promising trends in upland agriculture in Amazonia, particularly towards systems that better protect water and soil resources, while at the same time generating income. Although agro-forestry and monocropping with perennials offer great promise to address sustainability issues in Amazonia, they can be carried too far. Cash crops can shoulder aside food production, thereby driving up local costs of basic staples. And many annual food crops, such as maize and rice, do better in more open conditions. Nevertheless, perennial cropping systems, particularly in agro-forestry configurations, are clearly helping both small-and large-scale farmers to prosper. To accelerate agro-forestry development in the region, several constraints will need to be overcome, including the paucity of agro-industries, of credit on reasonable terms, of higher-quality nurseries, and of inexpensive irrigation systems to keep seedlings alive.
Moisture stress during the often intense dry season in eastern and central Amazonia is one of the principal reasons farmers cite for not planting more perennial crops. One farmer from the community of Lastancia east of Itupiranga, Pará, reported that he lost 1,000 coffee seedlings during the especially severe dry season in 1992. A planting of 1,000 coffee seedlings is a major investment for a resource-poor farmer with no access to credit. When farmers were asked why they did not simply extend their species-rich home gardens to their surrounding fields, a frequent response was that seedlings often do not survive the dry season. Irrigation or more drought-tolerant germ plasm would help further agro-forestry.
Greater accessibility to credit would help spur more intensive land use on both the uplands and the Amazon flood plain. A further benefit of allocating property rights, particularly during the early phase of settlement, is that it promotes equity (Schneider 1993). In Brazil, only one-fourth of agricultural credit goes to small operators, who account for 70 per cent of farm produce (Santos and Cardoso 1992). Credit policies can be misplaced and excessively subsidized agriculture can lead to abuse of resources, both natural and financial, but carefully crafted incentives could steer Amazonia into more productive agriculture. A major stumbling block for small farmers attempting to obtain credit is that they often lack title to their lands. Without such documents, banks will not lend to farmers. Redoubled efforts to provide titles to legitimate landowners would thus be an essential precursor to more widespread adoption of more intensive land-use practices.
The abundance of relatively inexpensive land in Amazonia is a major impediment to the intensification of land use (Homma, Teixeira Filho, and Magalhães 1991). The pace of opening pioneer roads has slowed considerably since the 1970s, but the temptation to forge new highways to alleviate social tensions in other regions might return as global recession eases. Incentives should be targeted towards restoring degraded land. Also, the construction of new highways should be put on hold until existing ones better serve the people living near them.
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