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Rainforest destruction at the peripheries of the state

Environmental relations, power configurations and strategies of local actors

Soybean fields in the catchment area of the BR-163
Foto: Michaela Meurer
Soybean fields in the catchment area of the BR-163.
In the Amazon, conflicts over natural resources are underway between traditional settlers, small farmers, indigenous communities, big landowners and government agencies. On the one hand, perpetrators want to exploit and benefit from the environment; on the other hand, environmentalists want to protect it. These disputes happen in relatively peripheral areas, distant to government control. Our research project wants to elucidate which structures and norms predominate in these regions of the tropical rainforest, and which kind of locally forged conflicts and dynamics surface and prevail.
Furthermore, we want to analyze which are the influencing socio-political configurations (i.e. corruption, patron-client-relation) and regionally differentiated forms of social inequality, power relations and hierarchical structures that thwart the implementation of government norms and order. Additionally, the research emphasizes the following questions. How does the locally defined socio-political power configuration determine local options of action? To which degree certain official objectives are obstacles to the protection of the rainforest, because they want to attain conflicting aims? To which degree it is possible to achieve simultaneously the goal of social justice (property rights, access to resources) and environmental sustainability?
Regional focuses of this inquiry on the socio-political dynamics and environmental conflicts are the areas affected by the BR 163 highway between Santarém and Cuiabá (Pará, Matto Grosso) and the south-eastern region of Pará, which is one of the biggest hosting region for settlements of land reform.

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Ernst Halbmayer
Scientific assistants: Dr. Karin Naase, Michaela Meurer M.A. and Schabnam Kaviany M.A.
Conception: Prof. Dr. Ernst Halbmayer and Dr. Karin Naase
Duration: 2012-2014
Financing: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) HA 5957/4-1