Desenvolvimento RuralSociology

Socio-agro-environmental diversity of the peasantry of Baixo Tocantins-PA

Socio-agro-environmental diversity of the peasantry of Baixo Tocantins-PA

12 August 2021 | Duration of reading: 8 min

By Ana Julia Mourão Salheb do Amaral, Amália Gabriela Rocha Aguiar and Paulo Fernando da Silva Martins

Writing, reflecting and researching about the Amazon, especially about the territory of the Baixo Tocantins, is not a simple task, as in this territory there is a high complexity of connections and interactions between the various social actors and the different natural environments that show countless forms of use and management of resources. All this complexity and changes in the territory come from its historical process encouraged by public policies, through agro-industrial projects, and external and internal influences.

          In this text, we seek to bring the socio-agro-environmental diversity of the peasantry in the territory of Baixo Tocantins, state of Pará, focusing on traditional practices as a way of making visible and valuing these actors and their forms of use and traditional and sustainable practices of the environment (figure 1). These local subjects present themselves through a relationship of society – nature – territory that enables the expression of their particular way of life, strengthening their identity, symbology and their socio-productive practice. Interactions with forests, rivers, streams and boreholes create a complex network of connections that modifies and nurtures the dynamics of the way of life of these local subjects.

Figure 1. Socio-agro-environmental diversity of the peasantry of Baixo Tocantins
Source: authors, field research.

          Figure 2 shows the Lower Tocantins Territory, which has 11 municipalities: Abaetetuba, Acará, Limoeiro do Ajuru, Moju, Thailand, Barcarena, Baião, Cametá, Igarapé-Miri, Mocajuba and Oeiras do Pará1 which corresponds to 43, 1% of the area of the northeastern Pará mesoregion, totaling approximately 36 thousand km² (see the 'Rural Sustainable Development Plan of the Baixo Tocantins' hereThis territory, since the colonial period, has been an occupation space for production/extraction, to the detriment of environmental conservation/preservation (see more here). The region is highly populated, and has extensive altered areas, including the floodplain areas that have recently undergone a process of productive intensification due to the high demand for the açaí fruit. All products sold are transported by land or by rivers, which are particularly important due to their extensive hydrographic network, formed by many branches of rivers and streams.

Figure 2. Location of the territory of Baixo Tocantins (PA).
Source: Sociagro-environmental Diversity Study Group in the Amazon (2018).

        In Baixo Tocantins, the market economy has been pressing the production systems of rural families towards a technological and innovative change based on the introduction of new food and forestry cultures without even proposing sufficient technical and financial assistance for maintenance and production costs. An example is the implementation of the cultivation of palm oil for the extraction of vegetable oil, encouraged by the National Program for the Production and Use of Biodiesel (PNPB) from the 2000s onwards. These elements enable a new (re)reading of the territory, inducing or making visible the pluriactivity of the local population, especially river dwellers, quilombolas, family farmers and those dealing with extractivism.
          The territory is crossed by the Tocantins river, responsible for an important part of the estuary in the eastern part of the Amazon and which joins the Pará river and the Guamá river, forming the Guajará bay3. In this territory, the inhabitants experience different dynamics of ways of life in two distinct environments: the terra firme where cassava is predominantly cultivated for the production of flour and the floodplain on the islands where açaí stands out as the main production with the presence also of buritizaes, among other forest and food species as identified in the community of Manoel Raimundo in the municipality of Cametá in a Master's dissertation research (Link).
          In another Master's dissertation (Link), it was possible to evidence rhythms of life imposed by the environment, in which a dichotomy was created between floodplain and terra firme environments linked to the time of nature and the dynamics of local populations, especially in the microbasin of Aricurá, in the municipality of Cametá, PAN. In Figure 3, it is possible to observe the calendar of the main productive activities in this microbasin, which has two communities, Aricurá located in a lowland environment and the Ajó community located in an upland and lowland environment. In these places there is a productive diversity and seasonality of activities shaped according to the environment and the variation of the climatic period throughout the months of the year. Thus, it is possible to observe an economic alternativity between the different productions, that is, when one economic activity presents decline, another one stands out and in this way they complement each other.

Figure 3. Calendar of management and use in productive activities. Source: Amaral (2018).

          Thus, the way of living of the peasants in the Amazon comes from their knowledge of the use and management of natural resources, a result not only of a process of socioeconomic adaptation of the present biodiversity, but also of their cultural history built from their past experiences between generations and their intimate relationship with nature (according to research by the UFPA-GEDAF research group, see more here)Thus, the degrees of relationship with nature in the Amazonian environment vary depending on the influences of historical, social, political and economic circumstances, so as to form this socio-agro-environmental diversity of the Amazonian peasantry reflected in the different ways of life and production practices in part portrayed in this text in the communities of Manoel Raimundo, Aricurá and Ajó, located in the municipality of Cametá, state of Pará.

Science is done collaboratively

        The results presented in this text are part of the research by Amália Gabriela Rocha Aguiar (2016) (see link below) and Ana Julia Mourão Salheb do Amaral (2018) (see link below) and oriented by Prof. Dr. Paulo Martins (INEAF/ UFPA) and co-supervised by Professors Dr. Aquiles and Simões (NUMA/ UFPA) and Dr. Sônia Magalhães (INEAF/ UPFA), respectively. Both were carried out within the scope of the Master's course in Family Farming and Sustainable Development at the Amazon Institute of the Federal University of Pará. It is also part of the research of the Sociagro-environmental Diversity Study Group in the Amazon (GEDAF/ linked to the Environmental Center of the Federal University of Pará) which also provided technical and financial support. This research had the financial support of the federal government through a CNPq master's scholarship.

Want to know more? Access the links below!

MINISTÉRIO DO DESENVOLVIMENTO AGRÁRIO. Plano Territorial de Desenvolvimento Rural Sustentável – Território da Cidadania Baixo Tocantins. (Link).

ALMEIDA, R. Amazônia, Pará e o mundo das águas do Baixo Tocantins. Estudos Avançados. 2010, v. 24, n. 68, p. 291-298. (Link).

SOUZA, Armando Lírio de. Desenvolvimento territorial rural e a dinâmica da agricultura familiar no Baixo Tocantins (PA). Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte. Porto Alegre, 2011. (Link).

AGUIAR, A. G. R. Manejo de população de açaizeiro (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) em parcelas de produção de frutos em áreas de várzea. 2016. 93 f. Dissertação (mestrado) – Universidade Federal do Pará, Núcleo de Ciências Agrárias e Desenvolvimento Rural, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Agriculturas Amazônicas, Belém, 2016. (Link).

AMARAL, A. J. M. S. (2018). Várzea ou terra firme? A (re) produção do sistema família-estabelecimento na microbacia do Aricurá – Cametá – PA. 2018. 148 p. Dissertação (Mestrado em Agriculturas Amazônicas) – Universidade Federal do Pará, Embrapa Amazônia Oriental, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Belém. (Link). 

SIMÕES, A.; BENASSULY, M. (org.). Na várzea e na terra firme: transformações socioambientais e reinvenções camponesas. Belém: NUMA/UFPA, p. 368, 2017. (Link)

SIMÕES, A.; RODRIGUES, E. T.; ROCHA, G. M.; GRANCHAMP, L. (org.). Reinvenções territoriais: diversidade e aprendizagens sociais. 1. ed. Belém: NUMA/UFPA. p. 298, 2019.

Ana Julia Mourão Salheb do Amaral is an agronomist (UFRA), master in family farming and sustainable development (UFPA), doctoral student in rural development (UFRGS). She is also a researcherin the Socio-agro-environmental Diversity Study Group in the Amazon (GEDAF/ NUMA/ UFPA). Email: See more on Lattes platform .

Amália Gabriela Rocha Aguiar is an agronomist (UFRA), master in family farming and sustainable development (UFPA), doctoral student in rural development (UFRGS). She is also a researcherin the Socio-agro-environmental Diversity Study Group in the Amazon (GEDAF/ NUMA/ UFPA). Email: See more on plataforma lattes.

Paulo Fernando da Silva Martins is an Agronomist (UFRA), Doctor in Agronomy (Esalq/USP), Professor at the Amazon Institute of Family Agriculture (INEAF/UFPA). She is also a researcherin the Socio-agro-environmental Diversity Study Group in the Amazon (GEDAF/ NUMA/ UFPA). Email: See more on Lattes platform.

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