Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Lídia Cabral is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK. She is a social scientist working across disciplines. Her work centres on the politics of food, South–South relations, and the power of discourse in driving policy and constructing identities. Her latest research focuses on the histories of the Green Revolution in Brazil, India, and China, exploring how narratives about the past shape the international circulation of knowledge and contemporary technology transactions in the global South. She is also interested in researching equity, justice, and territoriality in food systems.
University of Brasília
Sérgio Sauer has a PhD in Sociology and is Professor at the University of Brasília, Brazil. He holds a Brazilian CNPq scholarship and is the coordinator of the Observatory for Socio-environmental Conflicts in Matopiba, Brazil. He is one of the editors of the Journal of Peasant Studies and a fellow of the human rights non-governmental organisation Terra de Direitos, Brazil. His main research themes are agrarian extractivism, agricultural frontiers, land (land grabbing), and environment issues (green grabbing), rural public policies and development, agrarian social movements, and agribusiness.
Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Alex Shankland is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), where he convenes the Brazil International Development Research and Mutual Learning Hub. He has worked for more than two decades on health systems, indigenous and minority health, civil society, accountability, political representation, and local governance, particularly in Brazil and Mozambique. Alex has also worked extensively on the roles of Brazil and other rising powers in reshaping international development cooperation. Before joining IDS, Alex worked as a journalist, non-governmental organisation project and programme manager, independent researcher, and social development consultant, mainly in South America and southern Africa.
Published: February 2, 2023
Brazil is recognised as a world leader in the production of agri-food commodities in large, highly mechanised farms, but also as a centre of resistance movements advocating for land rights and food sovereignty. Brazil’s portrayal as a success story of agricultural modernisation is invariably linked to the expansion of the production frontier and, specifically, the conversion of the Cerrado region into industrial farmland. A vast savannah zone in the centre of the country, the transformation of the Cerrado region has been driven by intensive soybean and livestock production for export. However, the Cerrado ‘miracle’ has come at a high cost. Besides the environmental impacts of land clearance and the removal of native vegetation, the expansion of the frontier has exacerbated poverty and injustice, deepening the historical inequality of land distribution and wealth.
This issue of the IDS Bulletin highlights the legacy of tensions in the Cerrado, arguing that this legacy cannot be ignored in debates on global agri-food systems to which the region is increasingly central. Authored mainly by early career scholars from Brazilian and British universities, the papers here offer new research and empirical material on the battles that have engulfed people and nature in the Cerrado. Three themes emerge: the logic of extraction in an agricultural frontier; the grabbing of natural resources in the name of sustainability; and conflicts and resistance movements. This IDS Bulletin concludes with an agenda for research and action to reclaim the Cerrado, alongside other agricultural frontier territories across the world, as part of the global effort towards sustainable transformation of agri-food systems to secure justice for nature and people alike