, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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Shifting frontiers: Spatial adaptations of agribusiness to political contestations and the making of Matopiba
Daniela Calmon

Last modified: 2018-12-14


Since 2015, when the Brazilian government announced Matopiba - a northeastern portion of the Brazilian Cerrado, encompassing four states - as the country’s “last agricultural frontier”, the region has increasingly gained national and international attention, both from potential investors, as well as from social movements, organizations and researchers concerned with land grabbing and socio-environmental violations. Although the expansion of agribusiness, and especially of soy monocultures, has been happening in Matopiba since the 1980s and had already accelerated in the early 2000s – implicating drastic changes in land use and land control across millions of hectares – the region had until recently been largely outside of the international and national spotlight. My paper attempts to situate the making of Matopiba as what initially appeared to be a politically viable alternative to other frontiers that were more openly contested at the global scale in the 2000s, including the north of Mozambique and the Brazilian Amazon region, and how different capacities of scaling up political contestations implicated different trajectories within Matopiba. By exploring which factors made the scaling up of resistance within Matopiba more difficult previously compared to other places, I consider whether this case also reveals the risks of processes of political contestation to land grabbing that focus on certain places, phenomena or sectors inadvertently playing into indirect land use changes or “shifting frontiers”  in an age of hyper-flexible agri-food system and financial capital investing in land and commodities, highlighting the importance of re-centering politics in analyses of frontier-making.

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