Brazilian colonization in the Paraguayan agricultural frontier

Neupert, R.F.

Notas de Poblacion 18-19(51-52): 121-154


ISSN/ISBN: 0303-1829
PMID: 12284929
Document Number: 320856
This work briefly describes Brazilian colonization of the Paraguayan agricultural frontier, analyzes factors responsible for expelling population from Brazil and for attracting Brazilians to Paraguay, and assesses the economic and social consequences of immigration to the area. Paraguay's vast and sparsely populated agricultural frontier in areas outside the Central subregion underwent a process of intense colonization from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. The Paraguayan government initiated an ambitious colonization program in 1963 to increase production, relieve population pressure and subdivision of small parcels in the Central subregion, encourage agricultural modernization, and produce a more diversified agriculture. Paraguayan agriculture in the early 1960s suffered from excessive concentration of land in a few hands and resulting exclusion of around 3/4 of workers from ownership and from any possibility of obtaining credit to fund technological improvements. Results of studies 2 decades after implementation of the colonization plan suggest that it has failed in significant areas. Although a considerable population redistribution alleviated pressure in the Central subregion, it apparently resulted more from spontaneous movement of peasants outside the colonization areas than from the official program. Concentration of lands is now occurring in the colonization area. Assistance for agricultural modernization and diversification of production in the peasant sector has been minimal. On the other hand, production of soy, wheat, and cotton for export increased substantially, because of an entrepreneurial agriculture capitalized by foreign as well as national interests The unmet goals of the colonization program would have required structural reforms rather than simple spatial redistribution of the population. Many of the colonists in the 1970s were Brazilian families displaced by mechanized agriculture in the southern states of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. Many were relatively small producers who were attracted to the Alto Parana region of Paraguay near the Brazilian border by its geographic proximity, extensive availability of land at low prices, and favorable credit and tax policies. Many small proprietors from Brazil were able to buy extensive tracts in Paraguay and to develop an economy based on cultivation of export crops on small and medium sized holdings. A serious and efficient plan for financial aid, together with technical assistance and intensive training programs, could have placed Paraguayan cultivators in a position similar to that of the Brazilians. Paraguayan colonists in the frontier areas could then have progressed rapidly beyond their current state of subsistence or semisubsistence agriculture to the kind of entrepreneurial agriculture practiced by the Brazilians.

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