Landless peasants of 'KM Mil' against land grabbers in Novo Progresso, Pará, Brazil

The struggle of landless peasants against powerful grileiros at Pará's Amazonian agricultural frontier uncovers current patterns of uncontrolled deforestation and land grabbing and their link to expanding meat production and unsolved land questions.


The municipality of Novo Progresso is situated in the Tapajós region in the isolated southwest of Pará, one of Brazil’s most conflictual Amazon frontiers and currently venue of a number of controversial projects, including the announced building of a “grain railway”, new highways and dozens of large dams, but also the proliferation of illegal gold mining and systematic land grabbing and deforestation. Agricultural expansion and extractivism in the region started only some 40 years ago, but in a way exemplarily illustrate some key dynamics between advancing deforestation and social conflict in the Amazon. The construction of the BR-163 highway in the late 1970 traversed vast forested areas of Pará and Mato Grosso to connect Cuiabá with Santarém; it particularly boosted colonization along the corridor and with that caused a notable part of Amazonian deforestation. Despite still not fully paved, it is today one of the most crucial transport routes for Brazil’s agribusiness, which also hold political power in municipalities such as Novo Progresso. It led to an influx of so-called grileiros – farmers who claimed to own or have purchased public lands with falsified documents – along with landless peasants (posseiros) and other farmers who came with authorization. For Brazil’s military government, the colonization and gaining of “human control” over the Amazon was a matter of national security and was accompanied by policies to incentivize soy cultivation and cattle farming but also came with a resettlement strategy for masses of poor, landless people that were swelling the large coastal cities without economic perspective. The then planned agrarian reform and resettlement was however never fully carried out, which among others brought forward the rise of Brazil’s landless peasant movement MST (Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra). [1] [2][3][4]

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Basic Data
NameLandless peasants of 'KM Mil' against land grabbers in Novo Progresso, Pará, Brazil
Site"KM Mil" - Vila Isol / Municipality of Novo Progresso
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific CommoditiesLand
Live Animals
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAs outlined above, the construction of BR-163 between Mato Grosso and Pará in the late 1970s initiated the colonization of remote parts of the Amazon, and led to a rapid increase in land grabbing, deforestation, cattle and soy farming. The municipality of Novo Progresso has become the mayor gateway for cattle farming in the Amazon and from there has spread in an uncontrolled way without any consideration of environmental legislation, which moreover is being subsequently undermined by Brazil's new government. Left without rights and power, landless peasants face ongoing threats and marginalization and are even incorporated in the expanding cycles of colonization and deforestation, which after all only benefit land grabbers and landholders. Meat giants such as JBS stand on the other end of the production chain and, as numbers show, purchase more than half of the cattle that has been detected by studies as illegal (see for example [12]).
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/07/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesJBS S.A. from Brazil - Biggest purchaser of illegally grazed cattle in the state of Pará
Relevant government actorsINCRA, IBAMA, ICMBio, federal police

local, regional and national governments
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSindicato de Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras da Agricultura Familiar (Sintraff) de Castelo dos Sonhos

Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra (MST)

Instituto Socioambiental
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLandless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Fires, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Aluísio Sampaio, defender of landless peasants, was killed in October 2018
Do you consider this as a success?No
Sources and Materials

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3. Torres, M. (ed.), de Oliveira, A., et al. (2005): Amazônia revelada: os descaminhos ao longo da BR-163. Brasilia: CNPq
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11. Torres, M., Doblas, H., Fernandes, D. (2017): 'Dono é quem desmata’. Conexões entre grilagem e desmatamento no sudoeste paraense. Altamira: Instituto Agronômico da Amazônia.
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6. Globo G1 (2018): Líder rural é assassinado em Altamira, no sudeste do Pará. 13.10.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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12. Gross, A. (2018): New film shines light on cattle industry link to Amazon deforestation. Mongabay News, 01.05.2018.
[click to view]

13. Branford, S. (2017): Brazil moves to cut Amazon conservation units by 1.2 million hectares. Mongabay News, 19.04.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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14. Branford, S.; Torres, M. (2017): Temer signs law that could see millions of acres lost in the Amazon. Mongabay News, 13.07.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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4. VOA News (2016): Deforestation Rising in Amazon as Lack of Funds Hampers Guardians. 29.11.2016. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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5. Branford, S.; Torres, M. (2018): Landless movement leader assassinated in Brazilian Amazon. Mongabay News, 15.10.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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8. Maissonave, F. (2018): Líder sem-terra é assassinado no sul do Pará. Folha de S. Paulo Online, 12.12.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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7. Piran, A. (2018): Quem matou e quem mandou matar Aluisio Sampaio[Alenquer]? Jornal Folha do Progresso, 21.10.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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16. Presotti, D. (2017): Deputados da base aproveitam caos político e aprovam ‘MP da grilagem’. WWF Brasil, 25.05.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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17. Branford, S., Torres, M. (2018): Analysis: the Brazilian Supreme Court’s New Forest Code ruling. Mongabay News, 07.03.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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1. Torres, M.; Branford, S. (2017): Amazônia, terra sem lei. The Intercept Brasil, 24.04.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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2. Nolen, S.; Elkaim, A. (2018): The Road. The Globe and the Mail Online, 26.01.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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10. Watts, J. (2015): Brazil's king of deforestation dethroned in drive to beat land clearers. The Guardian Online, 02.03.2015. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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15. Pegurier, E., Bragança, D. (2017): Grileiros ganham meio bilhão com redução de Jamanxim. Oeco, 14.07.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
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Media Links

Mongabay (2017): “Battle for the Amazon The Land Thieves3” (Video report KM Mil)
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Video “SOB A PATA DO BOI – Trailer” (Movie Trailer “Grazing the Amazon” )
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9. “movimento na br 163” (2017): NOVO PROGRESSO AMAZÔNIA REVELADA. (Uploaded statement by Aluisio Sampaio)
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Other Documents

BRKM1000 - 7 Cattle invasion in Flona Jamanxim (© Nelson Feitosa /IBAMA)
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BRKM1000 - 1 At the landless peasant occupation of 'KM Mil' in 2016 ( © Thai Borges)
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BRKM1000 - 8 Illegal deforestation in Novo Progresso (© Reuters)
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BRKM1000 - 3 Novo Progresso and the advance of deforestation (Map by © Maurício Torres))
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BRKM1000 - 5 A demonstration of 'grileiros' in Novo Progresso against stricter environmental enforcement of IBAMA ( © Jorge Tadeu / Mongabay)
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BRKM1000 - 2 Landless peasant activist Aluísio Sampaio, assassinated in October 2018 ( © Thai Borges)
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BRKM1000 - 6 The arrest of Ezequiel Castanha in Novo Progresso 2015 (Headline in the Guardian)
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BRKM1000 - 4 Cleared land in Novo Progresso ( © Reuters)
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Meta Information
ContributorMax Stoisser
Last update19/11/2018