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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
Name of conflict:Landless peasants of 'KM Mil' against land grabbers in Novo Progresso, Pará, Brazil
State or province:Pará
Location of conflict:"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:Deforestation
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Land
Live Animals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

As 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
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:01/07/2016
Company names or state enterprises:JBS S.A. from Brazil - Biggest purchaser of illegally grazed cattle in the state of Pará
Relevant government actors:INCRA, IBAMA, ICMBio, federal police
local, regional and national governments
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sindicato de Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras da Agricultura Familiar (Sintraff) de Castelo dos Sonhos
Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra (MST)
Instituto Socioambiental
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Aluísio Sampaio, defender of landless peasants, was killed in October 2018
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

3. Torres, M. (ed.), de Oliveira, A., et al. (2005): Amazônia revelada: os descaminhos ao longo da BR-163. Brasilia: CNPq
[click to view]

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.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

12. Gross, A. (2018): New film shines light on cattle industry link to Amazon deforestation. Mongabay News, 01.05.2018.
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

4. VOA News (2016): Deforestation Rising in Amazon as Lack of Funds Hampers Guardians. 29.11.2016. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
[click to view]

5. Branford, S.; Torres, M. (2018): Landless movement leader assassinated in Brazilian Amazon. Mongabay News, 15.10.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

6. Globo G1 (2018): Líder rural é assassinado em Altamira, no sudeste do Pará. 13.10.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
[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)
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

2. Nolen, S.; Elkaim, A. (2018): The Road. The Globe and the Mail Online, 26.01.2018. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
[click to view]

1. Torres, M.; Branford, S. (2017): Amazônia, terra sem lei. The Intercept Brasil, 24.04.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
[click to view]

15. Pegurier, E., Bragança, D. (2017): Grileiros ganham meio bilhão com redução de Jamanxim. Oeco, 14.07.2017. (Online, last accessed 31.10.2018)
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video “SOB A PATA DO BOI – Trailer” (Movie Trailer “Grazing the Amazon” )
[click to view]

Mongabay (2017): “Battle for the Amazon The Land Thieves3” (Video report KM Mil)
[click to view]

9. “movimento na br 163” (2017): NOVO PROGRESSO AMAZÔNIA REVELADA. (Uploaded statement by Aluisio Sampaio)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update19/11/2018
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