Fazenda Estrondo is an agricultural complex located in Formosa do Rio Preto, one of Brazil’s major municipalities for soy production, in the west of Bahia. It gained notoriety for supposed land grabbing and incidences of labor exploitation and illegal deforestation. With 24 farms producing soy, corn and cotton, which partly became embargoed, the Estrondo consortium today claims an area of 305,000 hectares and has attempted to further expand onto community land. This jeopardizes the savannah ecosystem and the livelihoods of geraizeiros, a group that since the 19th century has inhabited river valleys in the north of Minas Gerais and the west of Bahia – a transition zone between the Cerrado and the Caatinga biomes. They traditionally live from subsistence farming (e.g. beans, corn, manioc), cattle raising, and the gathering of fruits and plants on communally shared public land. Their way of life is interdependent with the preservation of the natural environment and hence stands in stark contrast to the logic of industrial agriculture, mono-cropping and private property .
The Estrondo complex (“Agronegocio Condominio Cachoeira do Estrondo”) produces commodities that are mainly exported as animal feed to the EU and China . It is controlled by Delfin Rio S.A., whose owner, the influential businessman Ronald Guimarães Levinsohn, known as “conqueror of western Bahía”, claims to have acquired 444,00 hectares of land in 1978. According to a 2019 Greenpeace report, the companies Colina Paulista S.A., Cia Melhoramentos do Oeste da Bahia (CMOB) and União de Construtoras S.A. administrate farms and land in Estrondo; they can be linked to Delfin but officially operate as separate legal entities. In addition, transnational companies such as Bunge and Cargill are reported to operate silos in the area; they have been publicly criticized by Greenpeace but deny purchases from embargoed areas. Estrondo's land titles were however questioned by Brazil’s land reform institute INCRA, which already in 1999 pointed to irregularities in the supposed purchase . Recently, also several NGOs and media platforms – such as Mighty Earth, Repórter Brasil, Mongabay, Greenpeace, and A Pública – reported about legal frauds and violence against local communities in the course of Estrondo’s land acquisition (see also below) .
Estrondo was repeatedly alleged of illegal deforestation. Since 2000, over a third of Estrondo’s estate has been cleared to make space for plantations, including an illegally deforested area of 60,000 hectares using permits that were fraudulently obtained. The environmental agency IBAMA issued fines and an embargo, but Greenpeace recently revealed that Estrondo was illegally planting soy in an area that had been banned for cultivation since 2006 .
Estrondo was also accused of labor exploitation on several of its farms. In 2005, 39 workers of the soy-producing Fazenda Austrália, belonging to CMOB, were found working in slavery-like and degraded conditions. In a similar case, 52 workers became liberated in the cotton-producing Fazenda Indiana after a public inspection. Those who had questioned the conditions and wanted to leave had moreover been threatened with imprisonment .
In recent years, the geraizeira community increasingly faced repression by armed private security and local police officers. This included breaking into people’s homes, illegal detaining of community members, seizing community cattle, restricting movement on the roads without official permission, and intrusive surveillance operations . In incidences reported since 2014, community members became irregularly detained after resisting the erection of electric fences and attacked with gunshots after accessing fenced off land, but the cases were never investigated by the local police . In an incident in early 2019, which was also recorded on video, a community member was shot in the leg after trying to recover cattle that were being held in an area claimed by the farm . A community leader became illegally detained by Estrondo’s security guards and then arrested for several days held in the local police station. Shortly after, another community member became arrested under the false pretense of illegal weapon possession . Later in the year, a Geraizeiro became injured in another gunshot attack, leading to a public outcry of civil society organizations and visits of the human rights organizations and a delegation of the Conselho Nacional de Direitos Humanos (CNDH) .
At the same time, the expansion of Estrondo’s monocultures is leading to the increasing destruction of woods and grasslands of the natural Cerrado vegetation and the occupation of land customarily frequented by geraizeira communities, e.g. for cattle grazing, fishing and hunting, and the gathering of natural materials such as capim dourado (“golden grass”, traditionally used to make baskets and other handicrafts) . Grazing and movement of community members are particularly restricted through the erection of security fences, trenches, and armed manned watchtowers .
Currently, the takeover of the agribusiness in the Rio Preto Valley is threatening eight communities with about 100 families . While they are still lacking access to basic services, they now also face repression through Estrondo and people report about feeling trapped and being unable to make a living, which has already made some abandon their homes . Community members of Aldeia, who remain without access to electricity, water and health care, report that in 2009 the nearby area of lush dry forest became cleared and all access roads closed off by Estrondo. Ten years later, they find themselves encircled by soy and cotton fields, affected by the impacts of toxic pesticides and intimidated by watchtowers and violent private security. Pesticides are washed into the marshes and contaminate the river that is the community’s only water source, which is already depleted due to climate-change-induced droughts and agricultural irrigation. The land now suffers from erosion and contamination has killed birds and trees and caused skin rashes among the population.  In the isolated village of Cacimbinha people have lost one of their only opportunities to gain cash income as they are no longer allowed to collect capim dourado in the grasslands. Communities are also losing access to traditional fruits and nuts, such as for example pequis and cashew, which are often processed and sold locally. While the high plateaus of the region, formerly used as community pastures, are now taken over by soy plantations, the agribusiness has also an interest in accessing the lowlands where the river can be tapped for irrigation .
Over the past decade, geraizeira communities have been resisting the encroachment of agribusiness on their traditional lands, denouncing illicit practices to state authorities (e.g. the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Council of People and Traditional Communities (CNPCT)). Supported by local civil society organizations such as 10envolvimento, the Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza (ISPN) and the rural workers lawyers association AATR, villagers of Cachoeira, Marinheiro, Cacimbinha, Arroz, Gatos, Aldeia and Mutamba initiated a collective legal action to recognize community land, which in 2017 led to a court injunction that recognized 43,000 hectares as community land. Bahia’s Court of Justice also fined Estrondo and ordered the relocation of fences and the removal of security posts, but the decisions were appealed and did not become enforced, while the conflict intensified .
In 2018, gerazeiros destroyed fences and security posts, saying that Estrondo has still not allowed them free passage . In the meantime, Estrondo aimed to reduce the area granted to geraizeiros to 9,000 hectares, receiving a favorable decision by a local judge who was however later found to be part of a major corruption and land grabbing scheme. As revealed by the police operation “Faroeste”, officials of Formosa do Rio Preto, lawyers and rural producers allegedly manipulated court rulings in order to regularize about vast areas of grabbed land in the west of Bahia .
In 2019, the Justice Tribunal of Bahia affirmed the decision to grant effectively occupied land along the Rio Preto to geraizeira communities, stating that every attempt of Estrondo to take over land would be illegal. Nevertheless, violent incidences, as reported above, continued to occur. A member of the lawyers association noted that since the court rulings, Estrondo has increased its aggression against the communities, so that recently also international human rights organizations became involved and a number of social movements and organizations in public statements expressed their support for the geraizeiros. 
The situation of geraizeiras in Estrondo is not an isolated case but emblematic for the increasing pressure on traditional communities along Brazil’s agricultural frontiers in the MATOPIBA region, threatening their livelihoods and knowledge to live sustainably and connected to the natural cycles of the Cerrado. Geraizeira communities are similarly affected in Bahia’s Vale do Rio Guará where they are confronted by expanding soy and eucalyptus industry and plans to develop a series of new hydroelectric dams. Also in the north of Minas Gerais communities are pressured and, for example in Vale das Cancelas, have been resisting the enclosure of their traditional livelihoods, retaking traditional community land that was appropriated by the agribusiness .