Colonization of Mato Grosso

Mato Grosso, center of South America, is the third state in the country in territorial dimension, with 901,420 km2. The demographic density (person / km2) is low, 2.76, when compared to other more populous states in Brazil.

The rate of urbanization in Mato Grosso follows the national rhythm, surprisingly showing itself accentuated for a territory where agriculture and livestock predominate. This is, without a doubt, one of the manifestations of the concentration of the land.

Since the initial occupation stage, in 1719, until today, the land structure of Mato Grosso, the main patrimony of the State, is based, predominantly, on landowning properties that were constituted, in the great majority, on the margins of the legal requirements. This is a phenomenon that predominates in the Legal Amazon.

From the post-war period until 1964, Mato Grosso did not define its land policy, having been issued, indiscriminately, definitive titles of latifundios that added little to the orderly occupation and rational exploitation of the State’s territory. In this way, the rural exploitation that should constitute an economic and social solution has further exacerbated the contradictions in the field.

The consolidation of the land structure in latifundios prevented, at the same time, the economic use of land, the expansion of family farming and respect for indigenous societies that had a significant part of their immemorial lands invaded and expropriated.

It was in the post-war period, in the late forties, that the process of official colonization began, which attracted a significant contingent of unemployed people from other regions of the country to Mato Grosso. However, the precariousness of the agrarian and agricultural policies, then assumed, added to the limited economic and social measures aimed at the poor social segments of the countryside, sent family producers, riverine people, extractivists, natives and indigenous societies to the deepest abandonment. These are reasons that have further compromised the State’s social debt to education, health, housing, settlement and production in the countryside. During the occupation of the State, the environmental issue was always present; however, poorly monitored and directed, serving, for that very reason, the unlimited interests and speculations of capital.

In 1964, the Land Statute signaled the possibility of tracing the establishment of guiding principles, capable of taking shape and consolidating itself in agrarian and agricultural policies for family farmers in the countryside. In practice, oligarchic interests prevailed in rural and urban segments that have always been at the forefront of the process. This explains the accentuated concentration of land, the exclusion of peasant families in the following decades, due to the special programs encouraged by SUDAM, SUDECO and PROTERRA.

The race for subsidized credit, negative interest rates, fiscal incentives and incentives has led to the entire Amazon, especially to Mato Grosso, urban entrepreneurs and bankers who have consolidated capitalist exploitation in the region. At no point is there any news of any serious assessment that would put the socio-environmental costs resulting from projects stimulated by the public authorities and implemented by entrepreneurs in the Amazon at the center of concerns.

In the course of the seventies, in parallel with the process of “modernization of the countryside”, the State stimulated private colonization. This territorial occupation policy enabled the mass transfer of significant contingents of farmers from other regions of the country, mainly from the South and Center-South who acquired their plots from the colonizers, after disposing of their working lands in their states of origin.

At the height of colonization, the dream of land stimulated the entry of squatters in rural Mato Grosso. In the period of 1967 and 1980 the small squatter was the segment that grew the most in the State. The increase in this population reached approximately 200,000 farmers, which corresponded, at the time, to 44% of the rural contingent and 17.5% of the State’s population1.

The policy of private colonization, which was consolidated from the end of the sixties, strengthened the occupation with privileges of the territory of Mato Grosso. It is due to the increase in the migratory flow in all directions of the countryside. Colonization multiplied the emergence and creation of small and medium-sized cities, in the same way that urban peripheries were formed, like Cuiabá, which welcomed millions of unemployed, without land, without a home, without an address.

In the mid-1980s, everything suggested that the conflict over land in the State had found the solution. Although timid and fundamentally focused on solving the problem of conflict pockets, the I Regional Plan for Agrarian Reform of Mato Grosso (I PRRA-MT, December / 85) presented in its triennial goal the proposal to settle 41,900 families in 2,094. 500 ha. In 1990, the year scheduled for the completion of the first phase of the Plan, INCRA carried out only 23.46% of the expropriations, settling 17.39% of the expected families.

Nowadays, Mato Grosso presents the largest number of agrarian reform settlement projects in the country. There are three hundred and seventy-three that are located in all regions and municipalities of the State. The area destined to the settlements is over 4.5 million hectares that receive 60 thousand families2. However, despite the significance of these figures, the settled family producer lives and persists in a state of permanent instability with regard to fixation and production in the field. Certainly, as the producers claim, the lack of an agricultural policy makes tomorrow uncertain, putting at risk the permanence on the land and, consequently, the farmer’s own identity.

Contradictions in rural Mato Grosso are accentuated. If, on the one hand, agriculture has become a record holder in the country in large-scale plantations, such as monocultures of sugar cane, soybeans and cotton; on the other hand, the use of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides increases in a compromising way, which seriously compromise waters, soils and, fundamentally, all kinds of life, including human life.

It is important to recognize that agro-industrial initiatives have been and continue to be multiplied, which progressively shorten the distance between the countryside and the city in Mato Grosso.

When considering the territory and the diversity of demands in the State, the political measures taken do not overshadow the multiple demands of cultural and ethnic diversity of the different social segments, predominantly of the young universe, due to the narrowing of the horizons of life and work that inhibit, including the right to dream.

Construction of BR-163

Between 1950 and 1970 the lands of Mato Grosso represented a good opportunity to apply, as they were cheap and there was an abundant labor force. In these decades there was an unbridled sale of land. Because they were cheap they were easy to purchase. Often their true owners did not even know the size of their properties. Large areas of large estates were abandoned and unproductive. Many of these lands were occupied by squatters and when the new owners appeared, the inevitable conflicts arose over the legality of these areas.

The sale of land became so indiscriminate that the same area was sold several times to different people, thus forming several layers of “legal” documents or deeds. This usually occurred when their owners lived in the center-south of Brazil and did not come to surround their areas and produce in them. They bought it only for later resale or future use.

From 1970 onwards, the federal government started to encourage even more large companies and farmers to settle in the region, offering different types of conditions, via SUDECO, BASA and SUDAM. These incentives were only accessible to large landowners. Eventually there was a perverse concentration of land, with livestock activity as its main support. POLOCENTRO motivated the increase of large properties in the previously neglected areas of cerrado. It was imagined in the 1970s that, occupying empty spaces in the Amazon, a solution was offered to minimize serious urban and rural conflicts in the south of the country.

Several factors explain the speed with which Brazil managed to build the large network of highways in the Amazon. The main role was taken by DNER, reformulated in 1969 to perform its functions. He immediately outlined the plans for the highways that would interconnect the Amazon. The main objective of DNER was the formation of a unified road network in which civil and military interests would be taken into account, aiming at national integration. The real reasons have always been “National Security” and “Security and Development”. Large federal highways have been the precursors to colonizing penetration, having been built normally for this purpose.

In 1970, the dominant spirit was to combine the construction of Transamazônica and Cuiabá-Santarém. This is evident from the statement by the Minister of Transport, Mário Andreazza, who at the time stated the following: “placing the Amazon and the central plateau, so to speak, closer to the other regions of the country and particularly to the Northeast, the Transamazônica and Cuiabá / Santarém, due to the articulation they will make with other highways under construction in the West, will also contribute powerfully to the colonization of areas where these other highways meet, mainly benefiting the state of Amazonas, Acre and the territories of Rondônia and Roraima ”.

In 1971 the construction of BR163 (Cuiabá / Santarém) began, by the 9th BEC, based in Cuiabá. In 1976, after five years of work, the road was already ready with an extension of 1,777 kilometers, of which 1,114 in the state of Mato Grosso.

According to Samuel de Castro Neves, at the time owner of Fazenda Sonho Dourado, in Nobres and manager of Agropecuária Mutum, in the early 1970s the original route of the BR163 leaving Cuiabá via Rosário and Nobres, entered the place called Boteco Azul, three kilometers before the Gil Post, on the right towards the Novo River, Pacoval and Trivelato (which did not yet exist at the time) and reached the Teles Pires River, where there was a wooden bridge, deactivated since 1989 with the construction of the current concrete.

On the right side of the river, the road was heading north, always following the old road that had existed since Posto Gil, since the Japanese had already opened in the 50s a colonization on the Ferro River, later abandoned. BR finally arrived in Vera, which Ênio Pipino was colonizing and going to Sinop, also with colonization initiated by Ênio. Consequently, the paving of the BR163 should follow this route towards Santarém.

José Aparecido Ribeiro, aware of the proposed route for the paving of the BR163, talked to politicians in Brasília, suggesting changes, demonstrating the importance and the shortening of the distance of the new route, so that the Mutum, Tapurah, Lucas do Rio Verde and Sorriso, enabling the colonization of these cities with the opening of the highway.

The settlers Barra Fértil (Pacoval) and Trivelato bought the land in this region, imagining that the asphalt would follow the old route, later abandoned. With this change in layout, Pacoval and Trivelato were for many years semi-abandoned, suffering from isolation and administrations that were less interested in their development.

Five years after its inauguration, almost all the forests along the highway were cut down without proper planning, without concern for ecology, being bordered by countless farms, agricultural, colonization, mini-farm projects, etc. During the rainy season, the entire northern part of the state was isolated and a huge amount of money seemed lost. The population ran out of food and fuel, products that came to depend on the goodwill of FAB’s Buffalo planes and the popular economy at unaffordable prices.

It was in the wake of the construction of BR163 that private colonization firms immediately emerged, which began to acquire from the state or from private individuals or even in the form of land grabbing, large tracts of land along the aforementioned highway for colonization, basically attracting small and medium farmers in the southern region of the country. Thus, localities such as Sinop, Colíder, Alta Floresta, Terra Nova, Paranaíta, Sorriso, Nova Mutum, Tapurah, Lucas do Rio Verde, Trivelato, Pacoval, São Manuel, Vera, Juara, Nova Ubiratã, Novo Mato Grosso, Feliz Natal started to emerge.

Colonization of Mato Grosso