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Smallholder agriculture in Northeast Brazil: Assessing heterogeneous human-environmental dynamics.

Abstract:

Northeast Brazil is characterised by large natural and socio-economic variance, recurrent droughts and widespread rural poverty. To capture spatial heterogeneity in this region, a qualitative model of smallholder agriculture with a few core variables and two allocation rules for labour and investment in agricultural resources was developed. The resulting system dynamics essentially consists of a cycle of four qualitative states, each depicting a typical pattern of trends in smallholder agriculture. Thereby, being close to a critical transition point where the system may enter a critical phase translates into a high vulnerability of the system to environmental and socio-economic perturbations. Municipal statistical data were used to identify the spatial distribution of these patterns for the 1990s and the internal transition likelihood between subsequent states. Additionally the influence of external perturbations like droughts and producer price shocks on the smallholder system was investigated.

Key words: Vulnerability, Farming system, Drought, Market, Dynamic modelling, South America

Citation: Sietz, D., Untied, B., Walkenhorst, O., Lüdeke, MKB., Mertins, G., Petschel-Held, G. and Schellnhuber, HJ. (2006) Smallholder agriculture in Northeast Brazil: Assessing heterogeneous human-environmental dynamics. Reg. Environ. Chang. 6(3): 132-146.

A copy of the article may be obtained by writing to the first author.

Map of Northeast Brazil

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