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Itaguai : old habits and new practices in a Brazilian land settlement

  • Galjart, B.F.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1968
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
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The aims of the studyOriginally the intention of the investigation was simple: to find out what important pertinent differences could be distinguished between successful and unsuccessful settlers in a land-settlement area. For various reasons the Santa Cruz project near the city of Rio de Janeiro was chosen as site for the study. One part of this project (the Santa Cruz section ) had been settled in the 1930's, the other part (the section Piranema) in the 1940's. All farm-operators had begun on an equal footing, with a farm of 10 hectares. What differences had come into existence since? Given the small size of their farms, the success of the farm-operators seemed to depend on the degree to which they had adopted technical innovations; indeed, in the beginning I intended to regard their adoption score as an indication of their sucees. It was the literature on diffusion and adoption of innovations that suggested which differences between high and low adopters might be most meaningful.During the first reconnaissance, however, I found that the adoption of innovations might not be the only relevant, or even the most relevant, aspect of behaviour that determined agricultural development in the project. Traditional values and attitudes seemed to be at least as important as adoption. Unfortunately, the planned survey by questionnaire had to be carried out at an early stage and the schedule could, for that reason, contain only a limited number of questions on these values and attitudes. But much information on traditional culture could be gathered by anthropological methods after the survey had been completed. During this second stage of the investigation attention was focused on traditional values and dispositions relating to cooperation and agricultural production which were still adhered to in the project and which seemed to be inimical to its development as a system of family farms.Implicitly I have assumed that a project like that of Santa Cruz, consisting of small family farms, did not represent a form of agricultural organization that is, in Brazil, under all circumstances incompatible with development. It may be that there are other organizational forms which, considering the ethos of the rural populace, are better suited to further development. But it can hardly be suggested that the family farm is an economic impossibility.Once I had observed that there existed other obstacles to development than the use of traditional agricultural techniques, I had to stop using the terms 'modern' and 'traditional' which I had until then employed to distinguish between the high and the low adopters. There was no telling, beforehand, whether the adoption of technical innovations by a Santa Cruz farmer would go together with a value and attitude change in other respects. The concepts 'modern' and 'traditional' implied much more than merely the adoption or rejection of innovations 'iheir contents, so far as they could be gleaned from the (non-Brazilian) literature, mostly seemed inapplicable to the situation in the project. Yet the terms did not imply those value and attitude changes that, in the project, seemed to be indispensible for further agricultural development.The resultsThe results of the study are presented in chapters 4 to 7. Chapter 4 contains a description, based on quantitative material, of the important aspects of agriculture in the project such as crops, animal husbandry, technical level, land tenure, marketing and professional and informal relationships of the farm-operators.The settlers had a marked preference for cash crops over crops grown for home consumption, and were not averse to changing the cropping pattern, replacing one crop by another, if the price was more remunerative. Having cattle was associated with farm size, the dependent variable being farm size. Independence of middlemen was valued enough to have caused the purchase of a sizable number of trucks. Some innovations were adopted selectively, that is, used for one crop but not for another. The criterion appeared to be the importance of the crop as a source of cash income, and hence also the magnitude of the financial loss that the non-adoption of the innovation could entail. Innovations were also discontinued: used for some time and then dropped.Chapter 5 deals with some differences between high and low adopters of agricultural innovations. Practice adoption was found to be positively and significantly associated with the following variables: socio-economic status, income, area owned, education, literacy, former urban residence, urban visiting, contact with extension officers and with other personal sources of extension and advice, membership of cooperatives, and education of older children. The use of partial associations, controlling for status, suggested that education, literacy, former urban residence and urban visiting were partly consequences of high status and only significantly associated with practice adoption in the highest (or higher) status categories. Owing to the difficulty involved in 'dating' socio-economic status as compared with education, former urban residence and urban visiting, the associations between practice adoption and these variables may be spurious. Yet the consistency with which practice adoption was associated with these variables only in the highest status categories, seems to warrant the conclusion that education and familiarity with urban ways of life and ideas do only foster practice adoption if the farmer has the means to adopt an innovation, the insight necessary to assess its usefulness and the wish to remain on his farm.Practice adoption was differently associated in the two sections of the project with having professional relations. In Santa Cruz, by far the oldest of the two sections, practice adoption was associated with visiting a farm, with asking for advice when the farmer met with a difficulty on his farm, and with having been asked for advice. In Piranema, the section which was settled much later, only the last association existed. In neither section was practice adoption associated with having non-professional relationships. In Piranema the number of choices per chooser, for professional and for non-professional relationships, tended to be higher the higher the adoptionscore quartile. In Santa Cruz, the specificity of professional relationships, i.e. the degree to which a respondent reported having only one sort of relationship with another person, was strongly and significantly associated with practice adoption. The innovative farm- operators in that section seemed to choose, much more than in Piranema, with whom they would have a certain relationship. In line with this, in Santa Cruz the percentage of choices falling on neighbours decreased when the adoption score of the chooser increased.Remarkably, practice adoption proved not to be associated with the education of children of school age. The employment of sharecroppers likewise was not associated with practice adoption, but the employment of wage-earners was.The last section of chapter 5 showed that the Japanese farm-operators not only differed significantly in adoption score from their Brazilian colleagues, but also in how they operated their farm.Chapter 6 opens with a description of a cluster of traditional rural values and attitudes which I have called the patronic syndrome. This syndrome consists of three elements: the belief that one's own efforts to improve one's condition will be ineffective unless assisted by superior (or supernatural) powers; the disposition to seek to establish patronage relations with people with whom one is not related by kinship or friendship; and the absence of feelings of solidarity towards people with whom one is not related by kinship, friendship or patronage. The existence of this syndrome in traditional rural Brazil is possibly a result of historical circumstances. I have tried to indicate its functions. In the project, however, it is its dysfunction that appears to carry most weight: the fact that it hampers the establishment of cooperative action. An analysis of some case histories and incidents related with cooperation leads to the conclusion that the patronic syndrome is still operative in the project of Santa Cruz and that it is dysfunctional in the sense described above. Some suggestions are given as to how the syndrome can be not so much overcome as used: the institutionalization of patronage is recommended. In practice this means that the government agency which administers a particular project should be accorded the role of patron.Chapter 7 deals with how traditional values and attitudes towards agricultural production (land use and resource allocation) still influence matters in the project of Santa Cruz. Like the preceding chapter, it starts with a description of this value pattern (which I have called the 'Grand Tradition' of agriculture), such as it has been found to exist in the past in Brazil. The pattern is shown to have been intimately associated with certain historical developments in Brazilian agriculture, and its functional aspects are stressed. The few relevant quantitative data which were available and the qualitative information from interviews and observation were used to assess how much the 'Grand Tradition' is still adhered to in the project. Somewhat surprisingly, rather consistent indications were found that the high adopters among our respondents are freer than others from at least some of the values and attitudes involved. This was true of the attitude to land as a substitute for capital investment (not of the attitude to land as a good thing on its own) and of the attitude towards the allocation of capital. The high adopters seem to realize, or are coming to realize, the necessity of using capital if agriculture is to become more remunerative. In the choice of crops and the partaking in farm work they probably hold the same values as the low adopters. The consistent differences between the Japanese and Brazilians in the highest adoptionscore quartile show that the Brazilians are only approaching the Japanese but have not overtaken them as yet. Perhaps they will never consider intensive vegetable growing as practised by the Japanese as an ideal to be imitated. The Brazilian low adopters seem still to adhere to values and attitudes of 'the Grand Tradition'. They tend to plant cash crops, to buy more land before they mechanize or otherwise invest in capital goods, to 'exploit' their children a bit and hence to contribute to the children's subsequent departure, to employ much outside labour and to be, in general, somewhat work-shy themselves. Since the 'Grand Tradition' has been made by big proprietors, to adhere to it is much more dysfunctional for smallholders than for larger and more prosperous farmers.Even though the high adopters may have undergone a change in value away from the low adopters, it is far from certain that this change is due to the project, that is, to the fact that the tenure structure was drastically altered in a certain area. The Brazilian farm-owners who scored in the highest quartile seem to differ from those in the other three quartiles combined in that they are less often the first concessionnaire of their farm. The occurrence of high adopters thus may partly be due to the fact that they have bought a farm in the project later instead of obtaining one when it was settled. The project will have meant an opportunity to progress for some settlers. Other high adopters probably did not need the project; they could have settled elsewhere. For the great majority of the settlers the project has made little difference; they have remained at a low level of living and agricultural development. Part of the reason for this stagnation lies, as asserted, in the persistence of traditional value patterns in farming and social relations.Suggestions for further researchHaving been in part exploratory, this study has failed to provide definite answers to some pertinent questions. Sometimes I could not prove with quantitative data the existence of a relation between certain variables; elsewhere the data gave only a first indication that an association suggested here may indeed exist. Even if their existence had been proved, they would give rise to new problems. Further research seems necessary on the following subjects and problems.1. The quantitative measurement of the various aspects of the patronic syndrome (preferably not by means of attitude questions) and the associations between these aspects.2. The relation between the patronic syndrome and various individual and group variables, such as farm innovativeness, gregariousness, socio-economic status, prestige, education, political preferences, anomie, group cohesiveness, efficiency of goal oriented associations, efficiency and extent of cooperation, etc.3. The relationship between sensitivity to public opinion and the strength of the patronic syndrome. If there is a negative association, the next question must be how this sensitivity can be increased.4. Research into the personality structure and the sociological attributes of the exemplary leaders who manage (or have managed) to overcome the dysfunctions of the patronic syndrome, and into the conditions which give rise to such leaders.5. The views on farming (e.g. goals and ideals for farm size, cropping patterns, farm work, employment and treatment of labour, investments) of innovative farmers. If these views are still 'traditional', the implication is that the adoption of new farming methods covers only a minor part of the problem of agricultural development. The question then arises how these views can be changed.The rather consistent differences between the section Piranema and the section Santa Cruz suggest that these studies should be undertaken in localities which vary in infrastructural and institutional development.Some suggestions about future settlement projectsThe findings of the study carry implications for the organization and management of future land-settlement projects. It is not my intention here to describe in detail what should be done and what omitted in such a project. I only want to draw attention to a number of acts or omissions of the administering agency which in Santa Cruz had grave consequences, and may have had elsewhere. I also want to. present, for further consideration, some suggestions on the organization of similar projects in the future.Although it will be assumed in subsequent paragraphs that future land-settlement projects will be carried out more or less along the fines followed in Santa Cruz, it may first be asked whether that is really the most suitable organization. The study has proved that poor peasants are unlikely to build up a modem, efficient and profitable family farm from scratch. Nevertheless, ideally this is the aim of a settlement project: to provide the poorest with the means of progress. With some technical and material assistance, they are expected to do well. In Santa Cruz, this first contradiction between aim and reality has led to further contradictions. Not having any reserves, or rapidly exhausting any he had, a poor settler had to look for work outside his farm when some misfortune befell him. The administration permitted this and even created jobs to help such people out. But once a settler works full-time on another farm or in another occupation, he cannot dedicate much attention to his own land. He seldom manages to return to farming his own land. In the end he often sells his farm and leaves the project. The conclusion must be that the poor are often too poor to start farming on their own and make a success of it. If they are to be helped (and they should be) perhaps it is better to provide them for the first five years or so only with employment. For instance, by running part of the project, or the entire project, as a plantation managed by the State Agency for Land-Settlement, and employing the poorest settlers-to-be as labourers. Having proved their competence, after these five years they can be provided with farms of their own, which could be carved out of the plantation itself. Such a system would have several advantages.1. There is time to do some field experiments with crops, fertilizers and pesticides.2. As wages are guaranteed, the risks attendant on bad drainage, pests, imperfections of the market, bad harvests in general, and illness of the settler (who is insured) are carried by the administering agency, not the settler.3. The market can be organized centrally and on a sufficiently large scale.4. The settlers-to-be can be thoroughly trained in the cultivation of the crops that are most suited to the soil. Extension can be much more thorough than if each farmer has to be approached individually.5. The settler-to-be does not receive a benefit which he can sell immediately to the highest bidder. He has to prove his conduct for several years. Potential speculators will hardly be attracted by a coup that can be brought off only in five years.It need hardly be said that such an organization will he unsuccessful if the appointment of the managers, or the employment of the workers, become political favours and sinecures.If it is assumed that future land-settlement projects be similar to the Santa Cruz project, the following remarks can be made on the administering agency.1. Since it would be extremely difficult to get several different government services to cooperate, the field of action of the administering agency should be comprehensive and embrace, next to agriculture: education, extension, credit, marketing and medical care.2 . The administering agency must be safeguarded against the intervention of politicians or other pressure groups who defend private interests.3. The administering agency must be able to count on a fixed budget.4. The staff in the field should be rewarded for being in the field instead of sitting in some metropolitan office. The agronomists on the field staff should be encouraged to visit the settlers often.On the management and operation of the project the following remarks are in order.1. All projected works such as roads and drainage canals should be executed. If drainage or accessibility remain poor in some areas they should be improved by the administering agency.2. Well defined responsibilities over maintenance of roads, ditches, bridges, buildings and machines should be laid down in the regulations governing the administration of the project. Funds should be kept in reserve at all times to meet maintenance and repair costs. Although there will be a temptation to employ such funds 'more productively', a different allocation would be unwise if it results in the inability to defray maintenance and repair costs. It is better that one project succeeds than that two fail. 3. As to technical assistance, the agency should not offer to do in one year what it cannot also guarantee to do in the next. After one or two years, payment for these services should be gradually introduced. The agency could consider transferring certain services after a number of years to contractors, on whose profit rates a watch could be kept.4. One of the most important tasks of the agency refers to the reduction of risks. This embraces supervision in maintenance and improvement of drainage ditches and dirt roads, and in enforced pest control activities; the provision of supervised credit, and, if necessary, the organization of marketing.5. The purchase of fertilizers, seeds, etc. and the marketing of the produce make a cooperative a necessity. The administering agency should assist at the founding of a cooperative and should help to run it for a number of years. It should be authorized to keep a close watch on its operations and to intervene if undesirable developments occur.6. The agency should be prepared, if need be, to function as patron to the new community when the acquisition of certain community benefits depends on preferential treatment by the authorities, hence on some form of patronage. The agency should furthermore be authorized to prevent a local backsliding into traditional social (and tenure) structure. This does not mean that the local population should not be consulted on the course of action to take, or that decision making powers cannot be gradually transferred to representatives elected by the people. It means that the power to intervene and to put an end to undesirable developments should not be relinquished too soon.7. The extension service should be prepared to indict traditional values and attitudes, in so far as they influence farming and social relations between the settlers, as well as to give technical information. It should be made clear to the settlers what disadvantageous effects values they consider normal may have in terms of the future local tenure situation and social structure.8. The purchase and sale of farms must be permitted and regulated. It is an illusion to think that turnover can be prevented. There will always be unsuccessful farmers willing to make a good deal of money on a benefit they received, and richer farmers willing to pay for land which they are less likely to receive on the same terms as the original settler. The agency should, for instance, function as an unpaid broker, whose task it is to record all sales of farms. Unrecorded sales can be declared illegal and result in the buyer being evicted from the farm. That way the maximum farm size can be controlled much better.9. The agency should institute a recurring evaluation of its own performance. Evaluative surveys should be carried out regularly and their findings should lead, if necessary, to changes in administrative policy. The participation of sociologists in such evaluations should be considered.

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