Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1–22 | Cite as

Combining socioeconomic development with environmental governance in the Brazilian Amazon: the Mato Grosso agricultural frontier at a tipping point

  • Damien ArvorEmail author
  • Marion Daugeard
  • Isabelle Tritsch
  • Neli Aparecida De Mello-Thery
  • Hervé Thery
  • Vincent Dubreuil


Agricultural landscapes of the southern Brazilian Amazon are the result of 80 years of governmental policies to install a powerful agricultural sector. Yet, this rapid expansion raised important environmental considerations especially with regard to deforestation. The agricultural frontier is thus now facing a huge challenge: to combine socioeconomic development with environmental conservation in the context of frontier expansion. Based on a conceptual model of the agricultural frontier, we review historical changes in environmental and development policies in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso and emphasize their ambivalent trend to both encourage and control the progress of the frontier. We then extend this model with an integration stage where environmental governance and economic development evolve from competing to complementary concepts. At this stage, the efforts to slow down deforestation are accompanied with programs to promote new agricultural practices and support industrialization. Finally, we put into perspective this recent evolution with regard to the underlying reasons for changing the agricultural model, thus considering the agricultural frontier to be at a tipping point where first positive results need to be confirmed in spite of an unstable economic and political situation.


Brazilian Amazon Mato Grosso Agricultural frontier Public policies Environmental governance 



The authors wish to thank (1) the French National Agency for Research (ANR) which funded the DURAMAZ2 project (Grant agreement ANR-11-BSH1-0003), (2) the USP-COFECUB project “Public Policies and Impacts of Climate Change at Local & Regional Scale on Fragile Areas” (Uc-Sh-131/11) and (3) the European Union which funded the H2020-MSCA-RISE-2015 ODYSSEA project (Project Reference: 691053).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damien Arvor
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marion Daugeard
    • 2
    • 3
  • Isabelle Tritsch
    • 2
  • Neli Aparecida De Mello-Thery
    • 4
  • Hervé Thery
    • 2
  • Vincent Dubreuil
    • 4
  1. 1.LETG-Rennes-COSTEL, CNRS-UMR 6554Université Rennes 2RennesFrance
  2. 2.Centre de Recherche et de Documentations sur les Amériques (CREDA)UMR 7227 CNRS/Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle/PRES Sorbonne Paris CitéParisFrance
  3. 3.Centro de Desenvolvimento Sustentavel (CDS), Campus Darcy RibeiroUniversidade de BrasiliaBrasiliaBrazil
  4. 4.Escola de Artes, Ciências e Humanidades (EACH), Programas de pos graduação em Geografia Humana e em Ciência Ambiental e Instituto de Estudos Avançados (IEA)Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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