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Smallholders’ Perceptions of Fire in the Brazilian Amazon: Exploring Implications for Governance Arrangements


Fires have been on the rise in the Brazilian Amazon for a decade, causing biodiversity loss, carbon emission, and damage to local people’s assets and health. Often blamed as being responsible for starting most of the fires, local farmers are also the main actors involved in fire prevention and firefighting. We explore small-scale farmers’ perceptions of fire and governance arrangements through Q methodology and semi-structured interviews. We find that fire prevention and firefighting are both perceived as collective issues. Lack of engagement in these activities is largely related to fire risk perceptions and its controllability, which depends on local collective action, landscape flammability, and the size of the area of fire contagion. To counter large fires, government action is essential. Policies that are supportive of fire control norms and enabling of firefighting seem more likely to achieve positive results than fire bans.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    34 sorts (individuals) loaded significantly on four factors, accounting for 55% of total variance.

  2. 2.

    The names of interviewees have been changed to respect their anonymity.

  3. 3.

    Table 1 indicates for factor A, sentence 4 a score of −0.47*, which means that the farmers moderately disagree, with a slight significant difference compared to other factors (p > 0.1). For sentence 5, the score is 1.60***, which means that the farmers strongly agree, with a strong significant difference (p > 0.01).


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We thank Joice Ferreira for her constructive comments that helped us improve this manuscript. We thank Embrapa Amazônia Oriental for hosting us and giving us logistical support. This research was carried out as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. Support was also provided by the Erasmus program and by Agropolis Foundation through the Stradiv project (System approach for the TRAnsition to bio-DIVersified agroecosystems).

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Correspondence to Federico Cammelli.

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Cammelli, F., Coudel, E. & de Freitas Navegantes Alves, L. Smallholders’ Perceptions of Fire in the Brazilian Amazon: Exploring Implications for Governance Arrangements. Hum Ecol 47, 601–612 (2019).

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  • Brazilian Amazon
  • Fires
  • Smallholder farmers
  • Fire policies
  • Q methodology