Brazil’s Tropical Solutions for Africa: Tractors, Matracas and the Politics of ‘Appropriate Technology’

  • Lídia Cabral
Original Article


This article focusses on mechanical farming technology sponsored by Brazil’s South-South cooperation in Africa. Tractors and matracas are taken as symbols of different agricultural development pathways promoted by Brazilian players. One stark contrast is between high-powered mechanised farming and no-till conservation agriculture. Another is between large-scale agriculture and small-scale family farming. Embrapa, widely known as the champion of the Green Revolution in Brazil, has also encouraged a conservation route and the use of no-till and small-scale equipment, such as matracas. The Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development, leading advocate of family farming and of political opposition to large-scale farming, has inadvertently sponsored tractors, feeding a new wave of mechanisation across Africa that overlooks the potential of smaller-scale alternatives. Brazilian actors and their African counterparts have instrumentally deployed technology, and tractors particularly, in the pursuit of their interests, whereas considerations about technological appropriateness to local conditions have hardly played a role.


Brazil Africa agriculture mechanisation Green Revolution South-South cooperation 


Ce document se concentre sur une technique mécanique d’élevage subventionnée par la coopération Sud-Sud du Brésil en Afrique. Les tracteurs et les matracas sont utilisés comme symboles des différents parcours de développement agricultural favorisés par les acteurs brésiliens. Il existe un contraste important entre l’agriculture mécanisée à forte puissance et l’agriculture de conservation sans labour. Il existe également une différence entre l’agriculture à grande échelle et la petite agriculture familiale. Embrapa, mondialement connu comme le champion de la Révolution Verte au Brésil, a également encouragé une route de maintien et l’utilisation de petites installations et d’installations pour la culture sans labour, comme, par exemple, les matracas. Le ministère brésilien du développement agraire, le principal défenseur de l’exploitation familiale agricole et de l’opposition politique à l’agriculture à grande échelle, a involontairement subventionné des tracteurs, alimentant ainsi une nouvelle vague de la mécanisation en Afrique, ce qui néglige le potentiel des alternatives à plus petite échelle. Les acteurs brésiliens et leurs homologues africains ont instrumentalement déployé les technologies, et les tracteurs en particulier, à la poursuite de leurs intérêts, tandis que les préoccupations au sujet de la conformité technologique par rapport aux conditions locales, ont à peine joué un rôle.



This article was researched and written under the ‘China and Brazil in African Agriculture’ project ( and supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (grant: ES/J013420/1) under the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme. I would like to thank all respondents whose valuable insights contributed to my analysis.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lídia Cabral
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Development StudiesBrightonUK

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