Alisson Barbieri, Gilvan Guedes, & Reinaldo Santos, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Presentation Title: Population mobility, livelihoods and urbanization in the Brazilian Amazon




The nexus between population mobility (internal, international, circulation) livelihoods diversification and growing urbanization in the Amazon has been affected by a plethora of factors at regional and global scales. These include the expansion of internationally market-oriented activities, infrastructure building and increasing migration networks - combined with traditional migration selectivity factors (e.g., age, income and education). It is not sufficient to discuss ‘urbanization' in the Amazon without an assessment of rural changes, and how these are articulated through flows of people and economic activities at regional and global scales.

Key Lessons Learned

  • The changing nature of population mobility into and within the Brazilian Amazon has shaped a specific type of urbanization, with its impacts on regional development and on the environment. In order to understand ‘urbanization’ in the Amazon, it is necessary to assess its interactions with rural changes, particularly in terms of flows of people and of economic activities.
  • The intense urbanization process in recent decades has produced a myriad of urban forms beyond cities and towns that have required new definitions beyond the traditional categories of city/country and urban/rural.

 Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • Policies specifically designed to foster development, environmental protection and the welfare of the people living in the Amazon are often ignored. In particular, the importance of developing policies that better protect what is left of the rich tropical forests while simultaneously improving human welfare in areas of growing urbanization have been neglected.
  • Various policies should be considered to alleviate poverty and achieve more sustainable development; but while remedial policies, such as better extension of welfare programs to the Amazon could alleviate impoverishment in the short run, long run policies are needed. 
  • Policies are needed to improve livelihoods, which are articulated with better planning of investments in 'social overhead' in frontier areas, particularly in the construction of roads.
    • While permissive migration policies have been effective for the geopolitical purposes of occupying the Brazilian Amazon and inducing inflows of migrants (particularly from southerners) as well as relieving land pressures and conflicts, recent transformations of the frontier with the expansion of the agribusiness and infrastructure development (with population redistribution engendering a high pressure on existing forests and urban infrastructure) have demanded a much more active public policy role, particularly in planning the road network expansion and minimizing its negative effects on urbanization and deforestation.

 Knowledge Gaps and Needs

It is necessary to develop new approaches and ways of inquiry and understanding of the diverse socio-spatial forms and processes that are being created throughout the Amazon beyond the city-country dichotomy. The collection of empirical data from multiple study sites using a pluralistic, mixed-method approach may provide the necessary evidences to examine urbanization trajectories in the Amazon and their impacts on global environmental changes.


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