Tarumã-Mirim Settlement (Ramal do Pau Rosa)
by Mariano Colini Cenamo and Claudia Eugenio da Silva
The Amazon in its general context is immeasurable, seen in its social, environmental, historical and cultural dimension, being characterized by several and different colonization processes and the interaction among the human populations that inhabit the area, of which one of the most important vectors is the loss of the biodiversity due to deforestation and anthropogenic land-use activities. Since the beginning of colonization, it was always subject to exploitation for tangible wealth, with serious social, environmental and cultural consequences, mainly for the traditional communities.
Among those colonization processes, a typical model is the Settlement for the Agrarian Reform, created and implanted by the Federal Government through the Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), established in an attempt to reduce social-demographic and economic-territorial problems, the results of a historical process of territorial division.
INCRA has already implanted some 822 Rural Settlements in the Amazon, which corresponds to 85 percent of the total number of Settlements in Brazil. The occupation of the Amazon region occurred in areas with important environmental and economic potential.
In the great majority of the cases, that occupation process imposed, without the appropriate presence of public power, massive exploitation of natural resources and a violent degradation of the ecosystem, through agriculture, livestock, logging, exploration of the aquatic and terrestrial fauna, etc.
The Tarumã Mirim Rural Settlement is similar to other models in the region. Through a lack of administration and planning, its constitution suffered strong negative influence due to proximity to the city of Manaus, since it was created in its urban perimeter, with access via Tarumã River and by the federal highway BR-174, via the Pau Rosa’s Branch, approximately 9 km distant from the highway axis.
According to INCRA, the Tarumã Mirim Settlement Project was created in 1974. It occupies an area of approximately 43 thousand hectares, and had 1042 families, including landless farmers, marginalized in the poverty belt of Manaus, and aiming to mitigate the problems of land speculation in the area.
From the original number of families, only 840 now live in the area. Most of these settlers originate from Amazonas (about 60 percent), and the rest come from the states of Maranhão, Para, Ceara and Acre. Nowadays the Settlement is organized into 17 Community Associations, divided geographically by the two main branches of access to the settlement, the Pau Rosa and Cooperativa’s Branches, and are represented by the Communities Council of the Tarumã Mirim Settlement.
The main economic activity of the settlement is domestic agriculture, which the settlers manage with great difficulty. The main crops include banana, coconut, orange, cassava, together with brazil nut picking and wood extraction for sawmills and charcoal production. However, agricultural and forest production on a commercial scale – practised by a minority – is limited and is hampered by several adverse factors, such as difficulty in gaining access to funding, lack of technical assistance, and lack of market channels or roads in good condition for distributing products.
As mentioned, being close to the city of Manaus is one of the settlement’s outstanding features, bringing either potential benefits – such as proximity to consumers – or disadvantages, such as social and environmental problems, the illegal acquisition and occupation of lots by outside land owners, mainly for cattle production and weekend recreational use. This generates social exclusion and land concentration, not to mention the illegal removal of wood by illegal extractors from ouside the settlement.
According to the Communities Council of the Tarumã Settlement, the great majority of the settlers experience economical and social difficulties. The main priority demands for the settlement are:
Improvement of road conditions: access BR-174 (Pau Rosa Branch), bridges and secondary branch
Access to electricity: through the Federal Government’s program “Luz Para Todos”, it was possible for part of the settlement to have access to electricity. However, a significant number of settlers are still without electricity (mainly due to not having roads in accessible conditions).
Water supply and basic sanitation
Intensification of fiscalization: for combating the illegal extraction of wood by people outside the settlement
Improvements in education and health services: building of schools and health centers
Technical assistance and access to funding: to incentivize production and agricultural commercialization.
Although the predominant activity is agriculture, mainly due to cultural behavior, there is potential for sustainable use of the forest areas, that could bring great benefits for the settlement and should be given priority over the next few years, particularly:
Logging and Non-logging Forest Management:
In the Protected Areas: there is a project under development by UTAM for communitarian wood forest production, totalling 7086 hectares in the 5 reserves of the settlement.
In the settlers lots: the potential and suitability of the properties should be improved and solutions for forest management sought on a small scale.
Ecotourism or “Rural Tourism” Activities: there are several areas in the settlement with great scenic beauty, such as natural “orquidários”, waterfalls and igarapés. “Rural tourism” could also be explored by the communities.
Handcraft production: women’s groups produce baskets, necklaces, bracelets, small furniture, brooms, straw mats, etc.