Mental maps and future imaginaries: How farmers in Bahia’s Cacau Coast are transforming rural livelihoods and challenging assumptions of a producer-forest conflict

Authors: Kira Sullivan-Wiley*, Pardee Center, Boston University, Amy Teller, IBES, Brown University
Topics: Behavioral Geography, Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: agri-environment, PES, decision-making, farmers, rural futures, reforestation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Globally, the role of non-governmental, private, and non-profit actors in influencing the decisions of private landowners is on the rise. Especially important are the decisions of small and family farms, which not only support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of households, but also the environmental outcomes of 65%-87% of the world’s agricultural land. The decisions made by farmers have a strong role to play in shaping our shared environmental future. Though reforestation and afforestation are critical land uses for combatting climate change, managing freshwater resources, and reducing hazard risk in many places, they have long been assumed to be in conflict with farmers’ preferred agricultural futures, competing with land and space, posing an opportunity cost to ‘producers’. Our work questions this assumption and the ways in which perception, social factors, aspirations, and the local biophysical context all intercede in the farmer-forest relationship. We assess the decision to engage in reforestation through a qualitative analysis of the environmental mental maps and future imaginaries of 52 farmers in the Cacau Coast of Bahia, Brazil. We find that two narratives emerge from the local context, neither of which present forests and agricultural futures as being in conflict. Our analysis also reveals the ways in which social norms, intrinsic motivations, and personal motivations for reforestation are complicated by the ongoing changes in economic opportunity and climate context in the region. This presentation will discuss implications of our results for numerous ongoing agri-environmental programs in the region.

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