Graham Sustainability Institute

Socio-ecological Resilience of Diversified Family Farms in Mato Grosso

U-M Investigators

Jennifer Blesh - School for Environment and Sustainability


Eduardo Couto - Federal University of Mato Grosso
Hannah Whittman - University of British Columbia

Project Summary

Blesh and collaborators are investigating how agriculture and food systems in Mato Grosso, Brazil may be more sustainable. Mato Grasso is a key agricultural state in Brazil, and despite having little mechanized agriculture prior to the year 2000, today produces nearly one-third of Brazil’s soybeans. This rapid transformation to industrial agricultural landscape has implications for biodiversity, social equality, and food security in Brazil.

The research centered on the Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST), a farming group promoting land reform and agroecological production of diverse food crops for regional markets.  Collaborators used surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews to understand how agroecological practices emerged and are sustained on MST settlement farms in Mato Grosso, as well as how resilient the alternative farming systems are.  Results suggest that marketing cooperatives, or public food programs, have the potential to support more environmentally friendly farming practices, and that small farmers are interested in diversifying crops by using legumes to improve fertilization.

This project received a $9,817 UM-Brazil Sustainability Cooperation Grant in 2014.