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Pichón, Francisco J. (1996). The Forest Conversion Process: A Discussion of the Sustainability of Predominant Land Uses Associated with Frontier Expansion in the Amazon. Agriculture and Human Values, 13(1), 32-51.


One of the most striking features observed throughout tropical agricultural frontiers is the extreme variability in land-use strategies from one farmer to the next. This article analyzes the forest conversion process and predominant land uses associated with smallholder settlement expansion in the Amazon frontier. The discussion seeks to increase understanding of the micro and macro-level forces that propel land-use decisions in the Amazon and offer insights about how farmers' land-use decisions may be altered to bring about forms of resource use that are consistent with the constraints and opportunities of the frontier environment. Recognizing that no frontier area can be truly representative of the Amazon as a whole, this article also introduces some detailed evidence from another Amazon country (Ecuador) within a topic that has been previously dominated by research mainly in Brazil. The analysis suggests that to be effective, any policy or technology-based effort on the part of governments or researchers to alter colonist land-use systems must begin to look systematically at the production systems of agricultural colonist populations already present in frontier environments. This knowledge is essential to understand the social and economic factors affecting present land use and choice of technology. It is also important for understanding factors influencing farmers' demand for more optimal systems of land use that are consistent with varying agroecological potentials, demographic situations, and the management capacity of the farmer.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Agriculture and Human Values


Pichón, Francisco J.