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Pichón, Francisco J. (1996). Settler Agriculture and the Dynamics of Resource Allocation in Frontier Environments. Human Ecology, 24(3), 341-371.


This article attempts to conceptualize the dynamics of resource allocation by colonist farmers under the unique conditions of land abundance and labor scarcity which characterize frontier environments, such as the smallholder agricultural settlement areas in the Amazon basin. In contrast, most previous theoretical literature on household agricultural decision making and land-use change in rural areas considers conditions of high population density and land scarcity, and is not, therefore, adequate for understanding critical land-use changes which may be occurring in frontier regions. This article first discusses the appropriateness and inadequacies of the analytical frameworks commonly used to explain the expansion of settler agriculture into remote forest regions and the unsustainable land-use practices observed in these areas. This review serves as the basis for characterizing resource allocation under the particular conditions of frontier environments. A conceptual advance in the analysis is its consideration of the way institutional/policy factors and farm-level characteristics can interact to produce land-use outcomes. This knowledge is essential to understand not only the social and economic factors affecting present land use and choice of technology, but also those factors influencing farmers' demand for more optimal systems of land use which are consistent with varying agro-ecological potentials, demographic situations, and their own management capacity.



Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Human Ecology


Pichón, Francisco J.