The semi-arid Cerrado was once thought of as a “wasteland.” Today its immense value, in biodiversity, its cultural heritage, and for agriculture, has been recognized — though that realization has resulted in conflicts. Image by Andressa Zumpano/Action Aid. On 6 May 2015, the Brazilian government officially recognized a special economic region, one that the country’s agribusiness producers — especially soy growers and ranchers — had earlier dubbed MATOPIBA (a name generated by combining the first two initials of the four states it comprised: Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia). Both officialdom and elite agricultural producers viewed MATOPIBA as Brazil’s last great undeveloped agricultural frontier and a juggernaut of the nation’s commodities export economy. However, long before that auspicious date, these four states occupied the northernmost reaches of a politically neglected region: the vast semi-arid grasslands known as the Cerrado — a biome that rivals its Amazon neighbor in extraordinary biodiversity, but which until the 21st century was mostly occupied by Indigenous and traditional peoples. The 2015 declaration, signed by Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president at the time, stated that Decree 8447’s purpose was “to promote and coordinate public policies aimed at sustainable economic development based on agricultural and livestock activities that result in the improvement of the quality of life of the population.” Not everyone was confident Decree 8447 would promote “sustainable” development. Fearful of an aggressive agribusiness takeover and coinciding environmental harm in MATOPIBA — a process well underway in the Cerrado’s southern half — community representatives in the four states…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer