In The American South

Luisa Dorr

2018 - Ongoing

Wednesday, beginning of another hot afternoon in Mato Grosso, Brazilian central West. A bus full of children, including newborns, arrives at AACC (Association of friends of Children with Cancer) ambulatory in Cuiabá. These children came from rural areas and are victims of serious agribusiness consequences: the upsurge of illness related to the disordered growth of pesticides usage in the country’s plantation.

In the past 40 years, Brazilian agricultural production has developed in such a way that it is expected that the country will soon become the largest food supplier globally. In this scenario, the production of soy and corn stands out, in addition to livestock – especially cattle raising – all mainly directed to export. In Brazil, about 75.4 million hectares of land are cultivated by crops – an area equivalent to the whole of Turkey – but limited to large companies by policies that favor them. In other words, access to land is not a guarantee of decent life for small farmers.

It is possible to observe the imbalance in this equation when we think about the real impact of this production model on the development of the Brazilian social tissue – increasingly more impacting worldwide. While for large agribusiness entrepreneurs everything is more flexible from a legal point of view, the financial resource offered by the government to small farmers includes a package of measures that encourages the purchase of transgenic seeds, the implantation of monoculture and the use of pesticides. In addition, small agricultural communities suffer from lack of infrastructure, not having adequate roads to outflow the production and access to medical care and education.

Brazil is experiencing its worst environmental crisis: it is a historic cycle of fire, deforestation, illegal land occupation and amnesty, based on the certainty of impunity. Agribusiness is based on foundations that do not strengthen a national sovereignty project. This unbalanced system culminates in the contamination of the main water sources, biodiversity’s destruction, rampant deforestation and voracious fires, as we have seen in the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal region.

The President Jair Bolsonaro, publicly assumed his commitment to the rural caucus: “This government is yours”, he said. This project seeks to document how this economic, political and social scheme impacts the environment it composes and its implications for the ecosystem, such as climate change.

We believe that the best way to approach such a complex theme is to focus on individual stories, showing the direct impact on human life. We intend to generate an empathetic nature that directs the viewer to a mindset change. We are in an advanced research stage and we already have access to traditional and indigenous communities, slaughterhouses, small and large farms, agroforestry plantations’ stories that show a little of the reality behind this industry. Due to the informative nature of the project, we are going to create a multimedia platform and update it unceasingly, besides lectures and workshops focused on spreading the project’s message. We believe that PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant contribution will be crucial for this project embodiment, especially for its urgent nature.

* This project it’ part of a team effort

Luisa Dörr and Carine Wallauer

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  • Meat consumption per capita in Brazil is 42.12 kg per year.
    For each KG of meat produced, 24 liters of water is used. Many forests are cleared to open up pastures for herds. To clean the land, fires are carried out, which emits greenhouse gases and represents the largest emission factor for these gases in Brazil. This system is unsustainable, for this reason every piece of beef that is bought and exported is also compromising the health of our ecosystem.

    Barretos, São Paulo, 19 August 2018

  • Currently, only 12% of the Atlantic Forest still remains. Part of this remaining forest is located in the South of Bahia. The main reason that this forest is still preserved is the Cocoa production. The Cocoa tree produces better under the shadow of tall trees, being the forest the perfect environment for its growth. In the 80’s, Brazil was the biggest producer of Cocoa in the world. Midyane (13) Plain Parakeet bird owned by Tamires, a employee of a organic vegetable shop in Serra Grande, Bahia
    Serra Grande, Bahia 17 July 2020

  • A group of friends enjoying the sunset in Tapajós river in Alter do Chão,, Pará, 29 July 2020
    Tapajós River is one of the largest ones in the Amazon basin and connects two important biomes: tropical Savanna and Amazon. Its waters are crossed by an infinity of dams that changes its flow and fauna life. The soil is being destroyed by mining activity and contaminated by agrotoxins, as mercury, and also by grey water.

  • Cláudio Gonçalves (53), agronomist, farmer in Belterra. He started researching Amazon soil when he was 20. During many years, he worked for other farmers understanding how the land responded. Until, finally, he started his own business in Belterra, according to him the best soil for soy, corn and beans crops in Amazon. 'They say we invade the forest, but we have to work hard to keep the forest from invading our land.' Belterra, Pará, 30 July 2020
    According to Folha de São Paulo, in 2019, Brazil approved the registration of 474 different types of pesticides, the biggest number documented by the Ministry of Agriculture since the beginning of agrotoxins surveillance in 2005. New technologies in the sector have positive and negative impacts on the future of food and input production and, consequently, on the planet's food security policy.

  • “When we're little we dream of being a model and winning beauty competitions. In Barretos, it's not different," said 23-year-old Yanca Cristina Oliveira de Souza. Her outfits are handmade and bedazzled with rhinestones, beads and leather fringe. They often weigh close to 25 pounds. In 2018, at the Barretos rodeo, the largest rodeo in Brazil, Yanca was crowned queen."I prepared for years and won countless local and state competitions. I prepared myself to be the best representation of country beauty." Barretos, São Paulo, 23 August 2018.

  • Jaime, our guide showing how the Savanna trees recover from the last big fire in September 2019 in Alter do Chao, Pará. This kind of vegetation has thick bark to protect the core from burning. Alter do Chão, Pará, 29 July 2O20
    In the controversial speech given by Bolsonro’s at ONU on September 22nd 2020, he blames indigenous and traditional communities for the fires in Amazon. In the fire that happened in Capadócia in 2019, in Alter do Chão, the authorities blamed the volunteers of Brigada de Alter, an NGO that was created to protect the aerea. Brazil is experiencing its worst environmental crisis: it is a historic cycle of fire, deforestation, illegal land occupation and amnesty, based on the certainty of impunity.

  • Clarissa Alves de Rosa (35), ecologist, works for INPA(National Institute for Amazon Investigation). Her work is to understand medium to long term effects caused by climate change, deforestation, and others. Alter do Chão region has 300 years old Savanna, formed naturally. This area is an unique environment in terms of biodiversity called intra-amazonic Savanna. The region works as a research laboratory to study the fragmentation and climate change effects from short to long term in Amazon. Alter do Chão, Pará, 29 July 2020

  • Eliana de Souza Oliveira, known as Nana.
    Nana started to work in her vegetable garden in 2008, by 2013 it became completely free of pesticides. Now all her products are organic. The main products are banana, papaya, coconut, cassava, spinach, kale, lemon, parsley, lettuce, and eggs. In the beginning of the year she opened a store in Serra Grande, Bahia to sell her and other people’s products. Conduru, Bahia, 9 August 2020

  • These sisters Danielle Marcos De Lima (24) left, and Luly Assis de Lima Bernabe (28), grew up around horses and cattle-raising in their father’s business. They are both medical students, training to become doctors.
    "Our father always prioritized school, so in the week we had to study and on the weekends we could stay with the horses. We are doctors. Medicine is our job and the horse turned our hobby. But it was the horses that gave all of this to us, all of this came from the horses, it is my father’s job".Barretos, São Paulo, 17 August 2018

  • It took a week for this Bolsonaro's billboard to turn into a full of anger abstract painting. Bolsonaro is having a turbulent leadership, involved in all sorts of scandals related to environmental conservation. Bolsonaro’s ideology is concretely and symbolically imprinted in the reality of the current Brazilian agribusiness.
    Alter do Chão, Pará, 29 July 2020

  • Land being cleaned with fire for construction purposes.
    Belterra, Pará, 30 July 2020

    This is a typical method used to clean areas for construction or crops that is widely applied in the Amazon and Savanna’s regions in Brazil. This method often causes big illegal fires that outspread beyond the individual propertie's limits with the intention of raising cattle, implementing monoculture plantations, or even illegal land occupation.

  • Each year on Barretos’ birthday in August, crowds take the streets to parade and celebrate. Local schoolchildren are chosen to dress up and appear in the parade and many aspire to become future pageant queens. The party “Peão de Boaiadeiro” started in 1955. It is the biggest sertanejo event in Brazil. This event hosts around 800 thousand people and in last year’s event it raised 900 million reais. This is an example of how these events are engendered into the upbringing of new generations. São Paulo, 25 August 2018.

  • Xoquito is a twelve years old horse. He’s a family member. Dry Campos shares her life with the horse in the same way people have a dog or a cat. She has been riding horses since childhood. For her the link between them is stronger than with humans. The family owns a small farm with animals and a vegetable garden. She is a huge fan of rodeos and attends to many of them with her daughter. Cerquilho, São Paulo, 11 November 2019

  • “My contact with this world has always been constant, ever since I was little," says 18-year-old Rebeca Letícia Vetuche, from the interior of São Paulo state. Today she often goes out to her family's small ranch to help her dad and brothers take care of the animals. “I wash, vaccinate and treat them. All of these bring me immense peace," she says. "Sometimes people try to say that this is something gross or manly, but it's not that. It's a tradition that is the base of our very roots, and it is very humble. It's gratifying for me to be able to maintain this tradition as a woman. It's a way of proving that to be a woman you don't necessarily have to wear high heels; you can wear cowboy boots." Matão, São Paulo, 26 August 2018.

  • Francisca Lima (41), volunteer firefighter, daughter of an indigenous Borari woman, poses for a portrait on a beach in Alter do Chao, Pará, 29 July 2020
    “We have lost an area around the size of 80 soccer fields in the fire. Very sad how the human being destroys something that is so important for us. I worry very much about what I’m going to leave to my children and grandchildren. This is a way for me to feel good, alive, I really do this for love, I renew myself, I gain inner peace.”

  • Music is a major part of agribusiness culture expressed intensively in the rodeos and fairs. The crowd at the Cerquilho rodeo during the Maiara & Maraisa country music concert, known in Brazil as Sertanejo music style.
    Maiara Carla Henrique Pereira and Carla Maraísa Henrique Pereira, twin sisters who grew up in country culture, are part of a new generation of all-female sertanejo music groups, nicknamed ‘feminejo’. Through their chart-topping album sales, Maiara & Maraisa have helped highlight the role of women in Brazilian country music. The sisters said that most of their concerts are at farming or ranching events, which includes rodeos. Cerquilho, São Paulo, 9 November, 2019.

  • Nana's daughter, Giseli (10), plays with eggs in their garden during a Sunday afternoon. Because of the covid pandemic, kids are not going to school. Giseli enjoys helping her parents picking the eggs to sell in the local market in Serra Grande. She lives in a small farm that produces only organic vegetables. Bahia, 9 August 2020

  • Floresta Encantada (Enchanted Forest) is, in fact, an exuberant scenario in Lago Verde in the wet season. The lake rises, the land that separates it from Rio Tapajós disappears, and both become one, revealing a magical submerged forest. Alter do Chão, Pará, 30 July 2020