New opportunities for small-scale farmers of the Amazon to strengthen hazards resilience while preserving forests - Field experiments combined with agent-based modelling.
This paper introduces a simulation model focused on smallholder practices and labour management that is used to assess the long-term impacts of alternative land-uses in the Amazon region. Our objective is not to provide a tool for decision-makers but rather to inform the debate on rural practices and their likely consequences on forests resources, income generation, and land-use trajectories. We discuss the advantages and limitations of forest management (FM) for timber and permanent field of annual crops (PFAC), based on conservation agriculture, and the way in which they constitute management options with potential to protect forests while improving smallholders' livelihoods. Our model shows that subcontracted sustainable FM for timber (logging operations outsourced) in legal reserves and PFAC are not miraculous solutions that allow smallholders to prosper while preserving their forests. However, the additional earnings originated from FM facilitate the family's installation phase, which is often a critical period. Since income from FM can help farmers cultivate productive crops and pastures, it improves resilience to hazards (sickness and accident) that are frequent in the Amazon. In addition, since PFAC is an intensification technique, it has positive effects but only when adopted after the installation phase. In that case, it provides some additional profits by recovering degraded pastures. Considering a scenario with hazard probability and where 50% of smallholders' lands have to be dedicated to forest protection, adopting FM and PFAC appears to be a win-win solution for smallholders.