In the middle of Brazil there is a tropical savanna larger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined. This vast landscape, the Cerrado, is home to dozens of mammals, birds, and amphibians that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, as well as thousands of unique plants.

An expanding agriculture

The location and conditions that allow nature to thrive are also very important for agriculture in Brazil. In fact, the Cerrado is one of the most important food-producing regions on the planet. Already it holds nearly all of Brazil’s cotton, nearly half of both its sugarcane and soybean, and over a third of its planted forests and cattle pastures.

This farmland is still spreading and many see MATOPIBA, the northern part of the Cerrado made up of Maranhão (MA), Tocantins (TO), southern Piauí (PI), and western Bahia (BA), as the next frontier. The production of soybeans alone has tripled there over the past two decades.

This kind of rapid change can bring economic growth, but it can also impact communities that have relied upon local nature for generations. Ensuring that the area can sustain food production, and that nature can still provide benefits to people, is a crucial challenge.

What will we do?

We want to understand what drives this kind of changing use of land. We will investigate the financing of farms, land markets and logistics, as well as the social and environmental impacts of soybean production. This will allow us to model ways for agriculture to expand while reducing the negative impacts on local people and the environment. 

Creating a long-term solution

We will then engage with relevant people and groups in the soybean value-chain, making sure they can put the recommendations in place and continue building a sustainable system for both people and wildlife.