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The third bank of the river: Finding an alternative route for the sustainable development of the Tocantins

Authors:

Cara Myers ,

Harvard Kennedy School, US
About Cara

Master in Public Administration, Class of 2018

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Marco Camargo

Harvard Kennedy School, US
About Marco

Master in Public Administration, Class of 2018

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Abstract

Agricultural development in Brazil is both one of the leading drivers of economic growth as well as the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country (including land use change for agricultural purposes). As less developed Brazilian states, such as Tocantins, seek strategies to increase economic growth, there are many concerns that local stakeholders will adopt the model implemented in the neighbour state of Mato Grosso: unchecked agricultural expansion in export commodities. Due to the soy and cattle ranching boom, Mato Grosso has enjoyed a period of economic success unique to Brazilian states in the last 30 years. Following this strategy, however, implies significant risks to environmental sustainability as well as to broader social and economic equality.

In this paper, we thus assess the specific context of Tocantins and estimate the environmental and economic impacts if the state —in a defining moment of its economic development path— were to adopt Mato Grosso’s aforementioned model of development. We then analyse several alternative policy options to incorporate environmental factors into Tocantins’ agricultural development strategy, in order to promote a more sustainable development trajectory. The three alternatives analysed here all relate to market-based mechanisms that price into economic decision-making the negative externalities affecting the environment. This includes soy and cattle moratoriums (boycotts), carbon taxes for agriculture and payment for ecosystem services to promote agroforestry agricultural systems.

Based on this analysis, we recommend adopting a policy of payment for ecosystem services in conjunction with lobbying for soy and beef retailers to extend their moratoriums to Tocantins. As a next step, given Tocantins’ low level of economic development and poor position within the product space, we recommend exploring additional sets of coordination and self-discovery policies to achieve future economic diversity.

How to Cite: Myers, C. and Camargo, M., 2019. The third bank of the river: Finding an alternative route for the sustainable development of the Tocantins. The Public Sphere: Journal of Public Policy, 7(1), pp.91–130.
Published on 01 Jan 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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