Drought and Irrigation in North-East Brazil

Hall, Anthony (1976) Drought and Irrigation in North-East Brazil. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis analyses the efficacy of DNOCS irrigation schemes against problems of drought in the sertao, the interior of North-East Brazil, Chapter I traces the history of drought effects in the region and describes the institutional framework set up in response. Chapter II distinguishes conceptually between the purely climatic aspect of drought phenomena and what I term the 'socio-economic' problem of drought, I argue that the so-called 'drought problem' of the North-East is not only, nor even principally, a climatic problem. The human tragedy of the drought is a direct product of the way in which the rural structure of the sertao places particular groups of rural producers, notably sharecroppers and smallholders, at the economic margin, vulnerable to even the slightest variation in the rainfall cycle. Subsequent chapters examine the effectiveness of current irrigation strategy in solving problems of rural poverty, unemployment and rural-urban migration traditionally associated with the drought. Chapter III looks at the history of irrigation in the region and lays out in detail the goals which irrigation planners (DNOCS and GEIDA) have established; that is, (l) to create rural employment and tie people to the land, stabilizing the population and lessening rural-urban migration, (2) to increase rural incomes, and (3) to increase agricultural production of high-value crops which would generate increased incomes and justify the heavy capital expenditure into irrigation. The evidence from three case-studies of DNOCS projects suggests that these goals are not being met. Chapter IV shows that irrigation is capital-intensive and creates few permanent jobs. Recruits to schemes come overwhelmingly from the humid valleys and have rarely been forced off their land, either onto emergency work fronts or to the towns, because of drought. Poorer farmers from the less protected and drier caatinga away from the valleys, those most vulnerable, do not benefit from irrigation. Moreover, the implementation of schemes in densely populated valleys has resulted in the dislocation of from three to six times the number of families absorbed by the projects. As DNOCS has no relocation policy for the dispossessed, more unemployment than jobs is created and the rural-urban drift is accentuated. In Chapter V it emerges that only 5% of irrigation farmers enjoy the high incomes predicted for them. Most are in debt to DNOCS. The major reasons for this highly skewed income distribution are examined. Chapter VI shows that DNOCS has been largely unsuccessful in producing and marketing high-value fruits and vegetables but relies on commercializing crops which are already traditional to the sertao. thus severely limiting the income-earning capacity of projects. Relations between the DNOCS administration and irrigation farmers are examined and the agency's policy of 'cooperativism' is considered. The final chapter concludes that current irrigation policy is at best marginally positive and at worst marginally negative in relation to the problem of drought as defined earlier on. In order for anti-drought strategy to be effective it must be aimed specifically at the weakest and most vulnerable groups, and not benefit the already privileged. Modifications to existing irrigation techniques, as well as anti-drought policies not based on irrigation, are suggested.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Environmental management, Agriculture, Latin American studies
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-78723
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:58
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:58
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/78723

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