Sep 25, 2020
In this episode, we will visit with Dr. Marcellus Caldas, a self-described economic/environmental geographer. Dr. Caldas research focus remains on the analysis of land use and land cover change, environmental processes, spatial patterns, and its effect on policies and governance at different scales. Dr. Marcellus Caldas, is the Assistant Provost, International Collaboration and Educational Programs, Office of International Programs.
Food Production and Environmental Challenges in the Rain Forests of South America - with Dr. Marcellus Caldas, Assistant Provost, International Collaboration and Educational Programs, Office of International Programs
Trying to see their perspective how they feel about that now what's going on with him and try to see know where the problems come from. It try to work with policymakers to show for instance and that also there is that helping is create much more problem for the be part of the population that they didn't consider.
Something to Chew On is a podcast devoted to the exploration and discussion of Global Food Systems produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University. I'm Maureen Olewnik, coordinator of Global Food Systems.
I’m Scott Tanona. I'm a Philosopher of Science.
And I'm Jon Faubion. I'm a Food Scientist.
Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Kansas State University Global Food Systems podcast Something to Chew On. In today's podcast, we will visit with Dr. Marcellus Caldas, a self described economic environmental geographer. Some of Dr. Caldas past research included the study of the cocoa economy, and effects of that economy on the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil. This work evaluated the attitudes of cocoa farmers and implications on the environment. Dr. Caldas research focus remains on the analysis of land use and land cover change environmental processes, spatial patterns, and its effect on policies and governance at different scales. Dr. Caldas is a Professor of Geography and Geospatial Science. Marcellus carries PhDs in Applied Economics from the College of Agriculture at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in geography from Michigan State University. Welcome, Marcellus. And thank you so much for joining us today on this podcast. We're looking forward to learning a lot more about your background and about the work that you do in the food related area. But before we get started down that path, could you give us a little background on yourself? And how you got interested in moving into this kind of activity?
Yeah, good morning everyone. I think my story is not so different from many people that work within the environment was a small boy in the Amazon. So I was born in the Amazon, the Brazilian Amazon, and was our boys. It was a boy scout, I had a trip in the summer of 1968, or 69. So the idea of the trip was to go and learn about the trans Amazon highway, the trans Amazon highway was a federal road that the Brazilian government was building, you know, crossing the Amazon from east to west. The idea was to bring people to the land, and connect with land the people. So in that trip, now, I had chance to see no, what was the Amazon going outside the big city, and see the jungle and see the population that live in the end. So. So in that trip, instead of seeing that the development that they go over there was proposing, now, as a young boy, what I saw was a bunch of destruction, you know big trees, erosion, you know Native American pushing out of their lands, and so on. So that was very touching for me, you know, seeing that type of seeing it wasn't what I was expecting to see. No, I was expect to see wildlife. And I saw by doing that. And when I went to college, I decided to become environment values. But not this sense. But in the sense of this study, you know, I'm an economist by background. I have a PhD in applied economics, by the College of Agriculture at the University of San Paolo. And I have a PhD in geography where I work with GIS remote sensing, and my idea was to learn how to preserve forests conservation for us. Now, that's what I do work with Phil in the US political change. I do environmental studies, and trying to implement and change policy. That's basically some of my background.
As I was reading through in your background, you mentioned that working in the Amazon, you had done work on cocoa plantations or cocoa growing activities in that area. Can you expand a little on what that was about?
Yeah, one of the things that we had done, in fact, wasn't Amazon was that the Atlantic forest was when there was a professor in the College of Agriculture. In one of the university in Brazil, we had a grant from Conservation International, to look at the farmland, his decision of the cocoa farmers. Now, the Atlantic forest is one of the most degraded forests in the world, probably Brazil has now just 4% of that forest, the rest was completely logged the Forest, for globalization, in agriculture, and so on. But the cocoa plantation it's very interesting because they have a production system where they use the shades of the big trees, known to protect the trees, the cocoa trees. And what happened is that Brazil was one of the biggest producers will number one, in terms of cocoa. And the state of Bahia the place that I was working, he was the number one for the country. And cocoa is like any other commodities that are boom bust, and we are going through a very good boom. However, in a 1986 and seven, know the cocoa price went down, at the same time that he sees that which boom to seize, will start to appear in the cocoa farms, and in this state of Bahia. So there was a perfect storm for the farmers. Simple reason, cocoa, the disease wasn't damaged from the Amazon. And nobody could understand how that this is appeared in this stage of my year that was more than 3000 miles for that place. So many tourists appears we were interesting to understand now how the farmers were responding to this crisis. So we got this grant phone Conservation International to interview farmers and try to figure out what they were doing. And what we saw was a big change. No, the cocoa was basically a transition in the state of Bahia, especially in the south part of the state and very conservative area in the farmers that completely changed land use. So we start to see farmers selling farms that they had for more than 100 years now selling to pay the debts that the fees and the price would cause them to them. So we start to see the cutting of the whole plantation, the bigger trees into grass land, in some place, we saw coffee in someplace, we saw a coconut. So it was very interesting to see how they change the perception, you know, they said that they couldn't support know what the trees was doing. They have in the area Research Center that diversity specifically for coco but with we saw the economic deprives the sending could do much to help them so now is different. So after 30 years, we start to see that they get injection of money, they develop new wires that are more resistance to disease and you start to see now the cocoa come back. But what was done was done so they lost many areas of forest that will protect very protected by the cocoa farm for the brokers system. That's what they call their one day clean underneath the big trees plant cacao. So that was the study to understand the formula to use disease, how that was changed. Now, the lands changed in the region.
Is there any resistance amongst any people or groups to the approach that you're using as a work that you're doing? Are you, is it pretty well generally seen as a good thing?
Well, no depends where you are in the country. So if you are in the Atlantic Forest, no, we don't have much forest there. So there are a huge interest in protect that there are endemic animals that are they gold monkey on the Beco lounge or the small monkey with His face is completely, no big the bite is almost a gold. That is another one that's the face is gold and the body is black. So designing them for their so people like when you do this type of work, but you cannot say the same when you go to the Amazon. Now, when you go to the Amazon do this type of work? No, it's you got to make sure that you are well connected with people that work there, especially farmers. No, we don't go in just to start to do your work with contact all these. No Association cooperative is make sure that people understand well, your work. If not, you can get in trouble I'm going to give an example was in 97, I think I was with a professor for Michigan State. And we're looking at we'll try to identify lightning areas and Amazon use remote sensing. So the idea was to go to the field, collect some points, some polygons using GIS, and use that to help us to validate the classification of the image. We got lost, you know, in the jungle going around, and we decided to stop and to get some points put in map to see where we are. Well, we saw that two guys came in a horse with rifles, guns and asked us what we are doing there. So we had to explain what we're doing. And the guy Yes, What's this gringo doing here as to what my colleege it was me? And so, we had to explain it. We have to give a name say well, we work with these. And we know this people say yeah, but okay, but next time, don't don't come to this side. Now, and we can understand when we were driving because there are so many logging roads inside the forest, when we had to drive we saw that this group that actually they were doing illegal logging there. So depends where you are, you are going to see no these type of things happening. So, it's interesting work. But it's a little dangerous if you are not prepared to work with disputes. So that's what I tell my clients that never go to this place alone. No, never go without contact people talk to people, let's do the baseboard first before we can go to the field. Now, if people don't have any idea how much danger is stored in some parts of the Amazon, a lot of gold mining, illegal gold mining, you can no work with could be driving around. And suddenly you get in a place that nobody knew. We have these big people, villages or whatever you want to call. Now we could use all kinds of people there working, logging, mining is kind of dangerous. So
It brings to mind what you recently got a seed grant through the global systems here. And part of the topic is assessing rural perception of Land Management, what you just described is kind of scary. I mean, in there, there are a lot of things. What have you learned there that relate to the work that you're doing here? Or are they just totally different landscapes that really don't overlap with one another.
Yeah, they are totally different landscapes for many reasons, one of the things that we see here. We are in an area that is very well developed now, people are very well informed themselves, the management of the landscape. We are looking at fire Conservation Reserve programs now. So people knows how to manage the fire. What happens he that sometimes the fire gets out of control because of the wind, you know, and that's going to affect the perception or some farmers around say, well, these are going to affect me, I'm going to just know, do this type of things to avoid this by coming to my property. Now they're very, very informative. They are the owners of the land, now going to places in Brazil like the Amazon. There are a lot of public land and people are grabbing land. Now, imagine that Oklahoma and Kansas in the beginning where people would come grab land. That's what happened in the Amazon. That’s what is happening right now. Now people are there is a law in Brazil that say that you use the land for five, five years in one day. You are the owner of the land. So that's kind of thing that people do in the Amazon. People don't want to use to go around and start asking questions about what we're doing. It's kind of dangerous if we go to the middle of the jungle start. It's kind of compared to what you see here. Now, it's a jungle there. And here it's completely developed. Now, if you go to the savanna there in Brazil, in the middle of the country where the agribusiness in general are working, it's completely different. Now, they're gonna treat you the same way. So enforcing the works. Governance works. Not completely like here but works, they not gonna kill you, like in the Amazon. So that's the big difference that I see. No, people don't like to talk about this. But this is the reality. If you look at indicting aiders, they, we had a bunch of kills that will not say, a word, a highlight in the newspaper or the world environmentalists being killed in the Amazon. So, no, I think that there are some places that we can see that it's similar, but places that are completely closed.
I see part of the activities that you head up at K State includes coordinating and collaborating initiatives to do research internationally. Can you explain a little bit what that brings to the state of Kansas? What is the importance of that kind of international collaboration? And, you know, what's the value to the food system within the United States and certainly within the state of Kansas?
Yeah, that's, I think the one of the things that my position we strive to do is to create more opportunities for faculty to work in problems that don't have boundaries. You know, what, let me give you an example. We produce soybeans in the United States, Brazil lost produce soybeans. Now, which kind of problem both countries are facing that could be solved in benefit both countries. So the idea is to develop collaboration help affects develop preparation is that gonna help both countries, we have a disease in soybeans, and in Brazil, that we don't have any United States, or develop a collaboration for them, can help us to stay one step ahead. Now, look at the problem of the wishbone that happened in the state of Bahia, Brazil, if Brazil had been working with orders, now, maybe they wouldn't be suffering what they know suffered, because of the disease. So the idea of this, which kind of collaboration would benefit us and others, of course, there are people's there are some people with more interest in doing or no local regional state work at the international work. But there are also people that would like to do a little bit more international work, because they can no benefit for injection of funds. In some regions, for instance, now we have a lot of interest in helping African countries. So there are funds available now for people that want to work. But we need to know which countries so it's very important to see what are the problems in my office in helping them to learn about that opportunity to that country and connect people. For from that country with people from here in developing this type of proposal that can benefit both countries. That's the idea of the resource.
Would you say that the problems that you're addressing in well, in all this work, are they you think of them as like people problems? Or do you think of them as you know, economic problems or something else?
I think that both I think for instance global warming. So that's a societal problem that we need to face in there are problems that are problems that we created. Now, for instance, a bad manager of your soil in your farm. Now, if you're not aware, if you don't know how to do it, even to just increase the problem. I think that the thing is that separates these problems, what are the problems that we create? What are the problems that is the government that creates? What's the problem that society in general creates, it's look at the case of Brazil. Now, these were what's known big problem of inequality. There are 1% of the population. Very, very rich, and there is a middle class in the middle That's not to big and the majority population is poor. So no its a problem that society creates. So depends on what you are analyzing. And we can separate these problems.
When you look at, like any of these things that you've described, and going back to the cocoa production in Brazil, and there was a disease was one major factor here. Right? So the price in general is another factor, who, for problem like that, how do you think about like the different stakeholders and the like, how do you go about addressing sort of the challenges that you've got? Right? You know, is this work where you're talking in interviewing lots of different people? Are you looking, you know, more at the system's point of view? Where do you intervene? And, you know, what do you do?
Yeah, yeah, that's a good question, what I tried to do I try to connect the different scales, what try to look at the local scale the Farmer, Know, what are the problems he's facing, and try to connect these to a large scale, like a regional scale, or national scale for global scale. Now meaningful, the problems that you face at a larger scale, were sometimes developed at the module, B, a large scale, and it was a national policy that was created to prevent now, some things to happen. And that's affecting different farmers in different ways. So the idea is to review. Now my working to view this farm and trying to see their perspective, how they feel about that now, what's going on with him, and try to see know where the problems come from. It tried to work with policymakers to show for instance, and that also there is that helping is create much more problem for the be part of the population that they didn't consider now, and how to change that or how to create other policies that can benefit the majority of the population, not just the 60 groups. Now, that would be benefit from their policy, and so on. So it's my work that works at the different scales, now try to understand, I do a lot of work for the field. I do fieldwork, interview farmers, lens less people, policymakers in try to understand how this system works, you know, what can be done now to adjust and create policies to benefit society?
How often is it that there are groups of people that have just been entirely overlooked in the policy decisions that are made? And often are you actually finding? Well, look, we know who the stakeholders are, but we just didn't know what they what they wanted. And when we do this fieldwork, we discover new things about them. Are you also pointing out, you know, new pockets of people and stakeholders? And, that if that should have been included in part of the process and weren’t?
Yeah, that's one of the things that's very important doing this type of field work now is to look at groups and think that through and see it? No. I'd like to use some example of Brazil, people can compare now with the United States, and being in the United States now we see now that business the industry, it's very well organized in doing pressure and developing for their own interest. This is a very different thing in South American Latin America in general. Now, some places like Brazil, the agribusiness for instance is very strong business, and they have a very group very well organized compress of the government. But if you look at the other part of the society, like small farmers that they don't have all the support, they leave it for resistance, it just produced to eat now, they don't have this lobby. And many of the policies that are developed now, it's going to focus on one part of the supply chain. Now, general commodities, and forget from the other part, that the people that produce just resistance to survive. Now, and that's one of the things so the idea is to know look at these different agents in the supply chain, and see how these policies are affected by these different agents.
So in many ways the farming system in the US is changed over time, a lot recently, right but but we understand sort of all the parts in some ways and it may be less the case Is that where there's less overall organization? Or like you said the different lobbying partners are not, you know, not as well developed and not as well established? And hasn't everybody? Or they're still missing pieces, though here in the US have voices in the food systems that are just sort of not not being represented? Do you think?
I think they are very well represented. They are not too strong. No, that's the difference for me, they are represented different from Brazil, what they are, some pieces are not represent are not part of the analysis. Here they had part of the nest, although they are not too strong. Now, that's one of the big differences that I see. Now, if you look at, if you ask you, what is the agricultural frontier in the United States? People are gonna tell me, we don't have it. Right. So by saying that we don't have a it we say, Well, we know we are. We are now using everything that we have, we know everything that's going on, and so on. But if you look at countries like Brazil, or countries in Africa, where the agricultural frontier is to moving now, there are a bunch of piece that you are learning when you move to these frontiers. Now, sometimes people know, have made a mistake in my perception say, well, but we don't have any agricultural frontieres anymore. No, we do know there are places in the Amazon known place in Africa that nobody's living there just now in case of Brazil, some indigenous people there. So from Brazil we are still moving. And there are a bunch of things that we we don't understand how that works. Let me give you an example here. Now that I see, for instance, if you look at scientific papers, no research has been done in the last nine years about Linda COVID changed Amazon. The you're going to see that people blame the agribusiness for what's going on in terms of deforestation far so well, but when you look at how they interpret ag business, in fact, they are talking about large farmers. No data classify activities by the type of the crop is the commodity by the size of the farm, by how intense now is the use of inputs that and to facilitate, know the analysis, they call agribusiness. However, know the classical definition of agribusiness, is the whole agents. Reform gate, the production to the tables for there. I like to say from the fuel to the fork, but it's not there to this issue that they apply when they're in why and what's missing there. Now all those so far, they cannot capture these peak definition was the organisms from pre farm gate to post farm gate. And we always consider agribusiness equation variables modeling. So but in fact, it's very endogenous because no in frontier areas, when do I buy a chainsaw? No, when do I buy seeds to put grass, the agribusiness, they're working for you and how can you comment for that in the modeling. So there are a lot of things that we are trying to understand now in this process of development, that here we are marching now informed because these are happening now. 1800 1900s. Now, if this happened and is still happening now.
Can you give us any specific specifics on the impact that you have had directly on policy and governance related to these to these activities? I may have missed something that you said prior to but are there any are there any specific detail or specific activities that you point to that were impacted?
Yeah, I think that as a professor, one of the my main goals was to call attention for problems now helping advance the leader at work in my field that led us when the COVID change or land use science. I think that the leader of land use science talks a lot about drivers of political change. And one of our demands that we had now I don't, it's not just me. But the group that I have been worked with for many years. It was trying to show new drivers offline for a change that people can. We didn't have a leader to. For instance, I have a colleague and co author for him one paper that talks about to contention, let to COVID change. No. And before nobody can understand what what was contention when COVID change and the idea was to show that fight for land No, in the Amazon was leading to deforestation. And one of these The was a consequence of the Brazilian law. No, the Constitution that was not pay attention for this details. Let me give you an example of they're now in the in the presidency of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, he was a leftist president in Brazil, he was supporting social movements organization for land reforms. And these organizations, they were in occupying large profits. In many parts of the country, especially in the Amazon. The Amazon, we had large farmers, when they say large farmers the big they are 30,000 hectares 60,000 acres. And it's very difficult to monitor them on the field, a large property like there. So search movement organization where we occupy these lands now and try to force the government to appropriate the property and transform the property in small farm for them. So we start to look at satellite image, and we start to see different patterns in the landscape now and we'd like to grant for our National Science Foundation, we get some grants or get together and delete scam. Now, see how those lender forms settlements are affect Linda COVID change. One of the things that we learned with this proposal was that because of this law, that say that if you work in land for five years in a day, now you get the right to the land, and the government has the ability to this is appropriate, your land in give to others, we start to see that these movements they occupy, know this part of the land, these old properties properties, large profit, and they're the own it to protect the land. They will create militias. Now to monitor the land. So we start to see a lot of crime in some locations and the Amazon. At the same time we start to see a lot of deforestation. Well, people ask, How come the deforestation, the land reform and they create a encampments inside the forest to produce foods force of resistance, and the owner of the property, because a lot of the propets now are for land speculation. When they saw that they would lose the land. What they did was to occupy the land, cleaned the land for the grassland and wait for the ground to disappropriate and pay the value of all the infrastructure that he developed on the farms that had developed in the land. So with that, we start to see this contention now be a factor in political change. So that's one of the big advances. You know, I'm showing that the way there is contention can lead to clinical change in the Amazon. Another one and was separate know, this type of movement for spontaneous settlements. Let me give an idea what that means. There are two types of settlements for land reform in the Amazon one that is a consequence of social movement organization, they occupy the land. So Ricky, I'm usually turned off by the land, because that's the perception off of the land, the less people that want the land, they finally, but if you ask the owner of the farm, they say no, they are not occupied. They are invading my property. So it's a very interesting, you know, definitions that you need to work on. Talk to the people. In the case of the Amazon when the Brazilian government was opening the trans Amazon highway, bring people without land, to learn to talk people what they did was to develop settlements. Now in the 1970s. Now for these people they gave, they're gonna gave 100 hectares now, for families 300 hectares to 500, for people that want to create the business in develope it even more, no more advanced agriculture. Well, after four years, the kids of that family that moved to the Amazon, they became adults, they start to look for them, or land to create the farm on the acre bears. Now, this is a small piece of land, to be honest in the Amazon for a family, especially because of the soil that's nice roared and so on. So this perspective moves deeper in the forest to create their own settlements. Now, no social movement organization or behind your just little, what they call the life cycle of the household, they start to open trails and the forest, mark their own land, and use for five years after they have enough people, you know, around them, they decide to go to the ground, say, hey, we have this therapy for living here. We're living here for 10-15 years. So we need this for you need to legalize need to take off the land so we can get credit. You know, and so to improve the farm is completely different. The similarities in terms of the deforestation that they did in the air on the land was the forest like in this social movement organization. So now the governor didn't know that. And we have to show the data, Turing's talk to policymakers to see now how they can help this group for no increase the deforestation. So this is one of the consequences of the work.
What are the different ways that you can make your research and the results aware? I know as a faculty person I, you know, published in scholarly journals, are there additional ways that you need to get that information out to different groups?
Yeah, yeah, I wonder you're working places like that. No real need to make sure that to have a broad impact? No, the idea is to prepare the information, not just the cost for us, but also for the farmers development workshops, develope talks, now where you're going to educate them about the problems that they face policy makers the case of Brazil, no, they are in Brasilia, the capital or in the capital city in the state. Now and we have connections, we need to you need to develop this connection to people so that you can present reports you can present, make your case, to show why these need to change. Sometimes we need to work off nouns for known nongovernmental organization to present report then because they have the larger genes and so on. So let's think there are many different ways to do that depends on what you know, if you want to create too much, no. First, sometimes going to the newspaper is a good one. Just want to call it data flows. Sometimes you just want to work with for the policymakers directly now in this state, and show them the importance of that let them fight for that thing for you. Now, depends on what you are looking for. How important is that thing, no perspective for that side. In particular. I'm what the most important thing is, I promise you, it's not to be afraid to show what you are doing, how important that for society.
The work you're doing with Dr. Joslin out of out of geography and Dr. Bergtold out of Ag Econ on the title of this is “Agricultural Food Production and Conservation Reserve Programs in the Context of Wildfire”. Can you explain a bit about that particular project? And if there are things that you've just discussed that tie into this or how does this project play out in the overall perception of what you're working on today?
Yeah, that's a good question. You we look at the perceptual of farmers for a while, you know, try to understand how they perceive the danger of fire in their property, how that can affect food system. And values, norms, beliefs are very important ways to look at these now how much I value no conservation my profit. Now these thought to that is very difficult. Because we it's the way health measure is this for a modeler How to measure these things into models. And that's the most important thing that they're trying to figure out how to look at the various how to look at perception. How to look at normals how these is important for a farmer? No, that's producing to make money. No, that's, that's awesome. He in the West, now we start to see people associate in some location, well fires to conservation. Where are these, these, this guy was responsible for this big fire, he doesn't take care of this E CRP. And there why I don't have any here, no, in my profits, because I don't want to take the risk of no fire that come to my property, you know, it this. That's one of the things that I think that my work has do that's components, trying to understand, at the same time, try to develop known ways to create policy, understand how to influential policymakers for, you know, for change in that thing. So it is a work that is still in the beginning, we had the first data collection, but because of the COVID. Now, we couldn't move much, because some students tabulate the data for us. And they had to ask was, when you finished the collection of the data? No, it was in March of this year. And we know it is rolling, going back to that is to is that create modular proposal to submit for some fund agents to try to understand the influence of fire in the perceptions of the farmers and land use of us.
Yes, I recall the I don't know if this is what prompted this particular study. But there was just an absolutely devastating fire wildfire in the southern portion of Kansas.
Yeah, not just in Kansas, we know, after we start to look at these, we start to see no immediate differential location that goes from Nebraska, all the way down to Texas. So wildfires, so fire that became wildfires, and sometime we know no lack of management, no. And all they do is try to figure out the perception of the farms, how this is going to affect for CRPS in the United States, into effects conservation and so on. Yeah, I think that's, it's interesting and would be great maybe in the future to have, instead just one, but another one speaker, with a little more expertise in the West to do a comparison. Like I am not an expert in the United States, my work is in land use land cover change in Latin America, and tropical countries. You know, and it's sometimes difficult to do the comparison with the United States because my field now, but I see that's important is the environment economist, because that's where no changes that are occurring, the hands of no natural resources. So if we look at Brazil 4% of the GDP in Brazil, come for the agriculture sector. Now, the agriculture sector since 2008, now inject $350 billion in the Brazilian economy. So you know, it's 10% of the labor force was on that field. And because I was born there, now, I have interest to understand this process ologies affect the use of resources. Especially, if you look at climate change, how these change can affect society in general. So in maybe another person from the West will have a different perspective. Now I look at a the company compatible. Now inside production, like US are the biggest oil producer. And Brazil is the second one and they compete but there are the other thing is that they complement each other so that we wouldn't be making the maybe it is a little bit more interesting for the larger means.
Yeah, it'd be interesting sometime.
So it was a pleasure to talk to you guys and I hope that I have
answered your questions.
My insight, I hope it is interesting for people. Learn a little bit more about what I do and why it is important, my perspective.
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Our music was adapted from Dr. Wayne Goins’s album Chronicles of Carmela. Special thanks to him for providing that to us. Something to Chew On is produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University.