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Project March 1, 2024

How Monoculture and Water Affect the Food and Health of Indigenous Populations on Bananal Island



Droughts, floods, soil erosion, and silting of rivers have become a reality for Indigenous groups on the river island of Bananal (TO), in the transition region between the cerrado and the Amazon rainforest. The island is home to several Indigenous populations, including the Krahô-Kanela and Indigenous populations in voluntary isolation. The impacts they are experiencing today are the result of decades of state projects to deforest the area and implement monoculture plantations of soybean, rice, and watermelon. If, on the one hand, cheap food is produced there to be exported to China, Europe, and North America, or even to large Brazilian urban centers, on the other, the Indigenous communities are now starving and suffering from food insecurity.

This report investigates the ways in which monoculture production and water infrastructure for irrigation projects impact the health of Indigenous communities. The process began in 1979, during the military regime in Brazil, with the implementation of the works that make up the Rio Formoso Project, which uses the gravity irrigation method (flood and sub-irrigation) in an area of approximately 27,000 hectares. In the rainy season, rice is planted; in the dry season, soybean and watermelon. Due to the high porosity of the soils in the Rio Formoso basin compared to other wetlands in the world, it is necessary to maintain a high flow of water in the irrigated channels, causing droughts that were previously inconceivable to the island's Indigenous populations.