Economic development and indigenous illness in Tocantins (Legal Amazon, Brazil)

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE

SILVA, Reijane Pinheiro da [1], GRÁCIO, Héber Rogério [2], SALAINI, Cristian Jobi [3]

SILVA, Reijane Pinheiro da. GRÁCIO, Héber Rogério. SALAINI, Cristian Jobi. Economic development and indigenous illness in Tocantins (Legal Amazon, Brazil). Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 05, Ed. 12, Vol. 09, pp. 36-47. December 2020. ISSN:2448-0959, Access link in: https://www.nucleodoconhecimento.com.br/social-sciences/economic-development

ABSTRACT

In this article we discuss the impact of economic development projects in some indigenous lands in Tocantins, a state in the Brazilian legal Amazon, considering the changes in traditional ways of obtaining and producing food and we suggest that this process has directly affected the health of these groups. We emphasize that this is an overview of the current reality of these peoples, built over four years of ethnographic research, through participant observation and data collection from secondary sources. In particular, the large-scale production of grains, which involves the deforestation of extensive green areas and the use of pesticides that contaminate the soil and water, 16 deforestation for cattle grazing, the construction of hydroelectric plants, construction of roads and the consequent increase in the circulation of people and cars around the indigenous territories

Keywords: Development Projects, Indigenous Illness, Tocantins, Brazil.

1. INTRODUCTION

Brazilian indigenous peoples are survivors of a violent process of political, economic and cultural colonization, which continues to challenge their survival to the present day. In this article we discuss the impact of economic development projects in some indigenous lands in Tocantins, a state in the Brazilian legal Amazon, considering the changes in traditional ways of obtaining and producing food and we suggest that this process has directly affected the health of these groups. We emphasize that this is an overview of the current reality of these peoples, built over four years of ethnographic research, through participant observation and data collection from secondary sources (IBGE, 2010), (SESAI, 2020). In particular, the large-scale production of grains, which involves the deforestation of extensive green areas and the use of pesticides that contaminate the soil and water, deforestation for cattle grazing, the construction of hydroelectric plants, construction of roads and the consequent increase in the circulation of people and cars around the indigenous territories. We highlight the illegal mining, which intensified throughout the Amazon after the inauguration of President Jair Bolsonaro (2019), since the current government has promised to legalize this activity within indigenous lands. This entire processdirectly affects fauna, flora and waters, preventing traditional hunting, fishing and food planting activities.

2. MATERIALS AND METHODS

The reflections presented are the results of a research carried out between 2015 and 2019. It was a qualitative research, of an ethnographic character, with participant observation, collection and systematization of secondary data (IBGE, 2010), (SESAI, 2020). Participant observation was carried out in three indigenous lands in the state, through various activities, listed below, over the period mentioned. The observation also occurred in some villages that border major development projects, allowing the identification of the impacts of projects and enterprises that affect lands and ways of life. During the research period, the authors participated in various activities organized by governmental and non- governmental institutions that work with indigenous peoples, participated in meetings with leaders, chiefs, youth, women and religious leaders, followed health promotion actions, educational activities, discussions on the use of natural resources, training of health agents and environmental agents, discussion of dietary changes, meetings to discuss the use of alcohol and other drugs within indigenous areas and conducted research related to environmental licensing.

2015 – Participation in the Meeting of the Pajés of the Karajá people: Ilha do Bananal, TO, Brazil

2015 – Monitoring of the activities of the Special Indigenous Sanitary District (DSEI) in the Kraolandia and Xerente indigenous lands;

2015 – Monitoring of research carried out by groups from the Ministry of Health’s Education through Work Program on the Xerente indigenous land;

2015 – Identification of dietary changes through conversation circles and visits to indigenous families in the Xerente´s indigenous land.

2016 – Monitoring of DSEI activities – Parque do Araguaia Indigenous Lands, Xerente

2016 – Participation in the activities of the Regional Reference Center on alcohol and other drugs at the Federal University of Tocantins – UFT – courses in the Indigenous Lands;

2017 – Systematization of data from participant observation – preparation of research report;

2018 –Master’s Research Orientation on the Bolsa Família program and dietary changes;

2018 – Research supervision for the conclusion of a course on Diabetes in indigenous areas in Brazil;

2019 – Participation in extension activities on food changes in the Kraolândia and Xerente Indigenous Lands.

All of these activities allowed researchers to synthesize, in a panoramic way, the relationship between the economic development model adopted in the state, the impact of this model on some indigenous lands, food changes and the increase in chronic non-communicable diseases.

3. RESULTS

The participant observation led us to verify that the illness of the indigenous population in the state is one of the major concerns of the leaders and institutions that work with these peoples. There is no epidemiological profile of the indigenous population in the state, but diabetes and high blood pressure are identified as diseases that have advanced among the indigenous people of Tocantins. We suggest that there is an increase in non-communicable chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and arterial hypertension, associated with dietary changes, which are the result of developmental pressure around indigenous lands. We indicate the need for a statistical survey to identify the number of indigenous people affected by the diseases mentioned.

3.1 INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: GENERAL INFORMATION

According to the 2010 demographic census, Brazil has a population of 896 thousand individuals who identified themselves as indigenous, representing 0.47% of the Brazilian population, totaling 190.755.799 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in 2010. Tocantins, according to the same source, had a population of 1,383,445 people, which makes up 0.72% of the national population and represents 1.02% of residents in the state, that is, 14,118 people.As shown below, 57.68% of indigenous people in Brazil live in Indigenous Lands (I.L). In Tocantins 81.88% of the individuals who declared themselves to be indigenous live in indigenous lands.

3.1.1 INDIGENOUS PEOPLE DATA

Table 1 – Indigenous People in Brazil – Demographic Data According to the 2010 Census

The table below presents land information on eleven indigenous lands in Tocantins and the peoples that inhabit them. The indigenous land Parque do Araguaia represents 4.86% of the entire extension of the Federated Unit and 52.65% of the entire extension of the indigenous lands in Tocantins. The indigenous lands tenure regularization process in Tocantins is not finished.

Table 2 – Indigenous Lands in Tocantins, Brazil.

Table 3 – Population in Tocantins Indigenous Lands

3.2 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE STATE OF TOCANTINS

The state of Tocantins, instituted by the Federal Constitution of 1988, presents a typical development pattern for the areas of frontier expansion. According to IBGE, in 2002 the Gross Domestic Product – GDP of Tocantins represented 0.35% of the national. This percentage rose to 0.42 in 2010 and to 0.45 in 2014. The trend recorded in the data above is reinforced with the information made available by IBGE regarding planted extensions. In 2002, the area planted in Tocantins represented 0.73% of the entire planted area in Brazil. In 2015, this index rose to 1.68%. Between 2002 and 2015, the area planted with temporary crops in Brazil grew 47.6%. In the same period, Tocantins recorded a 237.29% increase in the extension of temporary crops.

In 2000, extensions planted with soy represented 19.96% of all area planted with temporary crops in the state.

Table 4 – Planted Area with Temporary Crops by Product.

Productoftemporary crops– PlantedArea (ha). 2000 % 2005 % 2010 % 2015 %
Pineaple 1.878 0,64 2.055 0,29 2.683 0,40 2816 0,23
Cotton 0 0 1.237 0,18 4.200 0,63 903 0,07
Seedcotton 0 0 1.630 0,23 3.870 0,58 2.186 0,18
Rice 148.723 51,2 199.168 28,98 137.946 20,76 119.826 10,01
SweetPotato 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 8,35
Sugar Cane 3.590 1,23 2.767 0,40 10.803 1,62 363.95 3,04
Beans 4.472 1,54 12.695 1,84 26.134 3,93 8.570 0,71
Manioc 12.043 4,15 21.500 3,12 20.869 3,14 13.847 1,15
Watermelon 2.235 0,77 3.109 0,45 3.416 0,51 9.395 0,78
Melon 0 0 100 0,01 0 0 32 0,00
Corn 58.625 20,20 78.182 11,37 83.229 12,53 162.078 13,54
Soy 57.919 19,96 355.300 51,70 352.875 53,12 830.031 69,34
Sorghum 520 0,17 9350 1,360 18.170 2,73 10.914 0,91
Tomato 92 0,03 25 0,00 0 0 0 0
Total 290.097 100 687.118 100 664.195 100 1.196.994 100

Sources: Authors (2018); IBGE (2010).

The cattle ranching activity shows an increasing behavior and above the national average. In the period between 2000 and 2015, the national herd grew 26.68% and that of Tocantins 36.78%. Although the growth rate is not the same as that observed in temporary crops, it should be noted that the participation of Tocantins is high and with indications of growth. In 2000 the state accounted for 3.61% of Brazil’s cattle and in 2015 this rate rose to 3.90%.

Table 5 – Variation of the Bovine Herd

Herd variation between Bovine Heard
Territorial Unit Year Herd variation between 2000 e 2015 (%)

 

2000 2005 2010 2015
Brazil 169875524 207156696 209541109 215199488 26,68
Tocantins 6142096 7961926 7994200 8401580 36,78
Tocantins

percent (%)

3,61 3,84 3,81 3,90

Sources: Authors (2018); IBGE (2010).

The activities of agriculture and livestock, for local populations, especially for native peoples and the environment, bring harmful results. It is associated with conflicts, land concentration, demographic growth, pressure on natural resources, deforestation, significant decrease in fauna, impairment of flora and impairment of water quality.

In addition to agricultural activities, mining activities increase the impacts on the environment of indigenous territories. The National Department of Mineral Production – DNPM (2016) points out that 182,521 applications are currently being processed in the body dealing with the exploration of the most diverse mineral resources in Brazil. Of this total, 17,366 refer to the state of Tocantins. The municipality of Pedro Afonso, which makes up the northern limit of Ti Xerente, has 176 applications pending, Miracema do Norte with 268 and Tocantínia with 128. Mining is present throughout the surroundings of Tis Funil and Xerente. As with agribusiness, mining generates land pressure, risk of accidents, contamination of water courses, impacts on fauna and flora.

The roads and highways that cut the Tis are linked to a series of environmental and social impacts. The Chico Mendes Institute – ICMBIO (2014), estimates that every second 15 animals are run over on Brazilian roads, 1.3 million per day and 475 million animals killed per year on the roads. These routes have impacts on fauna and, consequently, on hunting activity. They create and impose a high risk of accidents on indigenous people, facilitate the irregular exploitation of natural resources in Tis and expose their inhabitants to the circulation of drinks and drugs.

Hydroelectric power plants (HPP) generate great impacts for local populations, as they affect fauna and flora, compromise the quality of the region’s water and generate land conflicts. In addition to the hydroelectric plants already installed in the Tocantins River basin, the National Electric Energy Agency – ANEEL (2016) informs that a series of projects are planned for the Tocantins River and its tributary. Only for the Sono river that defines the northeastern limit of Xerente indigenous land, six hydroelectric plants are planned, namely: Small Hydroelectric Power Plant – SHP BrejãoJusante and the Cachoeira da Velha, Monte Santo, Ponte Nova, Rio SonoBaixo and Vermelho HPPs.

3.3 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INDIGENOUS ILLNESS

The increase in consumption of processed foods and the relative abandonment of traditional eating practices is a reality for the indigenous peoples of Tocantins (ROCHA et al., 2016). As a cause of this process, we point out the economic development projects and their pressure in the Indigenous Lands, which has a significantly negative impact, since it causes ecological imbalances and changes the traditional relations between these indigenous people and the environment they occupy. The Hydroelectric Plants (UHEs), by damming the waters, prevent, for example, the seasonal floods from occurring in the Tocantins River, which fertilized the lands on the margins, allowing the traditional planting of the so-called low waters, at the time of the “drought”. Another factor is the decrease in fish, before the UHEs, abundant. We also observed that planting in coivara fields, which use fire to cause soil fertilization, is a practice condemned by Brazilian environmental agencies. Many indigenous people claim that to inhibit the practice of coivara, called by them “roça de toco”, the state “promised” support to mechanize the planting in the Indigenous Lands, but this does not happen sufficiently and planned

The presented context caused severe food insecurity among the indigenous people of the state (MORAES, 2019). Public positions, including that of indigenous health agent, indigenous sanitation agent and teacher, and traditional handicrafts constitute the main source of income for the majority. The “Bolsa Família” (PBF) program, created by the government of President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, has wide coverage among indigenous families, allowing the support, even if precarious, of the most basic needs. With the” Bolsa Família” or salary, families buy food in the cities surrounding the Indigenous Lands of Tocantins, guaranteeing the movement of local commerce. This process of transforming the Indians into consumers of industrialized foods and food products was undoubtedly initiated with the first contacts with national society but intensified in the context presented. In research on changes in eating habits, it was found that rice, beans, sugar, coffee, salt and flour, cookies and soft drinks are the main foods consumed by families.

Chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are now presenting significant problemsamong indigenous people in the state of Tocantins (SESAI, 2020). In terms of environmental impacts, it is immediately possible to point out that the presence of solid waste has increased significantly inparallel with the change in eating habits. Plastic packaging, cans, cardboard boxes, glass bottles and PET bottles accumulate in the villages and on the banks of streams and nearby springs. The indigenous villages indirectly receive the pesticide that is sprayed on the sugarcane and soy plantations. In addition to complaining about the death of animals and contamination of the waters, they indicate skin irritations, nausea and malaise.

4. DISCUSSION

The epidemiological profile of indigenous peoples in Brazil is not yet known, which results from the scarcity of investigations, the absence of censuses and other regular surveys and the precariousness of the systems for recording information on morbidity, mortality and vaccination coverage, among other factors (COIMBRA et al., 2005). In Brazil, there are not many studies on the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in indigenous populations. Among the Xavante of Mato Grosso, a recent study shows that 66% of the population has the metabolic syndrome (SOARES et al., 2015). The Xavante are part of the same ethnic group as the Xerente do Tocantins who together with the Xacriabás make up the linguistic group Akwẽ, from the Macro Jê trunk. Metabolic syndrome is the condition of an individual who has risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus.

In 2010, the first National Survey on Health and Nutrition of Indigenous Peoples already noted the rapid emergence of hypertension and diabetes mellitus among populations in the different macro-regions. Due to the drastic changes in their lifestyles associated with the interaction with non-Indians, indigenous people begin to suffer from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to the research, in part, these findings can be attributed to dietary changes, with a reduction in the consumption of traditional foods in favor of the consumption of processed foods and even of introduced crops. Simultaneously with changes in diet, there is also a tendency to reduce the frequency and intensity of physical activity, as a result of important changes in livelihood strategies and settlement patterns. These data reflect a gradual and important change in the epidemiological profile of these populations, in which chronic non-communicable diseases begin to assume an expressive role.

The survey also indicated that most of the water used for drinking has no treatment. The study involved villages of different peoples and revealed the occurrence of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus in all regions. The data reflect a change in the epidemiological profile of Brazilian indigenous peoples, in which chronic non-communicable diseases begin to assume an expressive role (MINISTRY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, 2009).

5. CONCLUSIONS

There is a relationship between the increase in chronic non-communicable diseases and the dietary changes that have intensified among the indigenous peoples of Tocantins in the past four years. The development model of the state of Tocantins has an impact on the Indigenous Lands and the surroundings of these lands, since the productive strategies of these people are directly linked to the territory they inhabit, from where they hunt, plant their gardens and fish. Impacted by extensive agriculture and livestock and benefited by the Bolsa Familia Program, indigenous peoples significantly changed their eating habits, starting to consume food products and industrialized foods of low nutritional value and high caloric value. We observed that these changes have intensified in recent years and are associated with an increase in health problems such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension.

REFERENCES

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[1] Doutorado em Antropologia Social.

[2] Doutorado em Antropologia Social.

[3] Doutorado em Antropologia Social.

Submitted: November, 2020.

Approved: December, 2020.

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