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Amazon Besieged: By dams, soya, agribusiness and land-grabbing

by Mauricio Torres and Sue Branford Practical Action Publishing
Pub Date:
Pbk 208 pages
AU$42.99 NZ$43.47
Product Status: In Stock Now
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The Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon, is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity and the vitality of its indigenous and riverine communities. But it is gradually being carved up by highways, hydroelectric dams and railways, built to allow agribusiness, the new powerhouse of the Brazilian economy, to export soya and other products though the Amazon River.


Amazon Besieged tells the story of two writers’ long investigative trip along the basin in 2016 and 2017. As if travelling through history, the authors were able to trace the way an outside economic force arrives and dispossesses earlier inhabitants. They started their journey in the south of the Tapajós river basin, where modern Brazil is firmly entrenched, with its paved roads and huge soya plantations, and moved north, where outsiders are engaged in a violent tussle with the earlier inhabitants who still occupy much of the land. Travelling by canoe and pick-up, the authors visited remote indigenous villages and isolated communities of rubber-tappers and fisherfolk. They recorded moving testimony of the pressure these people are experiencing, with the arrival of dam builders, loggers and land-grabbers. At times, these outsiders show little respect for the law, openly sending in illegal militias to evict the original inhabitants.


Yet the outcome is far from clear, for today indigenous and riverine communities know full well that they are struggling for their very survival. Overcoming traditional hostilities, they have created powerful new alliances and are forging links with environmentalists, who know that they are the true guardians of the forest.

1. The Invisible People gather
2. Dynamiting Heaven
3. Terror comes to the Teles Pires
4. An award for the dam builders
5. The story of Sinop
6. Soya invades the Cerrado
7. The threat to the Amazon
8. The soya transport corridor
9. Why the 'Amazon Soya Moratorium' is greenwash
10. All crime and no punishment
11. Land speculators poised to gain control
12. The guardians of the forest
13. Deforestation becomes big business
14. Warming wood and wild-cat mining
15. Old enemies work together

Mauricio Torres has lived and worked in the Amazon for 15 years; he has a PhD in human geography and has been consulted as an expert by the Federal Public Ministry in over a dozen cases involving social and environmental issues in the Amazon.


Sue Branford is a freelance journalist and writer, based in the UK, who worked for the BBC World Service as a Latin America analyst.