An outlook on the future of Brazilian agriculture: how farming students of Tocantins perceive sustainability in the Cerrado




agroecology, family farming, soy, environmental education, sentiment analysis, business cooperation


In the Brazilian Cerrado, the land-use change caused by the expansion and intensification of agribusiness farming has led to dramatic socio-environmental problems. To foster sustainable development, Brazilian farming students have to learn about land use according to the Sustainable Development Goals and how to implement them on their home farm and future workplace. Through a questionnairebased survey, our study explored the perceptions of 128 students at the Family Farming High School of Porto Nacional on the sustainability of farming systems in the Cerrado of Tocantins. We analyzed the effectiveness of the school in teaching sustainability, the students’ occupational preferences and perspectives, and their sentiment about three common farming systems in the Cerrado of Tocantins, i.e., agribusiness, family farming, and agroecological farming, and their opinion on the business relationships among the three systems. Even though our study confirmed the effectiveness of school-work alternation models in transferring sustainability practices from school to home farms, it also revealed farming students’ poor understanding of the systemic definition of sustainability. Students defined sustainable and unsustainable farms with different perspectives and evaluation criteria, most of them referring to environmental indicators such as the way materials are used, whether the natural environment is protected, and whether biodiversity is preserved on the farm. There is a discrepancy between students’ occupational preference and their prevalent sentiment about family farming, agribusiness, and agroecological farming. While more than half of them would accept reloto work on an agribusiness farm, significantly more students have a positive sentiment in favor of family farming and agroecological farming than agribusiness farming. The three farming systems, however, are not perceived as contending or isolated but as partnering businesses, featuring low competition and high cooperation rates. Our study contributes to a broader appreciation of the Brazilian students’ perception of farming sustainability in the Cerrado of Tocantins and helps environmental education programs improve their effectiveness in transferring sustainability.


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Author Biographies

Mark Lawrence Miller, Free University of Bolzano-Bozen - Italy

MSc Graduate. Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano-Bozen, Italy.

Sarah Santos Ferreira, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano - Italy

MSc Student. Faculty of Science and Technology. Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano-Bozen, Italy.

Michael Löbmann, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) - Germany

Full Researcher. Eberswalder Straße 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany.

Markus Schermer, University of Innsbruck - Austria

Full Professor for Rural Sociology. Institute of Sociology. Universitätsstraße 15, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria.

Atamis Antonio Foschiera, Universidade Federal do Tocantins (UFT) - Brazil

Full Professor for Geography. Campus de Porto Nacional, Rua 03, Quadra 17, Lote 11, s/n° Setor Jardim dos Ipês, 77500-000 Porto Nacional/TO, Brazil.

Stefan Zerbe, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano - Italy

Full Professor for Environment and Applied Botany at the Faculty of Science and TechnologyFaculty of Science and Technology. Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano-Bozen, Italy.


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How to Cite

Miller, M. L., Santos Ferreira, S., Löbmann, M., Schermer, M., Foschiera, A. A., & Zerbe, S. (2022). An outlook on the future of Brazilian agriculture: how farming students of Tocantins perceive sustainability in the Cerrado. Revista Brasileira De Ciências Ambientais (RBCIAMB), 57(2), 215–229.