Geografia econômica do Nordeste potiguar


  • Orlando Valverde
  • Léa Scheinvar
  • Myriam Gomes Coelho Mesquita


Rio Grande do Norte;, Geografia econômica;, Uso do solo, Geografia agrícola.



            INTRODUCTION. This is an example of teamwork research with which land-use survey in the state of Rio Grande do Norte is being undertaken. Two original large-scale maps were made of the area studied, one showing the systems of farming and land tenure, and the other the vegetation.

            The field and office work was distributed to: Léa Scheinvar, who prepared the phytogeographic map and the texts on vegetation under the scientific orientation of Prof. Alberto Castellanos; Orlando Valverde, who made the studies of agrarian geography; Myriam Mesquita, who investigated the fishing industry and the marketing of the produce; Maria Machado Portes and Jair de Montedonio who studied the alimentary habits, the latter being the author of an introductory note on the application of Geography to regional studies of nutrition.

            The region of Touros has an exceedingly uniform relief. typical of the back slope of a cuesta, the inface of which forms a low scarp to the north of Taipu. This region, named after the Potiguar Indians who were its original inhabitants, is situated at the extremity of the bulge, where the coastline of Brazil changes direction from east to west to north to south, between the fifth and sixth southern parallels. The rains fall in autumn and the temperature is high, but tempered by the unfailing breezes of the southeast trades.

            REGIONAL DIVISION. The region was divided into three large units.

            The Caiçara zone may be subdivided into two parts: the beach and the dunes. Looked at from the sea, the beach seems to have a population concentrated in fishing villages (Rio do Fogo, Touros, etc.). The only activity of importance is fishing, with primitive tackle. from sea-going sailing rafts (jangadas) made of light wood, which keeps a very poor population alive.             The dunes form a micro-relief of ridges stretching southeast to northwest. On the sandy soil, the vegetation that stabilized them has been seriously degraded. Cattle and goats are raised untethered; cassava (manioc) is grown in fenced enclosures for making flour; coconut palms and mango trees are cultivated.

            The Tabuleiro, a series of low mesas, is extremely uniform. Its soil is generally covered with pisolitic hardpan, called canga. To the south of the Maxaranguape valley, there used to be a semideciduous forest vegetation now laid waste; to the north of this valley, there were grasslands with low trees fairly close together (cerrados), now transformed in to savannahs with scattered trees, and to the west of the Boqueirão lagoon, scrub forest (caatinga) .

            Demographically the tabuleiro is a desert; there is not a single nucleus of population to be found there. Where the cerrados crop up, only very extensive stock-raising is practiced. In places on the caatinga the scrub is cleared for crops, chiefly cassava, and in the clearings in the semideciduous woodlands, in addition to these crops, fruits, above all coconut and mangoes, are cultivated.

            In the southwestern corner of the area under survey, on land covered with scrub forest, a modern sisal plantation has recently been started by SACKRAFT; though still in organization, this undertaking has already revolutionized labour relations in the region, posing problems that are discussed in the report. It is one of the most spectacular examples of the introduction of capitalism into the Brazilian countryside.

            The Agricultural Valleys contrast strikingly with the tabuleiro, not only by the coloring of the vegetation, but also by the intensity of the farming carried on there and by the high demographic density. Thus, they call to mind oases in the desert.

            The valley landscape is extraordinarily varied according as to whether the alluvial flood plain is narrow or inexistent ("small valleys", as they are called here) or broad ("large valleys").

            The small valleys are occupied by small and medium holdings, and the inhabitants, scattered lineally, are engaged in truck-farming and fruit-growing. The green vegetables, coconuts, mangoes, cassava, etc. that they produce are marketed above all in the neighboring population centers.

            The large valleys of the region correspond to the lower reaches of the Maxaranguape and the Ceará-Mirim. The former are covered by old-fashioned sugar plantations which make brown grating sugar in cakes or cheap spirits, or else sell their cane to the more modern plants on the Ceará-Mirim. Where the floodplains are not already planted with sugarcane, they are used for pasture.

            On the lower Ceará-Mirim, there are three up-to-date sugar mills or refineries, with the result that sugar-cane is the exclusive cash crop in these valleys. On the soil of the slopes, called "arisco" on account of its sandy nature, smallholders and millworkers grow fruits (coconut and mangoes chiefly) and cassava in clearings for supplying the valley.

            The maps were made on the basis of field observations and the interpretation of trimetrogon aerial photographs.