This paper aims to test the hypothesis that a single driving force from the local, national, or global level is capable of triggering land use changes, including large scale deforestation, within a historical context. To reach this goal we describe and explain the driving forces from the global to farm level that have shaped agricultural land uses, as a case study, over 180 years in the municipalities of Quirinópolis and Gouvelândia in the Brazilian Cerrado. Through secondary data, field surveys, and interviews with farmers and other stakeholders involved with agricultural production, we identified four distinct periods in which drastic or little land use occurred. The evidence found supports our hypothesis. Two drastic land use changes occurred in Quirinópolis and Gouvelândia. The first one was the replacement of about 400,000 ha of original vegetation by pastures and crops between 1965 and 1985 triggered by the availability of abundant subsidized rural credits for farmers; the second one was initiated in 2005 with the replacement of 100,000 ha of pastures and cropping area by sugarcane, which was driven by the sudden domestic and world demand for sugar and ethanol.
- Case study