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Library Land governance in Brazil: a geo-historical review

Land governance in Brazil: a geo-historical review

Land governance in Brazil: a geo-historical review

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Date of publication
December 2011
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This paper examines the paradoxes of land governance in Brazil by putting them in their historical context, highlighting in particular the continuing subordination of peasant farmers’ interests to those of large landholders. It traces the development of the country’s regional divisions and systems of land-holding back to colonial times, when Portuguese settlers began carving up the territory. It describes the emergence of large-scale plantation agriculture producing commodities for export, and the evolution of the latifundios into today’s transnational agribusiness monocultures, which are swallowing up more and more land. Despite various changes of government and sporadic attempts at land reform over the years, large-scale agrarian capitalism has generally enjoyed the support of Brazil’s political classes, to the detriment of small-scale peasant farmers, indigenous peoples, and others who, despite producing much of the country’s food, are being increasingly marginalised and deprived of their land and traditional ways of life.

The paper looks in detail at this phenomenon in each of Brazil’s regions and also examines trends such as land grabbing by foreign interests, the growing demand for agrofuels, rural-urban migration, and impacts on the environment. Throughout, it poses the essential question: how can Brazil’s vast territory be governed to meet the interests of all, and not just a privileged few?

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