With relatively advanced laws that acknowledge indigenous and rural community land rights, Brazil has the framework in place to ensure tenure security for its poor and vulnerable groups. Yet implementation of these laws has been riddled with bottlenecks and delays, and thus the current situation on the ground paints a different picture than what Brazil’s progressive legal framework often shows. Recurring evictions, large-scale land acquisitions, and controversial titling reforms continue to threaten many landholders in Brazil. An estimated 250,000 people were evicted, threatened, or otherwise negatively affected by infrastructure development for the recent World Cup and Olympic Games. Such catastrophic events suggest there is significant room for progress on implementing laws that grant populations the right to claim their land and resources.  Furthermore, in Brazil, as in many other countries, gender inequality in land access, ownership and control challenges women’s standards of living, often as a result from socio-economic disadvantages. 

Historically a Portuguese colony, Brazil has a land administration system, which dates back as far as 1530, a period in which all land belonged to Portuguese Crown. Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822 and thereafter enacted a series of land reforms, including a 1850 Land Law through which the State attempted to stop public land from being acquired by private elites. Several decades later, a series of Agrarian and Urban Reform Movements ignited in various parts of the country. This eventually led to a new Land Statute in 1964 and, later, the 1988 Constitution, both of which stipulate that property must serve a social function, which, at least in rural areas, necessitates rational and adequate land use and preservation of the environment, among other obligations.

The Constitution 19888 and Decree 5051/2004 guarantee indigenous and traditional peoples exclusive possession of their territories and pledge to respect their social organizations, customs, and traditions. However, the current administration of President Temer has pushed for several controversial constitutional amendments and laws, a move which triggered conflict and social unrest. These reforms include a cut-off date for filing land claims and a campaign to defund and dismantle Brazil’s national indigenous agency responsible for protecting Indigenous Peoples’ land rights, cultures and traditions. Some NGOs have indicated that these measures could roll back indigenous rights to more than 117 million hectares of ancestral land.

To raise awareness of these issues, the Land Portal and Habitat for Humanity International are co-launching a Brazil Land Governance Country Portfolio. The portfolio contains a broad range of indicators, datasets, publications, news articles, blogs and other resources related to land issues in Brazil. The datasets come from a range of global organizations such as the World Bank, FAO, Habitat for Humanity, Transparency International, LandMark, RRI, Land Matrix, and PRIndex. The Portfolio also hosts over 1,000 Land Library resources, including many from local organizations like Empresa Brasileria de Pesquisa Agropecuaria and Secretaria Especial de Agricultrua Familiar do Desenvolvimento.

The Portfolio also contains a compelling narrative written by Raquel Ludermir(Habitat for Humanity Advocacy Consultant). The narrative discusses the land tenure system, current legislation, land use trends, indigenous and community land rights, and other topics.  Referring to the land governance situation in Brazil, Raquel states that “Brazil has one of the most advanced legal frameworks in Latin America when it comes to the recognition of land rights of the most vulnerable. Yet, many Brazilians remain highly vulnerable to eviction, either through violent or quiet processes, which suggests that land tenure security in Brazil is not a legal or technical issue, but a political one." 

Laura Meggiolaro, Coordinator of the Land Portal Foundation, adds that “according to Habitat for Humanity and other organizations working in the country, land governance challenges and threats to local land rights continue to negatively impact the poor and vulnerable in Brazil. By linking together a broad range of information sources from local and global providers, the Brazil Portfolio can equip activists, policymakers, donors and other stakeholders with the information they need to promote tenure security and responsible land governance for the rural and urban poor in Brazil.”

For more information, please visit: https://landportal.org/book/countries/BRA 

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