Major Report on Land Governance in Brazil Backs Peasant Empowerment
Debate weighs productivity and economic performance of small-scale and commercial farms
October 19, 2012, Rome, Italy - Brazil is a country of paradoxes and contrasts. One the one hand, it is increasingly a global agricultural powerhouse, and has witnessed spectacular growth over the last two decades, quadrupling commodity production and becoming a major exporter to world markets as well as the world's largest biofuel producer. On the other hand, Brazil's peasantry, while playing central role in meeting the country's domestic food needs, faces to a large extent the same kinds of problems confronting small farmers of the Global South: increasing marginalisation and disempowerment in a context of land concentration and growing rural inequities.
No country better than Brazil illustrates the complexity of today's land governance challenges and dilemmas. To share lessons from Brazil's fascinating experience, the International Land Coalition commissioned Land Governance in Brazil: A geo-historical review of land governance in Brazil, the second report in ILC's Land Governance in the 21st Century - Framing the Debate Series.
The report is authored by Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, an eminent geographer at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) known for his work with leading social movements in Brazil; Clifford Welch, a celebrated author and professor of contemporary Brazilian history at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP); and Elienai Gonçalves, a researcher at the UNESP Center of Agrarian Reform.
"Brazil is perhaps the world's richest land governance laboratory," said Madiodio Niasse, ILC Director. "The crux of the land debate in Brazil is what type of agricultural model will prevail - large commercial farms or small-scale family farms. The outcomes in Brazil may have far-reaching implications that will affect the current wave of large scale land acquisitions in other parts of the world."
The report looks at land governance in Brazil from a geo-historical perspective, analysing academic paradigms of territorial systems, proposing to achieve sustainability by using policy frameworks to encourage the transformation of peasant farmers into small-scale entrepreneurs.
"The report shows how the commercial paradigm has predominated in Brazil since colonial times and suffered few challenges until recent decades when, for a brief period, a small-scale farmer paradigm gained broad public support," commented Fernandes. "We hope the study contributes to strengthening this approach."
The report highlights an innovative program that encourages biofuel producers to establish partnerships with small-scale farmers. Called the "Social Fuel Seal", this program offers tax incentives for investing in the family farming operations. Other policy innovations include national agrarian reform planning, directly contracting with peasant associations to provide food for school lunches and a federal program to subsidise general education for peasants from elementary schools to the post-graduate level.
The report concludes that the best hope for indigenous peoples and peasants in Brazil is if the Brazilian government not only recognizes territorial divisions, but also begins to establish zoning rules that favour the permanence of peasants.
Read the full publication on the ILC website:
About the International Land Coalition
The International Land Coalition is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building. www.landcoalition.org