Land rights granted to Amazon smallholders
30 June 2009
On 25 June President Lula approved a law that will grant formal land rights to many thousands of smallholders currently occupying land in the Amazon region. The law, known as Provisional Measure 458, aims to reduce land disputes and further slow deforestation by transferring a huge area of public land – roughly the size of France – into private hands.
The Amazon region, which has a total population of around 25 million, is home to hundreds of thousands of small farmers. Establishing private ownership should give them a new sense of security, allow them to take a longer-term approach towards their land, and provide them with an added incentive to maintain it in accordance with the law stating that at least 80% of the standing forest on properties in the Amazon must be maintained. Private ownership also facilitates the task of identifying and punishing those responsible for illegal tree-felling.
The government’s Terra Legal (Legal Land) programme has set a target of granting legal title for almost 300,000 pieces of land in the Amazon over a three-year period, including 90,000 by the end of this year. To be eligible to receive legal title, smallholders have to prove that they have been occupying the land since before December 2004.
President Lula vetoed sections of the bill that would have give legal title to private companies and absentee landlords.
Amazon deforestation, measured using satellite images, has been showing a clear downward trend since 2004. The latest figures, for May this year, show an 86% decrease in comparison with May 2008, while the total area deforested between February and April was the smallest in any three-month period over the last 20 years.
Source: Office of the President and Embassy of Brazil in London