produces some 90 million tons of grain every year. According
the 1996 Agricultural Census, there are 25 million hectares
of idle lands (up to four years without being farmed), which
represents about 60% of all farmland.
has one of the most perverse and concentrated structures of
landholding in the world, with a GINI coefficient of almost
0.9. This level of the index, which is close to absolute concentration
is the result of a model of agriculture that excludes the
poor majority, and which was particularly exacerbated in the
Green Revolution years in the 1960s and 70s.
the 1996 Census, Brazil had some 4.8 million farms, which
occupied 353.6 million hectares. Of this total, minifundios
(micro-size farms) and properties of less than 100 hectares
accounted for 89.1% of the farms, but had only 20% of the
the other extreme, latifundios (mega-farms) of more than 1,000
hectares accounted for just 1% of all farms, but held 45%
of farmland. Of these super-sized estates, more than 35,000
were characterized as unproductive, and occupied some 166
1970 and 1996 the proportion of farms with less than 100 hectares
hardly changed - from 90.8% to 89.3% - yet the area they held
dropped by 20%. Meanwhile the latifundios grew from 0.7% to
1% of all farms, and the area they held grew from 39.5% to
45% of all farmland.
in the Countryside
1998, at the beginning of his second term in office, the government
of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso inaugurated
a "new agrarian policy" called the New Rural World.
The three premises of this new policy marked a clear break
from his first term in office. The first difference was the
reduction of agrarian policy to a simple formula of compensation.
Following the logic of the international financial agencies,
agrarian reform was transformed into an instrument of rural
poverty alleviation. The democratization of access to land
became a mere mechanism of alleviation, a palliative. It was
not seen as a way to redistribute assets, nor as a way to
innovate new models of rural development (not even when the
prevalence of extreme poverty is seen as an obstacle to the
current development model).
second key element was the decentralization of all actions
related to the administration of land. This is a very fundamental
aspect of the current policy package, and represents a process
of "defederalization" because it delegates authority
that formerly was exclusively the domain of the federal government.
All of the programs, projects and proposed policies for the
rural sector took as their reference point this need to decentralize,
establishing a supposed relationship between decentralization,
democracy and efficiency.
decentralization, however, did not signify democratization
nor greater participation by affected people and families.
Rather it represented a delegation of authority to state and
municipal governments, which are closer to and more susceptible
to the political influence of the rural oligarchy who exercise
political power over vast sectors of the State. This decentralization,
therefore, instead of being a solution (or more efficient
and agile) it is in fact a way of impeding agrarian reform.
Bank-supported programs and projects like the Cédula
da Terra ("Ticket to Land"), Land Bank, and Land
Credit, proved to be mechanisms that permitted the consolidation
of this "defederalization or decentralization, in fact
leading to the reduction and eventual destruction of agrarian
reform. They allow the transfer of responsibility not so much
- as they were supposed to - to state and municipal governments,
but in reality to the market, and thus right into the hands
of the large landlords. As a result, the National Institute
for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) lost its reason
for being, justifying budget slashing and strengthening the
model of the reduction of the State and the privatization
of its responsibilities.
third key element in the New Rural World was the commodification
of the historic demands by the landless. This commodification
took diverse forms, though the imposition of the "market-led
land reform" model was the most explicit reference in
of these characteristics are in agreement with the guidelines
and policies established by the World Bank for "poverty
alleviation" programs. In fact the whole direction of
economic development in Brazil followed these formulas.
Cédula da Terra program came about as sort of 'sharecropping'
arrangement between the Bank and the Brazilian government
via Loan Agreement 4147-BR. Initially conceived as a pilot
project, the Cédula da Terra was announced officially
in 1996, and implemented the following year in five states
in the Northeast of Brazil: Ceará, Maranhão,
Pernambuco, Bahia and the northern part of Minas Gerais. These
states were chosen because of the enormous problems of extreme
poverty that they present.
Cédula da Terra project consisted basically of the
creation of a line of credit for purchasing land by the landless
or near landless. The landless had to form associations and
legally incorporate, and the associations would purchase land
directly from the landlords. The associations had to apply
for credit from the local bank, indicating the land they wished
to buy. Once the bank and the technical unit of the government
approved their proposal, the bank would pay the landlord directly.
this was a pilot project, in 1999 it essentially went national
with the Land Bank, created by the government in the same
mold. Despite having promised financial support for this new
program, the World Bank decided to finance a different project,
the Land Credit program (a third project created in 2001).
This switch reflected the pressure and criticism received
from social movements, and national and international NGOs.
In the end, however, the Land Credit program had the same
characteristics and objectives as the Cédula da Terra
and the Land Bank, in reality being nothing than a name change
by the government in order to keep receiving World Bank resources.
of these programs are conceived and implemented based on the
needs of the market, especially with regard to land acquisition.
That means that only land that is for sale can be acquired.
Beyond the fact that many areas of Brazil have at best incipient
land markets, the small amounts budgeted for land purchases
inevitably led to buying the cheapest and poorest quality
land. Rather than the price of land being driven down in the
bargaining process, the reality is that the small amount of
land on offer and the lack of funds forced the purchase of
the cheapest plots, far from markets and with low soil fertility.
few resources available for land purchasing limited the implementation
of these programs to less dynamic regions with less valuable
land, and with serious production constraints. These constraints
limited the productivity of the new farms, and made it very
hard for the "beneficiaries" to pay off the debts
acquired by purchasing the land.
"beneficiary" families had little or no influence
in key decisions, like the selection of plots to be bought,
or in the bargaining process. In general, these negotiations
over price were handled by local government officials, who
made all the important decisions.
Position of Social Movements
movements in Brazil heavily criticized the World Bank proposal
of "market-led agrarian reform." Their critiques
were based on their very different viewpoints, and included
questions about the real capacity of the market to democratize
access to land and about the true objectives of these policies.
According to these critiques, the Cédula da Terra program
was designed to move the land issue out of the terrain of
politics and into the terrain of the market. The buying and
selling mechanism is supposed to remove the conflictive nature
from the struggle for land, and politically isolate the movements
that are fighting for a genuine agrarian reform.
to the World Bank, this project would permit the "pacification"
of the countryside. Instead of getting involved in conflicts
(land occupations an demands for land reform), landless families
should bargain, peacefully and directly, with the landlords.
Of course the landlords loved this program because they were
paid in cash (instead of 20 year discounted bonds under the
old land reform) for their least productive lands.
to this, the Cédula da Terra, Land Bank and Land Credit
programs all promoted the on-going process of decentralization,
helping the federal government in its attempt to transfer
the costs of agrarian reform to state and municipal budgets.
According to this logic, the Cédula da Terra project
was implemented by the states and the costs were passed on
to the beneficiary families, thus marking a great contribution
to the federal budget by the Ministry of Agrarian Development.
The reduction in costs has permitted the dismantling of INCRA,
which has few functions in the land market context.
resources of Cédula da Terra were in fact an instrument
designed to cut off the movements that struggle for land from
their social bases. The availability of credits to buy land-together
with rhetoric about "peaceful" land reform, without
the need for land occupations-was supposed to demobilize those
people who dreamed of a patch of land to call their own. These
goals were carried over into the Land Bank and Land Credit
programs, always with support from the World Bank.
the administration of president Lula is willing to continue
implementing a market-based land policy with support from
the World Bank. At the same time, the Via Campesina in Brazil
has announced its strong opposition to those policies.
based on NETO, Manuel Domingos - The "new" Brazilian
SAUER, Sérgio - World Bak land policies in Brazil:
a study on the "Cédula" project
Positions of Via Campesina
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