Brazilians have long feared that foreigners were exploiting great expanses of the Amazon River Basin, a story we covered earlier this year when the Brazilian government began to investigate unlawful land sales to overseas interests. Now the country has established a program to ascertain ownership of farms of all sizes and streamline the process by which landowners can get deeds to their property. The root cause of this initiative? Less than 4 percent of privately owned land in the Amazon is actually deeded.
“No one knows who owns what, and that is the source of economic disintegration and violent confrontation at the grassroots,” Brazil’s strategic affairs minister, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, told The Associated Press. “We must settle this problem if we are going to move forward on other issues.”
Tops on the government’s list is protecting the interests of thousands of farm owners. Under the government’s plan, farms less than 100 hectares (250 acres) will be deeded at no cost. Farms larger than 100 hectares will be required to pay to receive title with the price commensurate with the size of the farm. Those farms larger than 2,500 hectares will require congressional approval to receive title.
“For the first time in our history we will have a form of social and economic organization that is powerfully slanted to the small and medium-sized owners and farmers, not to the big guys, who will be the losers,” he added.