You are here





Malcolm Childress, Senior Land Administration Specialist at the World Bank

Examining Land Management Policies in the Brazilian Amazon


There is enough land in the Amazon region to satisfy Brazilian society's demands for economic development, environmental management of a resource base of global importance and the challenges of agrarian reform. Yet Brazil has been unable to create a fully coherent and manageable land policy and administration system for the region which permits sustainable development goals to be achieved while reconciling special interests and uses. Instead, resource waste, private appropriation of the public domain and social conflict have characterized land relations in the region.

As the region becomes increasingly accessible for a variety of economic activities, and more central to Brazil's economy, the resolution of the land questions looms large as a foundational element for reconciling and ordering economic development, resource management and social priorities. A better understanding of the dynamics of land grabbing and land speculation as well as of the impact of current policies and of the institutions mandated to implement them could help to influence and design new policies to better manage the race for property rights in the Amazon.


Along with other donors, PROFOR helped finance a study focusing on land management policies in the Brazilian Amazon. The study was conducted by Malcolm Childress, Senior Land Administration Specialist at the World Bank.


The study revealed that large-scale users, agrarian reformists, conservation interests, and others are racing to claim property rights in the Amazon. With illegal occupation, fraudulent and inconsistent land records, and flawed land laws, the resulting land administration is chaotic. Some actions have begun to bring more order to land administration. An effort to re-inspect and document land records, called recadastre, has uncovered illegal occupation, but is incomplete. Creation of new protected areas has slowed illegal occupation, however these areas still face threats of encroachment. And other factors contribute to the problem: the federal budget process gives land administration low priority and inconsistent support, with predictable results.

The study suggested the creation of a new social and political pact to reform land administration. The reformed system of administration would seek to reclaim illegally occupied lands, rationally identify and allocate lands suitable for agrarian reform, recognize and regularize rights of good-faith occupiers, and expand and consolidate protected areas. The pact would lead to local agreements among a broad range of interest groups and officials, backed by federal enforcement. The goal would be a fair, transparent, and workable allocation, recorded in a multipurpose land information system.


Some of the study's recommendations were reflected in a land regularization program which has brought more order in the Amazon.


For stories and updates on related activities, follow us on twitter and facebook, or to our mailing list for regular updates.

Author : Malcolm Childress, Senior Land Administration Specialist at the World Bank
Last Updated : 02-24-2017