In Brazil, deforestation and land ownership rights are closely connected issues, making it hard to prove Native land ownership. Brazil has a long history of Indigenous rights being infringed upon through the extension of farming and development operations, often leading to extensive deforestation in its wake. Since Brazil’s colonization in the 16th century, large areas of forest have been cleared for agricultural activities, with estimates suggesting that more than half of Brazil’s original Native vegetation has been cut down.
This situation is further exacerbated by the fact that more than 100 million hectares of land in Brazil remains undesignated for any specific use, leaving it open to exploitation by rural settlers and squatters who possess questionable property rights. In many cases, this has resulted in Indigenous peoples losing access to their ancestral lands, as well as traditional ways of life that depend on the availability of these natural resources, making it hard to prove Native landownership.
Moreover, tenure rights are strongly linked with deforestation rates in Brazil. The country has an extensive system for granting land titles which favors those with resources or political clout over those with fewer resources or less political power – such as Indigenous peoples living within Brazil’s borders. This system allows powerful individuals or groups to acquire large areas of land at minimal cost and then clear them for economic activities such as cash crop production or ranching, making it hard to prove Native landownership.
The result is a status quo in which Brazil’s forests are continually under threat from illegal logging and encroaching development activities due to weak enforcement of existing laws regarding land ownership and occupancy rights. This has had a devastating impact on Brazil’s ecosystems, threatening biodiversity while also exacerbating climate change-related impacts such as droughts and flooding.
It is clear that strong measures must be taken if Brazil is to prevent further deforestation and protect its Indigenous populations from being displaced from their ancestral lands. These could include reforming existing laws around tenure rights to provide greater protection for Indigenous communities; bolstering efforts to crack down on illegal logging activities; undertaking campaigns aimed at raising awareness about the importance of protecting native vegetation; and providing support for sustainable agriculture projects that reduce pressure on Brazil’s forests while simultaneously providing much-needed economic opportunities for local populations. If you are interested in learning more about land, land theft, land reclamation, and its history subscribe to my newsletter, become a paid subscriber, or purchase my books.
Jillian Hishaw, Esq., is a MacArthur Awardee, Agricultural Lawyer, Founder, and Director of F.A.R.M.S., an international non-profit and Hishaw Law L.L.C., a virtual law practice. Inspired by her own family’s land loss, F.A.R.M.S., provides technical and legal assistance to small farmers, while reducing hunger in the farmer’s community. Hishaw’s first book, “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid,” examines how U.S. long-term care facilities can exercise their federal authority to place a lien on a resident’s property, if an outstanding debt, is owed.
Hishaw, has over 20 years of professional experience in the areas of civil rights, land protection, and agricultural policy. Her prior experience includes working at local, state and federal agencies on conservation and civil rights matters. In 2017, Hishaw was recognized as a Food Changemaker, by the Clif Bar Foundation and featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Atlantic, Vice News, Growers Co., (CAN), and among others. In 2019, the Food Tank organization voted Hishaw, 1 of 15 women in the World Impacting the Food Industry. Hishaw, has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Tuskegee University, plus a Juris Doctorate and Legal Master’s in agricultural law, from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville law school.
Hishaw is the author of “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid,” “US Farm Tax Credits for all 50 States,” “The History of 50 U.S. State Flags & their Historic Symbolism,” and “Systematic Land Theft” winner of the 2022 Independent Press Award, the 2022 National Indie Excellence Book Award, 2022 NYC Big Book Award and Finalist for the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.