Brazil Agrees Amazon Villagers Own Their Land — For Now
|November 9, 2013||Posted by Staff under Land Disputes|
After more than a century of struggle, poor Brazilian farming families along the Tapajos river, a tributary of the Amazon, have won rights to their land.
Their victory is being hailed as a remarkable recognition by the authorities of the rights of a traditional community over the interests of powerful economic groups.
The move is surprising because it runs counter to the government’s plan to build a series of hydroelectric dams on the river, which would flood the land now granted to the families.
If it is to press ahead with the dams, it will now have to relocate these families to a comparable location, which it cannot do without expelling other communities and creating further conflicts.
The Agro-Extractive Settlement Project (PAE) recognizes the rights of families to continue occupying the land the way it has been occupied by their ancestors. The land cannot be sold.
“It is the first time the federal government recognises the antiquity of the occupation of this land by these communities and treats them as people having fundamental rights, especially rights to the land.”
The Montanha-Mangabal hamlets were formed in the second half of the 19th Century, when hundreds of poor farmers from the north-east of Brazil migrated to the region to tap rubber. After the collapse of the rubber boom early in the 20th Century, many were trapped in the region, without means of earning a living or the money to pay for the 2,000-km (1,200-mile) trip home. Stranded far away from home, some of the men, most of whom were single, kidnapped women from neighbouring indigenous groups and settled down with them.
Their indigenous knowledge helps to explain why, even though they fell small areas to plant crops, the communities have some of the best-conserved forest in the region.
To the families’ dismay, then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva refused to sign the necessary decree that would have given the families very strong rights over their land, after the discovery of vast mineral wealth, particularly gold, in the region.
Also, a Brazilian court sentenced a landowner to a 115-year prison term for the killing of five landless farm workers in the south eastern state of Minas Gerais, in 2004, in the “Felisburgo massacre”, but also allowed the condemned owner and henchmen to remain free while a court considers their appeal. Read more