, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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The Rural Environmental Registry (CAR) and the land grabbing strategies in the Brazilian Amazon
Ailton Dias Santos, Pablo Galeão

Last modified: 2018-12-14


In 2012 the Brazilian government approved a new Forest Code to regulate land use throughout the country. One of the main measures of the new law was creation of a Rural Environmental Registry (CAR in Portuguese) to which all rural properties must adhere. CAR consists of a system that verifies the environmental regularity of properties, including identification of environmental liabilities after the year 2008. By 2018, about 5,200,000 properties were registered in the CAR.

CAR has great potential to contribute to reduction in deforestation and decrease of land grabbing on public lands in the Brazilian Amazon. However, in situations where land tenure governance is weak, atypical, irregular uses of the registry have been observed, contributing to land grabbing and illegal exploitation of natural resources.

These atypical uses of CAR are strictly related to the dynamics of expansion of the agricultural frontier in the Amazon and point to vectors of pressure on the lands of traditional and indigenous peoples and communities in the region. This takes place in a context of political hegemony of agribusiness at the state and federal level. The strong lobby of the Parliamentary Agribusiness Front (FPA) in defense of corporate interests in the sector in the National Congress and pressure exerted by this block over the federal administration are part of this dynamic.

This paper analyzes official data of CAR implementation in southeastern Amazonas state, a critical area in terms of deforestation. This region is also the site of irregular land occupation and illegal natural resource exploitation, as well as territorial conflict and rural violence.

By crossing different official databases (Prodes, Sigef and others) to CAR, the analysis identified two atypical uses of CAR as part of land grabbing strategies. First is the occurrence of “super-registries”. Considering that CAR registration is self-declaratory, it is possible for private agents to manifest interest in vast extensions of public land without valid property titles. These “super-registries” have become administrative facts that can support requests for private use of public areas.

Second is overlapping of registered areas. Spatial data from CAR show that many areas declared by different private agents overlap. Some of those registries also overlap traditional community and family farmer lands.

All of these atypical uses of CAR have been shown to lead to conflicts and disputes over land tenure in the Amazon. They also indicate renewal of land grabbing strategies that intend to incorporate the registry as an instrument to legitimize illegal activities. On the other hand, family farmers, traditional communities and indigenous people have had great difficulty accessing CAR and adopting it as an instrument to defend their territorial rights.


New Forest Code - CAR - land grabbing – agricultural frontier - Amazon

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