“The concept of land and territory in the Amazon is itself a very large field of dispute. This is really sad for the country because this dispute has been going on for decades and decades, full of illegalities and a lot of violence due to land disputes.”

Márcio Astrini, executive secretary at Climate Observatory

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When we look at the map of Brazil, it is clear that the Amazon Forest covers more than half of the country. This area, which corresponds to almost 60% of the Brazilian territory, is larger than the total area of the 27 countries that are part of the European Union.

But to whom do the lands of the Brazilian Amazon belong?

There is no clear answer to this question, and this uncertainty is what fuels all kinds of obstacles to forest development and conservation. The question on land rights and ownership in the Amazon is at the center of disputes and conflicts that have been only increasing in the region. To have an idea of the land situation in this huge and coveted territory, look at how this map is distributed:

Distribution of areas in the Legal Amazon by the land property situation (2020)

Source: Imazon

On this map, the areas painted in white are undesignated public lands. They add up to 500 thousand square kilometers, and almost a quarter of this area has already been invaded and illegally occupied. In Brazil, this is called land grabbing, which is a crime.
With the increased deforestation in the Amazon region, many Brazilian authorities have been defending land property regularization as a strategy to identify and punish those responsible for destroying the forest. Bolsonaro administration has even launched a program to stimulate the titling of settlements and rural public areas that belong to the Federal Government and INCRA.

Cacalos Garrastazu/Eder Content

An Imazon study, however, points out that it is exactly the incentives provided in the legislation that feed this land grabbing cycle in the Amazon. See which are the main incentives set out in the federal and state land property rules, caused by breaches or gaps in the law, which contribute to making the forest vulnerable to the action of land grabbers.

  • The laws allow the continued occupation of public lands, which fuels the expectation that it will be legalized.
  • Legislation does not prohibit the titling of illegally deforested or predominantly forested land.
  • Most laws do not require a commitment to recover environmental liabilities before titling; with the exception of the State of Acre.
  • When there are environmental obligations after titling, monitoring is non-existent.
  • Subsidies in the price of titled property do not guarantee sustainable land use.
  • The procedures of land agencies do not guarantee land allocation based on legal priorities, such as indigenous peoples, enslaved people descendants, and traditional communities.

Episode in pictures

Cacalos Garrastazu