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The real Brazil: the inequality behind the statistics

July 2012

Access to agricultural land in Brazil has always been a privilege for a select segment of society: the rich. Even today, just 3% of Brazil's population own two-thirds of all arable land - the most unequal land division in the world.

Christian Aid's report, 'The real Brazil', looks at the deep and entrenched inequality that still exists in Brazil today.

Agri-business is big business

Over the last century, Brazil's economic development has centred on the export of foods - monoculture crops grown on large landholdings. Agriculture has become more deeply integrated with industry and agri-businesses focussed on farming, forestry and ore products have developed.

Agri-businesses are characterised by their intensive use of chemicals and pesticides, intensive mechanisation and use of fossil fuels.

No access to farm land

Rui Barbosa on his farm, which he has named Paradise Place

Rui Barbosa

Many indigenous people have been prevented from accessing farm land as they cannot afford to buy it.

Since their foundation in 1984, Christian Aid partner MST has helped more than a million people to get land of their own.

MST helped Rui Barbosa (62) and his wife Fátima (53) to stake a claim to some land that was formerly part of a massive estate, owned by just one person.

The land had lain fallow and unused for years. It is now home to 204 families, who each own a 14.5 hectare plot.

Camping at the roadside

'Paradise is a place of peace, and I have peace and dignity here. I always knew we'd get there in the end.'

Rui and Fátima spent eight years camped out under plastic sheeting by the roadside, staking their claim to the land and waiting for the courts to decide their case. At last, their claim was granted.

Together, they have built their house, and now run a small dairy farm that they hope will support them as they grow old.

They have called their new home Paradise.

Video: Rui describes the struggle for land.

A new model of agriculture

MST believes that the Brazilian government need to invest in and implement a new model of agriculture, based on multiple crops, not monoculture.

Not only will this preserve the environment, but it will allow poor people like Rui and Fátima to be given a chance to own and farm their own land.

Food should be seen as a human right and not as a source of profit and exploitation.

Report: inequality behind the statistics

Agri-business exports brought US$76.4 billion to Brazil in 2010. However, 16 million people in Brazil still live in abject poverty.

Statistics like these demonstrate the deep and entrenched inequality that still exists in Brazil today - favouring the rich and neglecting the poor.

Christian Aid's recent report, 'The real Brazil: the inequality behind the statistics', looks at the issue of land rights along with other areas of inequality such as taxation, education and health.


Download the full report

The real Brazil: the inequality behind the statistics report (PDF, 6mb)

Download the executive summary

The real Brazil: the inequality behind the statistics summary (PDF, 1.54mb)


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Related links 

Report summary:  The real Brazil (PDF, 1.54mb)

Country:  Brazil 

Region:  The Americas

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