In the Amazon, a Public Area the Size of Uruguay is Threatened by Land Grabbing

14 de September de 2023 | News

Sep 14, 2023 | News

By Lays Ushirobira

Land grabbing, one of the main causes of deforestation in the Amazon, has been advancing by leaps and bounds in recent years and the main instrument used to illegally appropriate public land is the fraudulent use of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR, by its acronym in Portuguese). This is the subject of the second episode of Amazoniar’s series on land grabbing.

The CAR is an electronic public register of rural properties across the country, essential for environmental regularization. Created to increase access to forestry information, it is an instrument that can help improve the monitoring of illegal practices, including deforestation. “The CAR is a great achievement of the Brazilian Forest Code, but unfortunately it is being used as a tool by land grabbers,” says Alcilene Cardoso, a researcher at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and presenter of the series.

The deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon grew by 56.6% between 2019 and 2021 compared to the previous three-year period, and more than half of this occurred on public lands, in the so-called undesignated public forests (FPNDs). According to a study by Amazônia 2030, in which IPAM researchers participated, more than 100,000 rural properties registered in the National Rural Environmental Registry System (SICAR) overlap with undesignated public forests in the Amazon. That’s the equivalent of 16 million hectares, an area almost the size of Uruguay.

Watch the second episode of Amazoniar’s series on land grabbing:


The cricket box of modern days

As the CAR is a self-declaratory document, the information on the extent and boundaries of a given area is provided by the landowner. With this, a map of the area is built and the owner receives a provisional registration, which is important as it allows the person to continue producing and having access to financial credit. However, many use the provisional title to appropriate lands that do not belong to them. “Unfortunately, the CAR has been used to give it an illusory legality. It’s the box of crickets of modern days,” said Cardoso.

“It takes an average of one day for a technician to check a property. However, there is a gap between the environmental institutions’ workforce and the number of registrations to analyze and validate. By 2022, the only Amazonian state that had analyzed more than 5% of CARs was Mato Grosso,” explained Cardoso. “Although the CAR is a public policy instrument, it is not a tool for land regularization,” she highlighted.

In addition to the increase in the number of fraudulent CARs in the system, another fact that illustrates the advance of land grabbing is that the areas declared are getting bigger and bigger. The same study shows that around 44% of CARs overlapping with FPNDs are over 1,500 hectares in size. “This is a strong indication that land grabbing is linked to the actions of capitalized and organized groups that are increasingly seeking to occupy public lands,” researchers pointed out.


The first step towards putting an end to the fraudulent use of the CAR and land grabbing is to cancel registrations that overlap FPNDs. This proposal is widely supported by various stakeholders, including the productive sector, as shown in the report with recommendations for ending deforestation in the Amazon by the Coalizão Brasil Clima, Florestas e Agricultura.

Besides, Cardoso proposes the creation of mechanisms to prevent the registration of CARs overlapping FPNDs. “These registrations shouldn’t even be included in the database, they should be immediately rejected. If the land grabber does not have the provisional CAR, he cannot access financial credit,” she said.

About Amazoniar

Amazoniar is an initiative of IPAM to promote a global dialogue about Amazon and its importance for Brazil’s relationships with the world. In the previous cycles, dialogues addressed the commercial relations between Brazil and Europe; the role of indigenous peoples in the region’s sustainable development and their contribution to science and culture; and youth engagement for the forest and its peoples in the 2022 Brazilian elections.

With the proposal of taking the Amazon beyond its borders, Amazoniar has already carried out special projects, such as a photography contest, whose selected photos were exhibited in the streets of Glasgow, in Scotland, during the COP26; a series of short films that composed the exhibition “Fruturos – Amazônia do Amanhã”, at the Museum of Tomorrow, in Rio de Janeiro; as well as two publications currently available only in Portuguese: Possible scenarios for the Amazon in the context of the 2022 Brazilian elections and Solutions to deforestation in the Amazon.

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*Journalist and communications consultant at IPAM

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