spite of the World Bank’s argument that its projects
“alleviate poverty,” in collective contracts, 56% of the
families stated that the agricultural production on the land
was not sufficient to sustain themselves, and 54% stated that
the money that they earn through production is not sufficient
to pay installments on the Bank loans. 19% of the families
surveyed revealed that they currently have or had experienced
hunger since they have been in the Bank’s program.
Amongst the families with collective contracts, this number
increases to 26%.
of the World Bank’s Rural Programs in Brazil
article is the first comprehensive review of the World Bank’s
programs in rural Brazil.
The study was a result of the work of the Land Research
Action Network (LRAN). The coordination and field work was
done by the Network of Grassroots Researchers, constituted by
Via Campesina organizations in Brazil – the Pastoral Land
the Landless Workers Movement (MST), the Rural Women’s
Movement (MMC), the Movement of Small Farmers (MPA), the
Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), the Rural Youth
Pastoral (PJR), and the Brazilian Federation of Agronomy
Students (FEAB), as well as by the Social Network for Justice
and Human Rights.
The technical coordination of the study was done by
Criterion Advisors in Research.
survey was conducted with 1,677 interviews.
This sample was taken from about 60 thousand families
participating in the World Bank’s rural credit programs in
Brazil: Cédula da
Terra, Banco da Terra, Crédito Fundiário, Nossa Primeira
Terra, during the period between 1997 and 2005.
World Bank projects contradict the agrarian reform system
based on the social function of land, as determined in the
The Bank’s projects promote the “negotiated”
purchase and sale of land, or the “counter-agrarian reform.”
Counter-Agrarian Reform of the World Bank
The World Bank has
been the target of denunciations by social movements
throughout the world, which protest against the impacts of the
policies and the ideology of this institution, which promotes
the expansion of neoliberalism.
the pretext of “economic aid,” the World Bank influences
the model of development and the economic policies of
These policies are reflected in rural areas, where the
World Bank concentrates its programs, and promotes the
privatization of territory through the rules of the market.
According to this model, the rural poor should pursue
“efficiency”, integrating their production to the
necessities of large agribusiness.
the last few decades, in different parts of the world, the
idea was created that rural areas are not significant for
The process of rural exodus was based on the concept of
urban centers as the principal generators of wealth and
the regions most concentrated with natural resources – such
as water, land, minerals and biodiversity – are in the rural
areas, and these came to be the focus of multilateral
financial agencies, especially the World Bank.
It is not by coincidence that today the major World
Bank projects are located in rural areas.
Brazil, the ideology of the Bank had the biggest impact during
the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), which
established an agrarian policy called the “New Rural World,”
with three basic principles: (1) the settlement of landless
families under a policy of social compensation; (2) the
de-centralization of land settlement projects, transferring
responsibility from the federal government to state and
municipal governments; (3) the substitution of the
constitutional instrument of land expropriation by the
propaganda of market-based land reform, based on the
“negotiated” purchase and sale of land.
the government of FHC, the World Bank initiated three programs
which inaugerated a neoliberal model of access to land and
rural development: Cédula
da Terra, Banco da Terra, and
Crédito Fundiário. These programs have benefited large,
unproductive landowners with cash payments for their unused
lands, many of which are of poor quality and sold with
The associations created for the beneficiaries’
purchase of these lands are often organized by the large
landowners themselves, due to the fact that often the lands
they are selling could be considered for legal expropriation.
the conditions of these projects make it impossible for
beneficiaries to pay their loan debts, and make production (either
for market or for the settled families’ subsistence)
the beginning of Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva
administration, rural grassroots movements expected a reversal
of this policy.
Their expectation was that agrarian reform would be at
the center of the political agenda because of its potential to
create jobs, for the guarantee of food sovereignty, and as the
basis for an alternative model of development.
To the contrary, what
we have seen is the continuance of the World Bank policies in
rural areas. In November of 2003, the Minister for Agrarian
Development announced the “National Plan for Agrarian Reform:
Peace, Production and Quality of Life in Rural Areas.”
One of the principal proposals in the plan, with the
goal to reach 130,000 families, was the continuance of the
Bank’s program. This project legitimates rural oligarchies,
and weakens the agrarian reform process.
ABOUT THE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Group: 1,677 interviews in 161 municipalities, in 13
states of Brazil, including: Bahia, Maranhão, Paraíba,
Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe, Espírito
Santo, Goiás, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio Grande do
Sul and Santa Catarina.
This sample is representative of about sixty thousand
In the states of Santa Catarina (SC) and Rio Grande do Sul
(RS), in which the Bank’s loan contract is individual, 292
interviews (118 in SC and 174 in RS) were made in 40
municipalities (16 in SC and 24 in RS).
In the other states, where the loan contracts are
collective and made through associations, 1,385 interviews
were made in 121 municipalities.
of Error: ±4 percentage points.
of data collection: July
to December of 2005.
research shows that 35% of the families surveyed did not have
the opportunity to choose the land they purchased.
This percentage increases to 51% of the families in
collective contracts, and to 52% of the families which entered
into the program between 2003 and 2005.
regard to the negotiation for the purchase of land, 41% of the
families surveyed stated that they did not participate in this
This number increases to 61% when the land was
purchased through collective contracts, which represent the
majority of the land purchase projects financed by the World
Amongst the families that entered into the program
between 2003 and 2005, 58% did not participate in the
50% of the cases surveyed, there had been a substitution of
the family residing on the land, a percentage which signifies
a high level of land abandonment and residence turnover in the
LOAN CONTRACT FOR LAND PURCHASE
53% of those interviewed affirmed that they had received a
copy of the loan contract for the purchase of their land.
Only 36% had actually read the contract. in spite of
having received the contract, 15% had not read it.
those interviewed that participated in the collective contract
projects through associations, only 31% had access to the loan
the families surveyed, 42% did not know the penalties listed
in the contract in the case that they were unable to pay their
Amongst the families in collective contracts, this
number increased to 48%.
than one-third of those interviewed (36%) did not know the
number of loan payment installments to which they had agreed
upon signing the contract: 26% admitted they did not know the
number, 7% did not remember the number, and 3% gave wrong
responses as to the number of loan payment installments stated
in the loan contract.
Amongst the families with collective contracts, 50% did
not remember the number of loan payment installments to which
they had agreed.
large majority of those interviewed (81%) did not know the
interest rate amount to which they had agreed upon signing the
51% admitted that they did not know the amount, 11% did
not remember the amount, and 19% cited an incorrect interest
The low level of beneficiary knowledge as to their
interest rate amount is highlighted amongst those with
collective contracts (64%), and amongst those which signed the
contract between 2003 and 2005 (68%).
AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LANDS PURCHASED
terms of the productivity of the lands which they had
purchased, 41% of the families stated that they had received
land which was totally abandoned.
This number increases to
56% of the families with collective contracts which bought
their land through associations.
Because in these cases the lands purchased are large in
size (and therefore can be classified as latifúndios), this signifies that these lands should have been
expropriated from the landowner by the government for agrarian
IN IMPROVEMENTS AND/OR PRODUCTION
of the families surveyed did not receive additional financing
from the Bank to begin agricultural production.
Amongst the families with collective contracts, only
47% received financing for production.
the areas researched, there was a general lack of basic
infrastructure for the maintenance of the families on their
purchased land: 20% did not have electricity, 27% did not have
potable water, 48% had no access to schools or childcare, 74%
had no irrigation or access to water for production, 76% did
not have a health clinic, 29% had no health practitioner, 72%
had no ambulance service, and 22% had no public school
The lack of specialized technical assistance for
agricultural production was also noted: only 14% of the
families surveyed received regular technical assistance.
OF MISAPPROPRIATION OF RESOURCES
spite of the possible intimidation which could be caused by
questions about the misappropriation of project resources, 16%
of those interviewed stated to have knowledge of corruption in
the negotiation for land, and 15% stated to have knowledge of
corruption in infrastructural improvement projects.
As openly acknowledging corruption can be dangerous to
respondents, it is possible that the number of cases of
corruption is higher.
OF LIFE AFTER LAND PURCHASE
to the difficulties experienced with the lack of
infrastructural investments or financing to begin production,
a high number of respondents were unable to produce
sufficiently to sustain their families, and fewer were able to
pay installments on their loans.
In 46% of the cases, agricultural production on the
land did not meet the production necessities to sustain the
families, and 47% stated that the money that they earn through
agricultural production was not sufficient to pay installments
on their loans.
the collective contracts, 56% of the families stated that the
agricultural production on the land was not sufficient to
sustain them, and 54% stated that
the money that they earn through production is not
sufficient to pay installments on their Bank loans.
spite of the World Bank’s argument that its projects
“alleviate poverty,” 19% of the families surveyed revealed
that they currently have or had experienced hunger since they
have been in the Bank’s program.
Amongst the families with collective contracts this
number increases to 26%.
Because this type of question can cause embarrassment,
principally for male providers of food for the family, we can
assume that this number is actually higher.
IN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
research shows that 58% of the families surveyed have never
participated in an organization to defend their rights.
This number reveals the high level of social alienation
these families experience.
This social alienation increases the likelihood that
these families are misinformed about the real conditions of
the Bank’s program.
When they join the program, many of them do not even
understand that they are getting into debt.
the legitimate search for a plot of land on which to live and
work, these families are deceived by associations which have
no legitimacy or real collective participation, and by
deceitful propaganda from government bodies, labor unions and
Many of the families already lived on the lands that
they purchased, and could have staked a legal claim to these
Yet in order to obtain easy money, large landowners
organizes these families into associations, and through
collective loan contracts sold unproductive lands of poor
quality at inflated prices to landless families.
the question was asked as to the disposition of families to
participate in some movement for the struggle for their rights,
78% responded positively.
This reveals that amongst the families surveyed, there
exists a large propensity to organize.
all of the propaganda that exists in order to keep these
families distant from agrarian reform movements, 25% of them
admitted that they could participate in a land occupation.
families that participate in the World Bank program depend on
other income generating activities to survive.
In most cases, they work as laborers on large farms in
the region, or receive some form of financial aid from
government social programs.
This signifies that the families that are able to pay
their loan installments may be using government resources
including Bolsa Familia,
pension plans, etc.
majority of the families that participate in the program
already lived in rural areas (73%). However, a relevant
percentage (26%) lived in urban areas.
This signifies that, as also proven through the
agrarian reform process, in Brazil there currently exists a
sizeable sector of the urban population that wants to leave
the social problems of the city (unemployment, lack of housing,
etc.), and seeks to obtain a plot of land on which to live and
This data reveals the large public demand for a
comprehensive agrarian reform in Brazil.
Luisa Mendonça is a journalist and coordinator of the Social
Network for Justice and Human Rights