Land tenure regularisation in the Amazon – Terra Legal

Project description

Title: Land tenure regularisation in the Amazon – Terra Legal
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Brazil
Lead executing agency: Special Secretariat for Family Farming and Agrarian Development
Overall term: 2016 to 2020



Smallholders and indigenous people of the Amazon region are often the victims of land conflicts. In order to more effectively protect their own forest land and the surrounding forest areas from illegal deforestation, they need secure land titles. Socially, economically and environmentally fair development can only be achieved in the Amazon basin through clearly defined property rights and the associated legal certainty. 

Brazil’s current land tenure system, particularly in the Amazon region, is extremely complex due to the size of the rainforest, the settlement history and conflicting interests. The areas along the federal highways were distributed among smallholders in the 1970s. These farmers were granted land use rights but not property titles to their plots of land. The absence of clear ownership structures continues to facilitate illegal land grabbing and often leads to violent conflicts over land. Moreover, legal uncertainty hinders the effective implementation of long-term forest protection measures, such as the establishment of nature reserves or protected areas for indigenous people. 

Brazil has developed legal and practical solutions to the land tenure issues in the Amazon region. The most important programme is Terra Legal (legal or ‘good’ land). The aim of Terra Legal is to legalise the use of 55 million hectares (an area that is one-and-a-half times the size of Germany) of state-owned land by granting land titles to some 160,000 smallholder families.


The governance of federal and state-owned land in the Amazon is improved in accordance with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT).

Brasilien © GIZ


In cooperation with the Sub-Secretariat of Land Tenure Regularisation in the Legal Amazon (SERFAL), the administrative processes of the Terra Legal programme are being optimised. At the same time, cooperation between the regional authorities in the border area of the federal states of Acre, Amazonas and Rondônia and other implementing partners is being strengthened. Activities include training teams from SERFAL and other authorities to implement the new land tenure system in a coordinated manner.

In addition, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ cooperates with various government and civil society organisations that are working to protect the tropical rainforest and safeguard people’s rights. Support is given to programmes that allow smallholders to farm their plots of land sustainably and to market their forest products.


The project assisted in setting up the CâmaraTécnica de Destinação, a technical board responsible for land allotment. The board, which takes decisions about the allocation of public land, consists of federal land-related institutions and individuals responsible for indigenous issues and protected areas. So far, about a quarter of the planned area (about 3.7 million hectares) has been prepared to be officially transferred to smallholders by the Secretaria de Patrimônio da União (SPU). 
Introduced by the project, the SIGEF-Destinação (Sistema de Gestão Fundiária – Destinação) land management system for granting the titles and new Certificate of Recognised Occupancy (Certidão de Reconhecimento de Ocupação, CRO) is in operation and is running smoothly. Over 30,000 land titles and more than 8,000 CROs have been issued so far.
Re-activation of the Executive Inter-Ministerial Group on Land Governance (Grupo Executivo Interministerial de Governança Fundiária, GEI) is being discussed with a view to initiating amendments and harmonising legislation at federal and state level.

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