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: Casa Civil do Brasil, Secretaria Extraordinária de Regularização Fundiária na Amazônia Legal (SERFAL)
Overall term: 2014 to 2020

A local with her land title after participating in a mutirunder the Terra Legal programme supported by BMZ. © SERFAL


Brazilian smallholders and indigenous people living in the Amazon region are critically affected by massive conflicts over land. In order to protect their livelihoods, cultivate their plots of land on a sustainable basis and defend them in the face of illegal clearance, they need secure land titles. The land tenure situation in the Amazon region is highly complex due to the region's size, its settlement history and the various interests at stake. The absence of clear ownership structures facilitates illegal land-grabbing and often leads to violent conflicts over land. Legal uncertainty hinders the effective implementation of forest protection measures that require long-term planning, such as establishing conservation areas.

Created in 2009, the national programme Terra Legal Amazônia aims to legalise the use of 55 million hectares of state-owned land within the Amazon region (an area that is one-and-a-half times the size of Germany) and grants secured land titles to small family-run farms.


The Land Tenure Regularisation Secretariat for the Amazon (SERFAL) implements the processes related to land tenure and land title transfers with greater efficiency and transparency, thereby fulfilling a prerequisite for the protection and sustainable use of the Amazon’s natural resources.


The Terra Legal Amazônia programme has been receiving support through Brazilian-German cooperation since 2014. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security adopted by the UN Committee on World Food Security serve as a reference framework to promote secure and equitable access to land and natural resources.

Cooperation with SERFAL focuses on three areas:

  1. Optimising internal administrative processes of the Terra Legal Amazônia programme, for example by means of organisational development measures implemented by the consulting firm gitec-Nexucs.
  2. Cooperation between the regional authorities and other implementing partners is being strengthened in the tristate border area of Acre, Amazonas and Rondônia.
  3. The staff of SERFAL and other public authorities are being trained to carry out land law procedures in a coordinated and efficient manner.

In addition, GIZ cooperates with other government and civil society stakeholders who are working to protect the tropical rainforest and safeguard the rights of the people. The project supports programmes that enable smallholders to sustainably cultivate and restore their plots of land and market their non-wood forest products.


The project assisted in the establishment of the Câmara Técnica de Destinação, a technical board responsible for land allotment consisting of representatives from federal authorities. The board takes decisions about the allocation of public land, including the designation of conservation areas, reserves for indigenous and traditional peoples and urban uses. To date, the board has allotted 47,800 hectares of land, allowing for the granting of 18,910 individual land titles.

Brasilien © GIZ

A further innovation is the swifter, local processing of the administrative steps involved in land and environmental regulation through decentralised regularisation campaigns called ‘mutirões integrados’. Tenure claims are clarified and allotments are simultaneously entered into the rural environment registry (Cadastro Ambiental Rural, CAR), which became mandatory in 2012. The CAR records the extent of natural vegetation cover and therefore serves as a basis for monitoring the requirements for maintaining and restoring forest areas.

The project has initiated active exchange on issues of land governance between SERFAL and universities in Germany and Brazil within the scope of scientific and academic cooperation.