Date of Award

Spring 2010

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Mimi L Becker


Land reform is a burning issue in Brazil. Redistribution of land through government expropriation has proven to be difficult and expensive as unwilling landowners can hold up the process for years, or defeat it, in the courts. In 1997, the World Bank, at the request of the Brazilian Government, approved Land Reform and Poverty Alleviation Pilot Project 4147-BR -- known in Brazil as the Cedula da Terra. This program instituted a market based approach to land reform through which eligible agricultural workers could form associations and obtain subsidized financing to purchase land from willing sellers. As there was no previous work that comprehensively brought together the historical and legal roots of land in Brazil from a land reform perspective, this study initially sets out that history. It then asks the question: Is market-based land reform potentially an effective instrument to redistribute land to working farmers in a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable manner? In order to answer that question, case study research was carried out in seven Cedula da Terra land reform settlements in northern Bahia. Sustainability was defined as land reform settlements being socially, economically, and environmentally viable for a minimum one generation. Data from the case studies was analyzed and placed in the larger context of Brazilian land reform history. The primary finding is that viable settlements can be developed through market-based land reform where sufficient support is provided. Additional recommendations are provided as to factors that tend to increase the success of such settlements.