Land Reform Policies, the Sources of Violent Conflict and Implications for Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

Posted: 14 Dec 1999

See all articles by Lee J. Alston

Lee J. Alston

Ostrom Workshop; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bernardo Mueller

Universidade de Brasilia

Gary D. Libecap

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management; University of Arizona - Karl Eller Center; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

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Abstract

In this paper we examine land reform policies and their implications for violent conflict over land and resource use in the Brazilian Amazon. We identify the protagonists (land owners and squatters), derive their incentives to use violence, and show the role of legal inconsistencies as a basis for conflict. Although civil law guarantees title for land owners, the Brazilian Constitution adds a beneficial use criterion as a condition for title enforcement. This provision is part of a land reform or redistribution effort and it provides authorization for transfers to squatters. We describe the government agency involved in land reform, INCRA, and show that its intervention critically affects the actions of both squatters and land owners. Further, we point out the resource use effects of land reform policies and associated insecure property rights to land. Forested lands on large farms do not meet the constitutional beneficial use criterion and hence, are vulnerable to invasion by squatters and redistribution by INCRA. In the contest for control, land owners and squatters have incentives to deforest more rapidly and extensively prior to a conflict than agricultural production alone would warrant in order to demonstrate their respective land use. In analyzing the determinants of violent conflict, an analytical framework is provided to generate hypotheses for testing. Using data from the Brazilian census and the Pastoral Land Commission for the state of Para we examine the characteristics of regions where violent conflict predominates. Our empirical results indicate that a greater policy emphasis on land reform in Brazil through expropriation to reduce violent conflict, may have the unanticipated effect of increasing violent competition and wasteful resource use. The results of the paper are suggestive not only for Brazil, but for elsewhere in Latin America where there is tension between the goals of secure property rights and wealth redistribution.

JEL Classification: Q23, Q28

Suggested Citation

Alston, Lee J. and Mueller, Bernardo and Libecap, Gary D., Land Reform Policies, the Sources of Violent Conflict and Implications for Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=196189

Lee J. Alston (Contact Author)

Ostrom Workshop ( email )

513 N. Park Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408–3895
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ostromworkshop.indiana.edu/alston/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Bernardo Mueller

Universidade de Brasilia ( email )

Dept. de Economia
Universidade de Brasilia
Brasilia, DF 70910-900
Brazil
55 61 981110349 (Phone)
55 61 3349-1303 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://bpmmueller.wixsite.com/bernardo-mueller

Gary D. Libecap

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management ( email )

4670 Physical Sciences North
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131
United States
805-893-8611 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.esm.ucsb.edu/people/usernew.asp?user=glibecap

University of Arizona - Karl Eller Center ( email )

McClelland Hall
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States
520-621-4821 (Phone)
520-626-5269 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bpa.arizona.edu/~libecap

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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