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At the current pace, Brazil will take 2,188 years to title quilombola territories with processes open at Incra

Slowness, insufficient budget, and fragile land policies mark the slow progress of the Brazilian State in guaranteeing the right to traditional territories.

  Foto: Lizely Borges

If the Brazilian State maintains the current pace of land regularization of quilombola territories, it will take 2,188 years to fully title the 1,802 processes currently open at the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária – INCRA, in Portuguese). If the advance of partial titling of quilombola territories with processes in independent federal agencies is taken into account, the time needed is 1,156 years.

In 34 years since the right to traditional quilombola territory was recognized by the Federal Constitution of 1988, only 54 territories have been titled (partially or totally) by INCRA, the federal body responsible for quilombola land regularization. The data does not include quilombola land regularization processes assigned to states and municipalities, or to communities that were not certified by the Palmares Foundation and, therefore, have not submitted the administrative process to INCRA

Of the 54 titles issued by INCRA, 30 are partial titles, that is, the title comprises only part of the area of the territory to which a quilombola community has the right to be recognized by the Brazilian State. In 11 of these 30 territories with partial titling, the title refers to less than 15% of the total area to which they have the right. This is the case of the Brejo dos Negros traditional territory, located in the municipality of Brejo Grande (state of Sergipe/SE), which holds the title to only 0.24% of the territory indicated in the administrative process.

With an unequal land ownership structure marked by the racialization of access to land, the violation of the right to the traditional territory for rural and urban Black communities with their own identity who have fought for centuries for land has been a constant issue for the Brazilian State. Although guaranteed in the Federal Constitution, regulated by Decree No. 4,887/2003, and with attributions defined to different government agencies, the conclusion of a quilombola titling process of traditional territories by INCRA usually takes several years, even decades.

When observing the progress in the conclusion of the six stages necessary for a quilombola territory to have its title issued, it is possible to identify how few processes opened in INCRA reach the final stage. According to INCRA’s data, 2,849 communities were certified by the Palmares Cultural Foundation – which is the initial stage, of self-recognition by the community. The following stages, under the responsibility of the federal government, present much lower numbers. Only 307 quilombola territories were identified and delimited (through the publication of the RTID), 164 were recognized by decrees, 89 were declared of social interest (through the publication of an ordinance), and only 47 were granted land titles (after the publication of Decree No. 4,887/2003). Adding the 06 titled territories between the period prior to the publication of the aforementioned Decree (from 1988 to 2003), the country accounts for only 53 territories with full or partial titles. 

The burden of the delay falls exclusively on the quilombola communities, according to several organizations. Without the title, many public policies necessary for the survival, work, and permanence of families in the communities do not reach the territories. This is the case accounted for in the issue of a producer’s note by the quilombola community of Gramadinho (state of Paraná/PR). The Paraná State Department of Finance/Treasury Office (Secretaria da Fazendo do Estado do Paraná – Sefaz-PR, in Portuguese) requires, as a necessary document for the registration application at the Rural Producer Registry (Cadastro do Produtor Rural – CAD/PRO, in Portuguese), that a quilombola community present the title of recognition of the traditional territory. Since the community does not have the title and, therefore, the registration, the families are unable to issue the producer’s note for the commercialization of the agroecological food and, therefore, are unable to get out of the informal market. Not issuing the note also affects access to social security rights, such as retirement, and tax collection by the state and municipality governments.  The titling process of the Quilombo do Varzeão, which has Gramadinho as one of its centers, started in 2004 and has been paralyzed after the publication of the identification report, the third stage of the process. “Our products rot in the land or we have to sell them below their value in order to have some money”, says the quilombola leader Laura Rosa. 

Social organizations and communities defend that the provision of essential services and public policies to quilombola communities are independent of the title, especially considering that the Brazilian State has been slow in regularizing land ownership.

Besides the difficulty of access to housing, education, sanitation, and rural technical assistance policies, among others, the lack of title also increases the risk of harassment of the communities by enterprises and ventures, such as mining, monoculture, hydroelectric plants, real estate speculation, and ports, among others.

“We cannot continue to suffer various violations because of the slowness of the process, which places the quilombola communities in a situation of insecurity. This slowness is leading, even, to the assassination of leaders and conflicts in our territories. It is high time that the Brazilian State recognizes what is established in the Federal Constitution, which is to title the quilombola territories and bring all public policies to these territories”, says Biko Rodrigues, the executive coordinator of the National Coordination of Articulation of Black Rural Quilombola Communities (Coordenação Nacional de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas – Conaq, in Portuguese). 

The organization also points out that many quilombola communities have not even requested certification from the Palmares Foundation – a document necessary to open the administrative process of quilombola titling at INCRA. In other words, they are invisible to the State regarding the land regularization process. Conaq estimates that there are approximately 6 thousand quilombola communities in the country. 

Opposition to quilombola titling
Jair Bolsonaro’s administration has fulfilled the statements made in 2018 by the still-candidate for the presidency not to grant any centimeter of land to quilombola and Indigenous territories. Over the four years of administration (2019-2020) the quilombola policy was marked by administrative reconfiguration, continuous budget emptying, agendas under the command of opponents of the titling policy, and issuance of decrees to increase the bureaucratization of the regularization steps, such as Normative Instruction (Instrução Normativa, in Portuguese) No. 128/2022, published on the eve of the elections.

Right at the beginning of the administration, INCRA was relocated from the Civil House of the Presidency of the Republic to the Ministry of Agriculture, through Provisional Measure No. 870/2019. Both the highest office of the agenda and the secretariat responsible for titling were under the command of representatives linked to the agribusiness sector and opponents of the quilombola titling policy: Minister Tereza Cristina (from the Social Liberal Party – PSL, in Portuguese) and the former president of the Ruralist Democratic Union party (União Democrática Ruralista – UDR, in Portuguese) Nabhan Garcia, respectively.  

The actions adopted by the government had a direct echo in the total number of quilombola titling steps, with a strong decrease in numbers in each step. In the last four years, 161 communities were certified by the Palmares Cultural Foundation, a number far from the peak of 812 certifications during Lula’s first administration. The number for Lula’s first administration only includes the years 2004-2006 (it does not include data from 2003), since the current rules and stages for titling began with the publication of Decree No. 4,887, in November 2003. 

Bolsonaro’s government also accounts for the issuance of only 6 titles (all partial), as opposed to the highest number of titles issued during a single administration – 14 in Dilma Rousseff’s first term as president.

The number of titles issued during Bolsonaro’s government was not even lower only because all the communities that had their territories partially titled took legal action due to the slowness of the Brazilian State in titling traditional territories. That is what happened with the Paiol de Telha community (state of Paraná/PR). The only one of the 38 quilombola communities in Paraná that was titled, the Paiol de Telha Community, continues to claim title to the whole territory. The lawsuit filed by the Community’s Association also includes a claim for moral damages against the community due to the State’s delay in finalizing the titling of the traditional territory. 

“Faced with the complete reduction of the quilombola titling budget, the weakening of the territorial policy, and the State’s omission in recent years, the communities’ only alternative was to take legal action to advance land regularization. There were only six titles issued in the last four years because the communities went to court, and the justice system demanded the titling by the government. It wasn’t Bolsonaro who complied with the Constitution in guaranteeing the right to traditional territories for quilombola families, it was the courts that enforced this right”, says Kathleen Tiê, legal advisor for Terra de Direitos. 

Budget Constraints
In the 2023 Annual Budget Law (Lei Orçamentária Anual – LOA, in Portuguese), the budget allocated for the recognition and compensation of quilombola territories is only R$ 749,000. The amount is far from the resource foreseen for the same item in the budget executed in 2014, the year with the highest observed amount for the execution of this public policy.

According to the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies (Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos – Inesc, in Portuguese), 2014 totaled R$75.8 million Brazilian reais for the acquisition of private areas for quilombola titling purposes. According to a survey conducted by the organization, the budget for quilombola titling has been suffering a sharp decline since 2015, with the worst year in 2022, with only R$769.1 thousand reais executed for the policy. 

According to Conaq’s evaluation, the budget foreseen for 2023, proposed during the previous administration, is a strong obstacle to the advancement of the quilombola land regularization policy. One possibility to increase the budget line and keep within the limits of the spending cap rule is the reallocation of the budget from other agendas and according to the agencies’ needs, as determined by the Ministry of Planning and Budget. According to the Ministry, resources can be distributed through ordinances, draft bills, or provisional measures. Parliamentary amendments can also be an alternative. 

Thus, the dispute over the 2023 public budget is still active in the government. An example is the harassment from the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (Confederação da Agricultura e Pecuária do Brasil – CNA, in Portuguese) – an entity linked to agribusiness interests – against the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Ministério da Agricultura e Pecuária – MAPA, in Portuguese) to increase the public resources for the Plano Safra (Harvest Plan) 2022/2023 and 2023/2024. At the beginning of May, the Ministry announced an allocation of over R$ 200 million to complement the Plano Safra (Harvest Plan) 2022/2023. 

New government: expectations and demands
During the period of a little more than 120 days, the new government adopted some measures for quilombola territorial protection. Recreated on the first day of the government, the Ministry of Racial Equality – an interministerial agenda for the policy of promoting racial equality – now has the Secretariat of Policies for Quilombolas, Traditional Peoples and Communities of African Origin, Terreiro Peoples and Gypsies (Secretaria de Políticas para Quilombolas, Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais de Matriz Africana, Povos de Terreiros e Ciganos, in Portuguese). Coordinated by the quilombola and former member of Conaq’s coordination board, Ronaldo Barros, the secretariat has the task of “assisting and accompanying the actions of land regularization.” 

The titling agenda also figures prominently in the Aquilomba Brazil Program, launched on March 21st. As an improvement to the Brazil Quilombola Program (2007), the new program has access to land and territory by traditional communities as one of its structural axes. On that occasion, the Presidency issued the partial titles of three quilombola territories: Brejo dos Crioulos (state of Minas Gerais/MG), and Serra da Guia and Lagoa dos Campinhos, both in the state of Sergipe. In other words, in 120 days of government, Lula’s administration titled half the number of titles issued by Bolsonaro during his entire four-year administration.  

Although the actions are understood as important signs of federal commitment to the land title regularization policy, Conaq highlights the need to speed up the processes. “We know that the last government preached hatred against quilombola communities. He said that he would not demarcate any centimeter for quilombolas and Indigenous people and we are now in a moment of reconstruction, but this moment of reconstruction needs to be worked at the speed of our demands because we can’t be impacted by slowness again,” highlights Biko.  

Competency of states and municipalities 
The slow pace also marks the progress in the titling processes by municipal and state bodies. In the state of Pará, for example, quilombola land regularization is a responsibility of the Institute for Land of Pará (Instituto de Terras do Pará – ITERPA, in Portuguese). Although some open processes are under INCRA’s responsibility (there are 67 in the state), most of them are under the state agency’s responsibility.

The Coordination of Associations of Remnant Quilombo Communities of Pará (Coordenação das Associações das Comunidades Remanescentes de Quilombos do Pará – Malungu, in Portuguese) estimates that the state has around 600 quilombola communities. However, even the evaluation of the progress status of the processes encounters obstacles. In a letter sent in February 2022 to ITERPA, Malungu requested information on the list of open processes in the state agency and the stage of the administrative phase in which each one is. So far it has not yet received a response from the agency. 

“In addition to the slowness in the titling of territories, the quilombola communities of Pará also face the difficulty of access to information about the progress of administrative processes in the Institute for Land of Pará. There are cases of administrative processes that “disappeared” from ITERPA’s main office for over a year, as is the case of the Territory of Vale do Acará – ARQVA, which has been struggling for the titling of five quilombos since 2016. ITERPA’s own website does not generate an assessment of the movement of the territory, which has made it difficult to monitor the administrative progress,” says the legal advisor of Terra de Direitos, Selma Corrêa.   

While they wait for the delayed response regarding the titling of the territories by the state of Pará, the communities of the Acará Valley have been living through an intense conflict with two large companies of the palm monoculture sector – Agropalma SA and Brasil BioFuels (BBF) – that have been violating the land rights of traditional peoples in northeastern Pará for years.  

According to the advisor, one of the many examples of the delay in the titling of Quilombola lands by the State of Pará is the case of the Quilombola territory of Umarizal (Municipality of Baião), which has been awaiting titling since 2000, that is, for more than 23 years. “Both the slowness in the titling process and the difficulty in accessing information are forms of violation of quilombola rights that prevent the advancement of land regularization,” he says. The organization assists the communities in the processes



Actions: Quilombolas
Axes: Earth, territory and space justice