In Brazil, inequality of land distribution, inadequate access to land by the poor, and insecure tenure are contributing factors to land degradation, destruction of forests, rural poverty, violence, human rights abuses, exploitation of rural workers, and migration to crime-ridden slums and shantytowns in urban areas. In spite of numerous programs to facilitate access to land, issues remain, particularly for landless peasants.
Brazil is an economic giant, with one of the world‘s 10 highest gross domestic product (GDP). In recent years, sound macroeconomic policies have brought about stability and growth, and innovative social programs and inclusive economic growth have reduced both poverty and income inequality. The World Bank reports reductions in poverty (defined as US $2 per day measured in purchasing-power parity terms) from 20% to 7% of the population, and in income inequality (as measured by the Gini index) from 0.596 to 0.54 between 2004 and 2009. Despite these achievements, inequality remains at relatively high levels for a middle-income country (World Bank 2010).
A significant part of Brazil‘s economy relies on the use of its immense natural resource base. As a consequence, Brazil faces the challenge of productively harnessing its resources and realizing the benefits of agricultural growth while still ensuring adequate environmental protection and achieving development that will be sustainable.
Brazil possesses 12% of the world‘s reserve of available freshwater. Geographically, these resources are extremely unevenly distributed, with nearly three-quarters concentrated in the sparsely populated Amazon River Basin. Brazil‘s wetlands are under pressure, and water pollution and availability issues exist in southern Brazil. With support from international donors to govern its freshwater resources more efficiently, Brazil has managed to increase water supply and sanitation coverage to poorer sections of the population, but affordability remains a question.
Brazil hosts extensive forests, grasslands, and wetland ecosystems. Despite legal provisions to provide protection to an estimated 3.7 million square kilometers of public and private lands, there are significant human and development pressures on all of these areas. Governance responsibilities are spread throughout Brazil‘s legal framework for the environment and forest areas, resulting in disputes between various state- and federal-level institutions.
Brazil has one of the largest and most well-developed mining sectors in the world. However, it is still working to clarify precise roles and responsibilities of the federal, state, and municipal governments in administering the mining sector to avoid confusion and conflict. Laws and policy on small- and medium-sized mining companies also need clarification. Although artisanal miners are recognized in the Constitution, the laws and policies remain vague regarding their rights over certain minerals (e.g., industrial minerals). Also, mineral deposits often lie within indigenous lands, creating conflicts, sometimes violent, between indigenous communities and artisanal miners.