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National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform

National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform

National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária; INCRA) was founded in 1970 during General Emílio Garrastazu Médici's presidency. It was one of several agencies created under the 1964–1985 military-technocratic authoritarian regime to develop the Amazon Region. Its four main tasks were: to alleviate conflict over land tenure; to resettle thousands of landless peasants, especially from the northeast of Brazil; to establish peasant cooperatives to provide economic support; and to standardize and modernize existing legal forms of large-scale ownership so as to increase production and hence government revenues. In the twenty-first century, sustainable development and diversification aiming to reduce rural-to-urban migration has risen in the agency's priorities. Programs designed to register rural workers and their families have also been implemented. Particularly in the northeast, INCRA continues to expropriate unproductive areas for resettlement.

INCRA's dual role of simultaneously supporting both colonization projects and large land sales to various capitalist enterprises was inherently too contradictory for the agency to do both well. By the mid-1970s, INCRA was acquiescing to political and economic pressures from business groups, usually to the detriment of colonization projects, which were expensive undertakings under the best of conditions. As a result, original settlement goals never came close to being met, and many settlements were later abandoned.

After the establishment of Brazil's new democracy in the mid-1980s, INCRA's mandate emphasized agrarian reform, support to settlements, and clarification of property titles for lands held in abeyance since José Sarney's administration. INCRA reported to the minister of agriculture and agrarian reform until 2000, when the Institute came under the supervision of the newly created Ministry of Agrarian Development (Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário).

See alsoLand Tenure, Brazil; Médici, Emílio Garrastazú.


Scholarly treatments of INCRA are usually subsumed in broader works treating agrarian reform or development of the Amazon in general, or have been the subject of doctoral dissertations. One of the best and most comprehensive studies of INCRA in English is found in Stephen G. Bunker, Underdeveloping the Amazon: Extraction, Unequal Exchange, and the Failure of the Modern State (1985). See also Otávio Guilherme Velho, Capitalismo autoritário e campesinato: Um estudo comparativo a partir da fronteira em movimento (1976).

Peter Flynn, Brazil: A Political Analysis (1978); esp. pp. 451-454.

Thomas E. Skidmore, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964–1985 (1988), esp. pp. 298-302.

Additional Bibliography

Abramovay, Ricardo, and Milton Silvestro. Juventude e agricultura familiar: Desafios dos novos padrões sucessórios. Brasília: Edições UNESCO, 1998.

Almedia, Anna Luiza Ozorio de. The Colonization of the Amazon. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Alston, Lee J., Gary D. Libecap, and Bernardo Mueller. Titles, Conflict, and Land Use: The Development of Property Rights and Land Reform on the Brazilian Amazon Frontier. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.

Arruda, Hélio Palma de. Desenvolvimento rural, atuação do INCRA: Palestra. Brasília: Ministério da Agricultura, Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA), Departamento de Projetos e Operações, 1974.

Fico, Carlos. Reinventando o otimismo: Ditadura, propaganda e imaginário social no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Editora, 1997.

Graziano Neto, Francisco. O carma da terra no Brasil. São Paulo: A Girafa, 2004.

Martins, José de Souza. A militarização da questão agrária no Brasil: Terra e poder, o problema da terra na crise política. Petrópolis, Brazil: Vozes, 1984.

Medeiros, Leonilde Sérvolo de, ed. Assentamentos rurais: Uma visão multidisciplinar. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, Fundação para o Desenvolvimento da UNESP, 1995.

                                       Laura Graham

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