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This is the sixth of six belief in a alternation by journalists Alicia Prager and Flávia Milhorance who travelled to the Cerrado in February for Mongabay to appraise the impacts of agribusiness on the region’s ambiance and people.

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Edjarsson Cardoso places folders abounding of abstracts — some added than 20 years old — on the basin table of a dimly lit bar in the rural Brazilian boondocks of Riachão das Neves. With him angle seven added men who ambition to prove their appropriate to use farmland, a abode they declared home, baseborn from them all those years ago.

One-by-one, all of them were apprenticed off the acreage breadth they already grew their food. Afterwards alteration affairs for decades, today that acreage belongs to a Brazilian accessory of Harvard University’s award fund.

It appears that Harvard’s US$37.1 billion award armamentarium and its administrator Harvard Management Aggregation (HMC) has invested in the Brazilian agribusiness borderland — investments steeped in accomplished accusations of artificial acreage titles, actionable deforestation and agitated banishment of small-scale farmers from their homes.

This is not an abandoned case of banking investments fuelling acreage grabbing. During the all-around banking crisis of 2007/08, all-embracing advance firms, aback faced with agitated banking markets, added angry adjoin rural farmland belief in developing nations, apropos it as a almost safe asset.

This analysis reveals one example, assuming how all-embracing banking basic is acclimated to abnormally appulse the bodies and forests of Brazil. At the affection of this accurate altercation is a acreage bindle accoutrement 140,000 hectares (540 aboveboard miles) — an breadth bigger than Los Angeles — that was acquired through allegedly illegal, and sometimes violent, means, according to a Bahia accompaniment report, to which we acquired access.

A baby allotment of this 140,000 hectare bindle was absent by the men continuing about the basin table — acreage which they are aggravating to regain, amid on the larboard coffer of the Rio Grande in the city of Cotegipe, Western Bahia, Brazil. Today, the 140,000-hectare breadth (where the Cerrado and Caatinga biomes meet), is alive by the Campo Largo farm, a minimally advantageous operation that grows some eucalyptus copse and grazes cattle. But in the aboriginal 1990s, that acreage was captivated by the Brazilian government (terras devolutas), and was actuality acclimatized accurately by 240 small-scale acreage families.

Those families took out loans to body their homes on the land, and started growing corn, beans, rice and manioc for their own consumption. They additionally began advantageous the taxes due on the land, and attainable acknowledged regularization and acceptance by the government. They lacked affairs titles, a accepted bearings in rural Brazil breadth the government holds assimilate ample acreage blocs until small-scale farmers, accepted as “posseiros,” lay affirmation to it by putting it into cultivation. Previously, best of the families had formed for all-embracing farms. But they were on clue to earning bread-and-er ability for themselves and their families.

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Instead they faced threats and carelessness — browbeating aimed at authoritative them carelessness their acreage claims.

“Armed bodies started accession there, putting [up] fences, afire our crops, antibacterial our houses,” remembers Edjarsson Cardoso, baton of an affiliation apery 22 families, anniversary claiming 50 hectares (123.5 acres). Cardoso fled his acreage aback in the 1990s and acclimatized in Riachão das Neves, a adjoining rural town, breadth he now lives frugally on a accompaniment pension.

Many others, fearing violence, additionally gave up their land. But 22 families kept angry to accost their collectively endemic absolute of 1,100 hectares (2,718 acres), a baby allocation of the Campo Largo farm’s all-inclusive holdings.

“We don’t ask much. We aloof appetite to put an end to the gunslingers, and accept the appropriate to appear and go. I myself was threatened by armed men aback then,” remembers Antônio Augusto França. “We accept been adversity the after-effects [of the acreage thieves] for 24 years. We are all poor, old, tired, and ailing today.“

After accepting letters of ascent violence, the accompaniment of Bahia absitively to intervene. It mapped out the contested backdrop and accurate the declared acreage conflicts. In 2014, the government’s agrarian administration (CDA) issued a Rural Abominable Action. The accompaniment analysis assured that the farmland was absolutely taken from the accompaniment via “absurd agent irregularities,” and via the banishment by concrete carelessness of rural workers, forth with “worrying ecology distress.” The CDA additionally accepted one afterlife due to the conflict, but has not appear added capacity of that baleful incident.

“This constitutes — in territorial addendum — the better [discriminatory action] anytime done in [Bahia] state,” wrote Bahia prosecutor Estácio Marques Dourado in a case summary. Dourado forwarded the award to the Accompaniment Prosecutor’s Appointment (PGE), allurement it to aish the “forged, aberrant and, therefore, illegitimate” clandestine titles.

However, the case never went to court.

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“I can say there has been burden from agribusiness politicians for the [legal] action to stop,” says Mauricio Correa, a affiliate of the Affiliation of Attorneys of Rural Workers in the Accompaniment of Bahia. Now, the attorneys affiliation affairs to burden PGE to reopen the case.

Mongabay contacted CDA, but Marques Dourado no best holds a position there, and we were clumsy to locate him. PGE responded that the case is absolutely pending. To date, the academy has approved a action mediation.

“This affair transcends a acreage litigation, and involves the region’s basic bread-and-er activity, which creates jobs, and [the lawsuit’s] after-effects would accept austere amusing ancillary effects,” said the arch prosecutor of the PGE authoritative office, Bárbara Camardelli Loi, in a statement.

The prosecutor adds that the property’s accepted owner, Caracol Agropecuária LTDA, has not managed to verify its affairs through abstracts and, “even less, [explain how] it managed to anatomy the latifundio [large property] registered in the name of the aggregation today.” That, she says, is the acumen that “the attack [at mediation] did not succeed.” In February 2018, Camardelli Loi recommended the aperture of a accusation adjoin Caracol, which should appear soon, according to PGE. If Caracol loses the case the 140,000-hectare Campo Largo acreage could see its reintegration as acreage acceptance to Bahia state.

The acreage allegedly bedeviled by carelessness and browbeating accept been anesthetized from one buyer to another, aboriginal from a Bahia accompaniment agent alleged Márcio Cardoso, again to a all-embracing farmer, José Oduvaldo Oliveira Souza, and ultimately, to Caracol Agropecuária LTDA, a aggregation from southern Brazil. This aftermost alteration of affairs occurred on portions of the acknowledged farmland amid 2008 and 2012.

The basic that Caracol acclimated to buy the acreage has been traced to its adopted ally by GRAIN, an NGO that supports small-scale farmers and amusing movements. Caracol Agropecuária LTDA is allegedly endemic by the award armamentarium of Harvard University, admitting not directly. A university subsidiary, the Harvard Management Aggregation (HMC) manages the US$ 37.1 billion Harvard endowment. HMC, which oversees about 12,000 funds, is believed to own Caracol through two subsidiaries: Guara LLC and Bromelia LLC, according to leaked tax documents.

Both Guara LLC and Bromelia LLC accept alive allotment on the Secretariat of Federal Revenue of Brazil, but assignment in the U.S., at the aforementioned abode as the HMC: 600 Atlantic Avenue, Boston. We were clumsy to locate either Guara and Bromelia online, not alike through their official Brazilian registration. Mongabay contacted HMC three times, and asked accurately about its subsidiaries. The academy replied that it does not animadversion on specific investments. However, HMC did accelerate us a articulation to its official action pertaining to accustomed ability investments, which emphasizes the fund’s ambition of convalescent the backdrop it acquires — both environmentally and socially.

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Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with GRAIN, is analytical of the accomplishing of these policies. “Many companies advisedly set up structures that accomplish it adamantine to clue them,” says Kuyek. Complex affairs networks are generally developed as a bureau of circumventing Brazilian legislation acclimation adopted investments, he adds.

In 2010, in an accomplishment to arrest an accretion in the purchases of rural backdrop by foreigners, the Brazilian government anchored restrictions on all-embracing acreage acquisitions. Today, the law says that several audible adopted investors can own no added than 25 percent of the acreage aural any accurate municipality, while investors of the aforementioned allegiance can own a best of 10 percent of a municipality’s lands. Caracol’s farmland purchases annual for able-bodied aloft those limits, at 35 percent of the Cotegipe municipality’s area.

In addition, beneath Brazilian law, “Caracol and the Harvard armamentarium accept the obligation to accomplish abiding that acreage they admission is chargeless of conflict. If they don’t do that, it is their fault,” Kuyek says.

In fact, Caracol was a aboriginal on apropos the ambiguous affairs of the acreage they were gluttonous to acquire, during the absolute acreage acquirement process, says Martin Mayr, from 10envolvimento, an NGO with ability of the case. Mayr explains that the antecedent acreage buyer was accepted to accept offered the small-scale farmers banking or actual accomplishment in adjustment to abandon the acreage afore affairs it to Caracol.

“Those who didn’t accede became targets of threats and carelessness through gunslingers,” Mayr says. None of the 240 families is alive on the acknowledged acreage today.

In accession to the allegations surrounding the acreage purchase, Caracol has been fined by IBAMA, Brazil’s ecology agency, R$123,000 (US$ 37,000) for actionable deforestation occurring in 2013.

The 240 families who originally laid affirmation to the acreage now alive by the Campo Largo acreage absent their acreage years ago. Today, they and added small-scale farmers and acceptable bodies like them, face a altered array of battlefield — an broken arena acreage angled alike added steeply adjoin them due to the advance of ample amounts of adopted capital.

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“Land avaricious is an actual process, but the dynamics of that action has changed. Today there are all-embracing advance structures abaft these [property] violations. This is article actual new,” says Fábio Pitta, from Rede Amusing de Justiça e Direitos  , an NGO.

The accretion by all-embracing investors of farmland in the developing apple agitated into a above trend afterwards the all-around banking crisis in 2007-08, as acclaimed by The Apple Bank. According to Acreage Matrix, an absolute acreage ecology initiative, 26.7 amateur hectares (103,000 aboveboard miles) of developing apple farmland was transferred to adopted investors amid 2000 and 2016.

Looking for abiding returns, banking corporations begin beneath risk, and aerial yields, with agronomical acreage purchases fabricated in developing countries. They apparent that already acreage was austere and adapted into agribusiness-scale crop production, or accustomed basement improvements, the amount of the acreage in catechism tended to rise. This amount additionally can alter according to how abundant clandestine or attainable advance flows into a region. In short, afterwards 2007-08, farmland itself became an asset, with the assets becoming from harvested crops confined as a accessory beck of return.

Despite its restrictions, Brazil is amid bristles nations in the apple today seeing the accomplished amount of adopted purchases of farmland. The Latin American nation is accepted amid investors because its acreage are accessible, and because Brazil is apparent as a safer advance due to its political adherence as compared to abounding added countries, Kuyek explains. “But there are abounding acreage conflicts and animal rights violations affiliated to [these farmland investments],” he adds.

The states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia — collectively accepted as Matopiba, at the affection of the Cerrado, the all-inclusive savannah biome — are the latest borderland of automated agribusiness amplification in Brazil.

As such, Matopiba is now a prime ambition for acreage speculation, according to a abode by Rede Social. The four states are awful adorable to adopted investors, as acreage can be acquired cheaply, and acreage ethics are projected to acceleration bound as all-embracing soy, blah and affection growers move in, with transnational t companies like Cargill and Bunge acquisitive to buy up crops for export.

However, according to the Rede Amusing report, the added acquirement of backdrop by all-embracing investors is “outsourced,” and as a result, alongside affiliated to the confiscation of acreage from small-scale farmers, acceptable communities and aboriginal groups, who generally accept lived on their backdrop for decades, or in some cases centuries, but who do not acquire acknowledged acreage titles.

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In such cases, bounded elites generally drive baby landholders or squatters off the land, again advertise it to all-embracing investors, who about-face the acreage over to all-embracing agribusiness. This appears to be the arrangement of contest that occurred to authorize the 140,000-hectare Campo Largo farm.

This generally actionable action has adverse outcomes for conservation, as it accelerates the clip of deforestation, and the about-face of built-in frondescence into farmland and beasts ranches in the Cerrado — a Brazilian biome that accounts for 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and whose rivers and aquifers advice accumulation abundant of Brazil and Latin America with water.

Harvard’s award armamentarium isn’t the alone U.S. banking amateur alive in Brazil’s agronomical sector. Accession is TIAA-CREF, the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Affiliation – College Retirement Equities Fund. It is one of the better U.S. advance firms, and it manages U.S., Canadian and Swedish alimony funds, amid others. TIAA-CREF came beneath burden in 2015 for not advice the area of its investments in Brazil; there were break of animal rights violations associated with those investments. TIAA-CREF was contacted by Mongabay, which aknowledged our request, but had no added comment.

Of its 140,000 hectares (540 aboveboard miles), the Campo Largo acreage today uses beneath than 300 hectares (1.15 aboveboard miles) to aftermath corn, beans, soybean and eucalyptus trees, according to a 2014 accompaniment report. Accession 14,000 hectares (54 aboveboard miles) was acclimated as affirmation for 3,200 cows. Year-after-year, the acreage has allegedly become beneath productive.

Rede Social’s Daniela Stefano went to Cotegipe in March 2017 and was able to get assimilate the Campo Largo farm. She confirms that not abundant seems to be accident there, with beasts agriculture and eucalyptus growing the alone cogent activities. Also, the farm’s advisers decreased from 84 a few years ago to 50 today. Ample genitalia of the acreage accept been taken over by built-in vegetation, she says; she didn’t atom any armed men attention the farm.

Yet, the bearings charcoal close as ever. Stefano abounding a affair amid the association and Granflor, the close managing the acreage for Caracol. “When the aggregation adumbrative was asked whether Caracol knew that there was a action [with the small-scale farmers] afore affairs it, he larboard the room,” she says. Neither Caracol nor Granflor responded to our requests for animadversion afore publication.

According to the Bahia accompaniment government investigation, the men aggregate about the Riachão das Neves basin table had their livelihoods and backdrop taken from them via an actionable acreage acquisition, or “grilagem,” as it is declared in Portuguese. “The acreage is now there, unproductive, and we can’t do annihilation about it,” says Pedro dos Santos Serpa. “The alone affair I’m acquisitive to apprehend is: look, booty it, it’s your land, you can aftermath there.”

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Edjarsson Cardoso picks up one of the folders on the basin table and opens it. Every certificate has been anxiously sorted chronologically and stored in a artificial case. He flicks through the binder one aftermost time afore he says goodbye to us and leaves the bar. Cardoso is captivation on to every accordant allotment of cardboard firmly, in the abandoned achievement that these abstracts will one day be accurately recognized, answer at aftermost a acknowledgment to the abode he calls home.

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