Sustainability of the remaining agricultural Commons in the Brazilian Northeast: challenges beyond management


  • Luiz Antonio Ferraro Júnior Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Brazil
  • Marcel Bursztyn University of Brasilia
  • José Augusto Drummond University of Brasilia



Brazilian Northeast Region, collective action, common pool resources, community governance, social capital



This article examines fundos de pasto (FPs) – a land use system that combines individual and collective appropriation of resources, evaluating its prospects in a rapidly modernizing economy. FPs are ancient and commonly held agricultural and animal husbandry lands located in the Brazilian Northeast Region. Aggressive land grabbing practices in the 1970s and 1980s and resistance of FP communities led to the formal acknowledgment of FPs. Data were obtained via individual interviews, workshops with stakeholders, archival materials from government agencies, and secondary studies. Our findings reinforce the perception of sustainability and higher resistance of these communities in years of severe droughts. Despite their secular sustainability, FPs have been under pressure that may lead to overgrazing, such as reduced grazing areas (on account of land grabbing), population growth, larger herds credit operations that stimulate the substitution of native grazing vegetation, and increasingly serious droughts. Our findings also indicate the existence of tensions between economic development and the sustainability of common resource use systems associated with the conservation of extensive areas. Understanding these tensions requires attention to the dimension of farmers’ political organization, a perspective that goes beyond the measurement of social capital.

Author Biographies

Luiz Antonio Ferraro Júnior, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Brazil

Full Professor, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, and Research Director for the Secretariat of the Environment of the State of Bahia (Avenida Transnordestina, s/n. Bairro Novo Horizonte. CEP 44036-900. Feira de Santana – BA. Brazil. Phone: 55-75-31618000)

Marcel Bursztyn, University of Brasilia

Marcel Bursztyn holds a B.A. in Economics (1973) and a M.Sc. in Urban and Regional Planning (1976), from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He also holds a Diploma in Planning Studies from the University of Edinburgh (1977), a doctorate in Social and Economic Development, from Université de Paris I (1982) and a doctorate in Economics, from Université de Picardie, France (1988). He is a full professor in the Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Brasília. 

José Augusto Drummond, University of Brasilia

Full Professor, Center for Sustainable Development, Universidade de Brasília, Brazil (Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro - Gleba A. Asa Norte. Brasília-DF CEP 70.904-970. Brazil




How to Cite

Ferraro Júnior, L. A., Bursztyn, M., & Drummond, J. A. (2017). Sustainability of the remaining agricultural Commons in the Brazilian Northeast: challenges beyond management. DIE ERDE – Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, 148(2-3), 150–166.