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A new national awareness campaign to promote Community Land Trusts (CLTs) in favelas has been launched in Brazil, as part of the second phase of an ongoing collaboration between advocacy NGO Catalytic Communities and World Habitat.

In Rio alone, almost one-in-four people (23%) live in favelas, they have no legal rights and are often at risk of eviction. This campaign aims to create a coalition which – over the next few years – will enable organisations and community groups to lobby for a Community Land Trust law at the federal level and develop a system of support, training and experience-sharing for upcoming pilot Community Land Trusts across Brazil.

The campaign will:

  • introduce the CLT framework to relevant organisations across Brazil’s 27 states, to build a national CLT coalition working towards Favela CLT pilots;
  • lay the groundwork for proposing federal legislation with a seminar for parliamentary aides;
  • invite participation in a national forum on CLTs to increase awareness of the model and build space for collaboration with new allies – over 500 people from across Brazil have already registered to attend; and
  • conclude with an event during Urban October 2021, sharing knowledge from the year’s forums and exchanges.

The first phase of the project supported the development of the Community Land Trust model for Brazil’s favelas through the Rio de Janeiro Favela CLT Working Group – starting with a pilot project in Trapicheiros favela. It focused on engaging the local community, raising awareness of the Community Land Trust model through workshops, door-to-door activities (until COVID restrictions came into effect), and on legal processes for the protection and regularisation of the settlement. This included developing pathways to obtaining a Community Land Trust status.

Tarcyla Fidalgo, Favela CLT Project Co-ordinator, said:

“Working on the development of Community Land Trusts in informal Brazilian settlements is a huge satisfaction. The Community Land Trust responds to the aspirations for a model capable of guaranteeing tenure security and community strengthening in favour of fairer and more inclusive cities. The project’s advances demonstrate the need and potential for Community Land Trusts across the country.”

The second phase will build on the progress in Trapicheiros, by moving from community-level engagement towards impacting legislation. In February 2021, the submission of a bill to designate Trapicheiros as an Area of Special Social Interest – to provide a greater level of protection against evictions and support the process of land regularisation – was successful.

Neide Mattos, from Conjunto Esperança, said:

“The Favela Community Land Trust comes as a solid base so that we can have the guarantee of staying on the land, and that I can pass this on to my children. All the sacrifice, all the effort of many years of meetings, so that I could have this trophy that is my house and that it stays as a benefit for my children. Or, if my children don’t want it, this house should go to a family that is not able to get into a government housing program. Let this house be an accessible home for a family that really needs to have a home to call their trophy too.”

Working with lawyers, architects and public defenders, the next step is to regulate the CLT model in the Brazilian legal system, to ultimately facilitate the implementation of CLTs across the country. Trapicheiros’ residents are involved in the forming of the national coalition by sharing their experiences and motivations for developing the model in their community. A designated Favela CLT website has been established, as well as a short film explaining the benefits of the model.

Ailton Lopes, Sub-secretary of the Trapicheiros Residents’ Association, said:

“The Community Land Trust is a protective tool, which aims to protect the community against the process of removal and real estate speculation. The Favela Community Land Trust is made up of a group of technical allies, volunteers, and community leaders, and it has been working well… we believe that this will work very well in Brazil, because we are very committed to this cause.”

Mariangela Veronesi, Programme Lead for Community-led Housing at World Habitat, said:

“We fully support CatComm’s plans to bring attention and support to the Community Land Trust at national scale in Brazil. We feel that, by marrying land rights and permanent affordability, the Community Land Trust model is potentially relevant to all favelas across the country. Community-led models – such as this one – can really help leverage local strengths found in citizen networks and groups of neighbours, and offer a framework for local governance and development. We are therefore enthusiastic about supporting the process to increase knowledge about Community Land Trusts, and the resulting mobilisation to make pilot CLTs a reality across Brazil.”

The project is co-ordinated by Catalytic Communities (CatComm) and delivered through the Rio de Janeiro CLT Working Group – of almost 200 members – composed of representatives of different institutions working on land rights issues, favela residents, and academics.

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