What is a latifundium?

In the midst of social inequalities, many discussions arise about the concentration of land and the distribution of resources. Among them, there is a debate about the latifundium .The concept is related to issues involving land concentration and exploitation, as well as social conflicts over land tenure.

Concept of latifundio

What is a latifundium ? Originating in the Latin term latus (deep, spacious and extensive) and fundus (farm) , the word latifundium designates an extensive rural property. These are largely intended for the production of a single product (monoculture), with the intention of feeding the foreign market on a large scale.

Among the main characteristics of the latifundia , are the concentration of properties in the hands of a few families, groups or companies.

Latifundio and the Land Statute

The ei No. 4,504 , implemented on November 30, 1964 deals with the Land Statute . In the legislation, rural properties started to be categorized.

In Art. 4, concepts such as rural property, family property, rural module, smallholdings and large estates come to the fore.

Art. 4 For the purposes of this Law, the following are defined:

I – “Rural Property”, the rustic building, with a continuous area, regardless of its location, which is intended for agricultural, livestock or agro-industrial extraction, either through public recovery plans or through private initiative;

II – “Family Property”, the rural property that, directly and personally exploited by the farmer and his family, absorbs all their labor force, guaranteeing their subsistence and social and economic progress, with a maximum area fixed for each region and type of exploration, and eventually work with the help of third parties;

III – “Rural Module”, the area fixed under the terms of the previous item;

IV – “Minifundium”, the rural property with an area and possibilities lower than that of family property;

V – “Latifúndio”, the rural property that:

a) exceeds the maximum dimension established in the form of article 46, § 1, paragraph b, of this Law, bearing in mind the ecological conditions, regional agricultural systems and the purpose for which it is intended;

b) not exceeding the limit referred to in the preceding paragraph, and having an area equal to or greater than the dimension of the rural property module, be kept unexploited in relation to the physical, economic and social possibilities of the environment, for speculative purposes, that is, deficient or inadequately exploited , in order to prohibit its inclusion in the concept of rural company […]

Also, according to the Land Statute, there are the concepts of  latifundium by dimension and latifundium by exploitation . On the one hand, the latifundium by dimension would be one in which the area is six times larger than the rural module, with the possibility of being explored in the proper way.

On the other hand, the latifundio for exploitation, in summary, is the property that has as main characteristic the unproductiveness. Land is generally intended for real estate speculation.

Latifundio and Minifundio

Large estates and small estates are easy to define classifications, as one is practically the opposite of the other. See the characteristics that distinguish them:

  • Latifundium : Characterized as a large rural property, it usually belongs to only one owner (person, company or family). If productive, the land has production aligned with export (foreign market) and a single product, cultivating monoculture.
  • Smallholdings : It is a rural property of small extension, being generally familiar. In summary, it is used for subsistence cultivation or for import (supplying the domestic market). There is also the cultivation of many agricultural products on these lands.

Earth’s Social Function

The Federal Constitution defines, in its Article 186, the social function of the land:

Art. 186. The social function is fulfilled when the rural property meets, simultaneously, according to criteria and degrees of requirement established by law, the following requirements:

I – rational and adequate use;

II – adequate use of available natural resources and preservation of the environment;

III – observance of the provisions that regulate labor relations;

IV – exploitation that favors the well-being of owners and workers.

In the discussion of the social function of the land, the name of the productive and unproductive latifundios emerges .

The productive latifundio is connected to the property that fulfills its social function, that is, it is exploited according to the criteria established by law. The unproductive latifundium , on the other hand, is nothing more than a property with an unfulfilled social function, therefore, having unproductive land.

Therefore, the use of land must be linked to the public interest, that is, it must serve both individual and collective interests.

In this way, unproductive land would not serve the social function.

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