Some groups in rural Brazil merit special attention. Although there has been massive rural to urban migration in Brazil, nearly 40 million people still live in the countryside, and another 10 million live in towns with a population under 20,000. There are also signs of urban to rural migration as a result of exhaustion of employment and income opportunities in large cities.
Many of the inhabitants of the countryside are rural workers in agriculture, with permanent or, more typically, seasonal employment, particularly in harvesting, an activity in which women and children are also involved. Although a large number of small family farmers have land of their own, millions of rural workers are landless because land tenure is extremely concentrated in Brazil. In the face of slowness of official land reform, they began to invade unproductive properties in the 1990s. As a result of their organization and massacres of their activists in Rondônia and Pará, they entered the political limelight, and land reform was placed high on the political agenda.
In addition to farmers, Brazil has various kinds of traditional populations--including rubber tappers, Brazil nut collectors, caboclos and other traditional riverine dwellers, small fishermen, and others--who became a new social category in the late 1980s. Some of them received land from the government in the form of extractive reserves, meaning land containing valuable natural resources such as rubber-yielding trees, hardwoods, and so forth, ceded to their associations on the condition that they use their natural resources in a sustainable way. For some rural Brazilians, sustainable extraction presents an alternative to rural exodus and structural unemployment.
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