Pension funds' role in Brazil's farmland controversy

Global pension funds are implicated in the deforestation of Brazil's Cerrado, impacting local communities and climate goals.

Sarah Sax and Maurício Angelo report for Grist.


In short:

  • Armed men, allegedly hired by land claimants, have forcibly displaced local communities in Brazil's Cerrado, destroying homes and livelihoods.
  • Major global pension funds, including TIAA, have invested billions in Brazilian farmland, contributing to deforestation and land conflicts.
  • The destruction of the Cerrado, a key carbon sink and biodiversity hotspot, poses significant challenges to Brazil's climate commitments and local ecosystems.

Key quote:

“There’s a lot of evidence that investors who buy land in Latin America, for instance, but also in Southeast Asia, are responsible for deforestation — directly or indirectly.”

— Lucas Seghezzo, professor of environmental sociology at the National University of Salta

Why this matters:

As forests are cut down to make way for farmland, the world loses more than just trees; it loses an essential ally against global warming. In regions like the Amazon, the conversion of forest into cropland or pasture is particularly striking. This transformation not only contributes to climate change but also disrupts biodiversity, water cycles and local climates.

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