Alarming Data Reveals Brazil’s Rural Landscape Shrinking: 55% Loss Signals Backlands Transformation

They are quick, usually lasting from a week to a month, but they are deadly. We are talking about flash droughts, a phenomenon that is affecting the only green area in the Northeast known as agreste. This region is equivalent to 725 thousand km2, which corresponds to 55% of the countryside.

This “devastation” is not recent, it has been occurring since the beginning of the 1990s and is shortening the distance between the forest zone (coastal strip) and the more arid lands (Caatinga or hinterland) in this part of Brazil. 

The Brazilian government has been monitoring this semi-arid region since 1993 with at least two important documents, as well as scientists and environmentalists. One of the world’s greatest climate experts, climatologist Carlos Nobre, researcher at USP’s Institute for Advanced Studies (IEA) and co-president of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon, explains that rain in this region occurs between January and August. 

Loss of the countryside

Data from Cemaden (National Center for Natural Disaster Monitoring and Alerts) and Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) show that Brazil lost 55% of the rural region in 2023, which is making the area a backcountry region. 

According to Sudene (Superintendence for Development of the Northeast), it is the most populous arid region in the world, with 31 million inhabitants. The semi-arid region today includes 215 municipalities in 11 Brazilian states. Global warming and deforestation are the main reasons for this expansion of desert areas, but reforestation could be an alternative to reverse the situation.

“It is urgently necessary to eliminate deforestation in the caatinga and restore a large percentage of these deforested areas, avoid degraded pastures that have led to the desertification of semi-arid areas, combat the climate emergency due to global warming and not allow the global temperature to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, a great challenge if we do not reduce global greenhouse gas emissions very quickly and, finally, the economic and social potential for the Caatinga is to develop an economy based on the great biodiversity of the Caatinga and maintaining this vegetation” , says Nobre.