Disputed Territories in Southeastern Brazil: Effects of the Serra da Bocaina National Park on Nearby Coastal Communities

Environ Manage. 2020 Dec;66(6):1012-1023. doi: 10.1007/s00267-020-01366-6. Epub 2020 Oct 10.


The establishment of national parks in Brazil has been made based on a history of conflicts with local populations living within the limits or buffer zones of protected areas. These conflicts begin with disputes over territorial ownership. They affect local livelihoods, access to and use of space and natural resources, and create power asymmetries. In response to these conflicts, the Federal Conservation Agency has put forward norms that guarantee inclusive arenas for local people to take part in negotiations with park managers. In this study, environmental conflicts caused by the implementation of parks overlapping local population territories are analyzed aiming to understand their role as mechanisms promoting institutional changes. We collected data from two communities that overlap the Serra da Bocaina National Park through interviews, workshops, and direct observations. For each community, we characterized conflicts involving the community and Park officers. We identified consequences to the community's livelihoods and analyzed their influence on institutional change. The results suggest that one community responded to conservation conflicts through actions towards negotiation and collaboration with the national park. The other community promoted changes in agricultural production methods and sought new markets as a strategy for staying in the territory. Conflicts are effective as a mechanism for institutional changes, as local actors articulate with autonomous organizations at different levels. We highlight the importance of a continuous documentation on conflicts and their consequences to rural livelihoods in both communities and conflict management actions taken by the Park in the long term.

Keywords: Environmental conflicts; Institutional change; Protected area; Rural livelihoods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Brazil
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Dissent and Disputes*
  • Humans
  • Parks, Recreational*