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Macro Article

Brazil: Empowering local communities with land titles

Marcelo Guerra Filho

by Marcelo Guerra Filho
Principal: Energy
São Paulo

Marina Johnson

by Marina Johnson
Associate
London

Brazil: Empowering local communities with land titles Image

New home of family living close to Sao Clemente wind farm, Echoenergia’s project, located on the Pernambuco, Brazil

In 2017, Echoenergia acquired Sao Clemente (233MW), our largest asset within Echo’s portfolio (1.2GW), from a local developer. The project has 126 wind turbines and is spread across four municipalities in the State of Pernambuco, Brazil.  Since then, we have worked with Echoenergia on several initiatives supporting local communities. 

Noise mitigation and improved housing

During the acquisition, our due diligence highlighted elevated noise levels and the need to implement noise mitigation measures to residential properties. The socio-economic studies indicated that families were lacking basic facilities, such as toilets, within their homes. This presented a risk particularly to women at night, who were left no choice but to use informal settings outside their homes in the dark. Poor sanitation and sewage treatment also caused issues, contaminating the environment and spreading diseases. 

To address the noise level issue, Echo initiated a robust community engagement programme, including liaison with public authorities and several public hearings where community members could discuss their concerns with the mitigation plan proposed. These initiatives surpassed local legislative requirements, to meet global best practice. The plan included building a pilot house for those relocating to a high specification design of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. 

To date, 79% of the 147 households impacted by WTG noise are in the process of being relocated or having their properties retrofitted, with 95% of families providing positive feedback. Despite the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak for the construction schedule, 60 new homes are nearing completion. 

Securing land rights 

Prior to construction, Echo also discovered that between 15-20% of the families didn’t have any formal proof of land ownership, or necessary support to obtain the legal documentation required to formalise ownership and secure their household title.  

Whilst many companies could have seen this as a challenge too costly and complex to navigate, Echoenergia decided to put in place a team of five including a dedicated lawyer, a social field assistant, and a community relationship coordinator to implement the land formalisation process and paid for all associated legal fees required. 

Within Brazil, building one’s own house - Casa Propria - is a significant cultural asset and sign of accomplishment among peers, even without formal documented status. This was reflected by the previous administrations’ Governmental social programme – Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My house, My life). Echoenergia is offering and enabling the ownership of a new house with all associated legal titles, which is seen by much of the community as a pipeline dream only accessible to middle-income families.  

Whilst Echo had already secured land lease agreements for 25 families, the noise-related relocation and retrofit program reached an additional 50 households outside of the leased area. Echo was therefore able to expand the positive impact on community relations beyond its existing stakeholders. The civil works involved in this ambitious program employed around 200 local workers, from four different contractors, thereby contributing to local economic development in the region. 

Echoenergia continues to raise awareness on the benefits of formalising land ownership – a benefit that will last for generations. 

Within Brazil, building one’s own house - Casa Propria - is a significant cultural asset and sign of accomplishment among peers, even without formal documented status. This was reflected by the previous administrations’ Governmental social programme – Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My house, My life). Echoenergia is offering and enabling the ownership of a new house with all associated legal titles, which is seen by much of the community as a pipeline dream only accessible to middle-income families.  

Empowering women

Echoenergia has built on the Casa Propria cultural ambition and pushed to empower local women through its noise mitigation programme. As the Company continues to formalise additional agreements with families, they are including female heads of households on the land title ownership documents. In a sign of real progress of the 74 agreements executed so far 95% include women on the ownership documents.

Echoenergia continues to progress the noise mitigation program, providing dignity and security to families and women who could not previously afford the costs associated with formalising ownership of their land and assets. As a result, their relationship with the community continues to strengthen.