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Quilombola communities affected by wind power projects in Caetité region, Brazil

Black communities of Caetité trying to certify their traditional lands to stop displacement and loss of livelihood triggered by large-scale wind farms.


The municipality of Caetité is located in the Serra Geral region in the south of Bahia state, 757 km from Salvador capital. According to the Brazilian Government (2013), Caiteté has 52.166 inhabitants and a total of 24 black communities still struggling to regularise their lands. The economic activities of Caitete are predominantly concentrated in livestock with cattle and agricultural production. Caiteté has also the only uranium mine production in Brazil, operated since 1997 by the State Nuclear Industries of Brazil, and the Iron Mining by Bamin. Both developments have triggered conflicts involving environmental and health impacts.

The newest economic investment in Caitete is Wind Power production. Since the energy crisis of 2002, Caitete has become one of the most attractive areas for wind power investments. Such interest grew since 2013 when the Brazilian government published the Atlas of Wind Power Potential of the State of Bahía, indicating an estimated potential of 14.5 GW representing 10.1% of the national wind power potential. Among the municipalities in Bahia, the study showed that Caetité is one with the highest wind potential in intensity and frequency of winds; thus increasing the viability of projects in this sector. From then on, the city became besieged by companies in power generation for the deployment of wind farms and speculation agents, which according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), are pressing the communities and threatening their territorial autonomy.

Wind power companies are receiving incentives from both the Government of Bahía and the Federal Government through the Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento-PAC). According to the website of the Growth 2 Acceleration Program (PAC 2), August 2013 data, the state of Bahia has 52 projects of wind power generation on deployment. Of these, 14 parks are located in the municipality of Caetité in different deployment stages and under the responsibility of different companies. Investments in Caiteté have reached the installation of more than 240 windmills of Renova Energia, Iberdrola group, and Neoenergia. Windmills have around 80 meters height, equivalent to a building with 18 floors. 

The state of Bahia has a distinguishing feature in relation to other northeastern states: its wind potential is concentrated in the interior, along the right bank of the River San Francisco, and not on the coast.  Since Caitetié is predominantly an agricultural and small landowners municipality, the arrival of companies has dramatically changed the pace of life of local people, the landscape, water use and, especially, the traditional land uses. Quilombo communities are threatened by land grabbing and pressured to sign land leasing contracts with the company's, unveiling doubtless fairness and transparency. While the Bahía Government has attracted such investments and facilitated license and regularization processes for companies and third parties, local communities are now organizing themselves to claim their rights. Along with the Palmares Cultural Foundation (FPC in Portuguese) they are accelerating the Certification Process of Remanent  Quilombo Communities and land titling throughout the Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). Between 2010 and 2012, ten out of the 24 black communities in Caetité have received certification remnants of quilombo communities; other three had opened proceedings in 2013 and one more is in process since 2007, without having yet received the certification. However, only the Community Thatcham has open process for land titling by the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), initiated in 2011. 

August 2013 CPT data indicate that there were five companies currently operating in the municipality of Caetité the time: Renova Energy, Iberdrola / Neoenergia, Polimix, Atlantic and EPP. These companies are part of large transnational corporations and economic groups in the wind energy sector. As seen in the Ministry of Planning data through the CAP, Iberdrola / Neoenergia and Renova Energia groups have already started the implementation of the towers. In addition to the impact of the deployment phase herein, other may occur when the parks come into operation. The main thing is the noise impact due to the noise of the engines. Another negative impact is the possibility of electromagnetic interference, which can cause disruption in communication systems and data transmission, according to the Atlas of Wind Power Potential. The effect of electromagnetic field on human health, however, does not have any scientific conclusions.

RENOVA ENERGIA CASE - One of the most controversial cases is the Renova Energia Project called “Complexo eólico Alto Sertão I”, comprising the installation of 14 wind farms deployed through 20 km área (Caetité, Gianambi and Igapora Municipalities) with a total of 184 windmills and an installed capacity of 293.6 MW. Total investments for the Project were almost R $ 1.2 billion, with funding from BNDES. Several consortiums performed the engineering work of these wind farms.

After nearly two years of starting the process, the Institute of the Environment (IMA) released the License for Renova Energia (Complex High Hinterland I) to start the construction of windmills. Together, the parks form the largest wind farm in the country and Latin America. During the month of April 2011, the state government announced that the IMA was conducting workshops with communities, preparatory to the public hearings. However, they were not publicly available official records, or news about the hearings in Caetité, indicating lack of transparency in the way they developed the implementation process.

On the audience - D. Santina Fernandes Matos, a farmer and resident of Aguani community, said in testimony to the "Documentary Wind Energy: the hunt for the winds,": company, arrived sending staff to sign the contract and the personal signed (…) they did not explain anything to us, now cattle can not go there and not cattle can pass. " According to John Portela, Secretary for the Environment Caetité in the same documentary, the agreement signed with Renova Energia was that people could use both the old road, as the new built by the company, which did not happen. He also stated that the the migration route of birds will be impaired; [...] Not to mention the social impacts that are complicated, including displacement and crowding more people in a region where there was already a lot of people. There is an increase in crime, I have no doubt; increase in the cost of living.

Land grabbing triggered by this Project has led to conflict and insecurity, with cases of felled fences, houses demolished, and displacement. This was the case of the Community Quilombola Malhada of Maniaçú, whose lands have strong evidence had been illegally occupied by an alleged owner who sold the Renova Energia. There are approximately 40 families that have occupied the area for over 200 years. The case of Malhada of Maniaçú community was discussed in 2012 at a meeting between the supposed owner, residents, Renova Energy and Environment Committee Caetité Environment, with any evident solution. With the work completed, the High Park Hinterland I was inaugurated on July 9, 2012. On September 09, 2012, about 100 representatives of various quilombo communities were visited by envoys of the FCP, the Institute for Environment and Water Resources (INEMA) and Promotion Department of the State of Bahia Equality (SEPROMI) to a meeting in the community of Malhada, Maniaçú district. The meeting aimed to discuss the self-recognition of Quilombo process of this community who moved the body, but the agenda just extending to the discussion on the installation of wind energy companies in the region, as the EPP energy Polimix and Atlantic. The Pastoral Land Commission of Bahia (CPT / BA), who attended the meeting, said the companies disregard the traditional way of life of the communities, because "they are acquiring land for collective use, performing leasing contracts that do not enshrine fundamental rights workers, pushing for the Maroons sign as company confrontational, harassing residents and leaders with intent protocol, thus dividing the communities." The residents were not satisfied with the meeting's outcome, because - although the representative of the FCP, Alexandre Reis, have reported the Maroons rights based on regulations such as the Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and asserted that the absence or deficiency in environmental licensing processes involving quilombo areas should be reported to the agency. In response, communities reaffirmed their black identity and freedom with regard to land use; responsible companies and the state by difficulties in securing land rights of their children.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Quilombola communities affected by wind power projects in Caetité region, Brazil
State or province:Bahía
Location of conflict:Caetité and neighbouring municipalities
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Large-scale wind energy plants
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Renova Energia “Complexo eólico Alto Sertão I”:

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project307.452.000.000,00
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Renova Energia from Brazil - Developer
Iberdrola from Spain
Neoenergia from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Governo Federal do Brasil
Instituto do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos
Secretaria de Promoção da Igualdade Racial
Governo do Estado da Bahía
Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária
International and Finance InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil - Financing the Renova Energia project
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comissao Pastoral da Terra Regional Bahía
Palmares Cultural Foundation
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Certification of communal land properties
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsAffectation to migratory bird routes
Changes in water uses
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsIncrease in the cost of living
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Unknown
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite all the meetings among local communities and government representatives, the biggest project is now operating. Land certification processes of local communities is still ongoing. Other wind power projects are coming ahead.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Energia Eólica: a caçada pelos ventos!

Thomas Bauer
[click to view]

Energia Eólica: Uma análise acerca dos impactos sociais e ambientais em Caetité, BA


[click to view]

Na Bahia, energia eólica impacta comunidade

Canal Ibase

Iasmin Santana e Allan Lustosa

Comunicadores populares da Articulação no Semiárido Brasileiro

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Mapa de Conflictos Envolvendo Injustiça Ambiental e Saúde no Brasil.

Case: Comunidades lutam para reivindicar seus direitos e acelerar os processos de certificação e de titulação de terras, contra especulação e Comunidades lutam para reivindicar seus direitos e acelerar os processos de certificação e de titulação de terras, contra especulação e energia eólica

[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2212
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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