Oligarchs and newcomers – the politics of drought aid in Brazil

Seminar with Yuri Kasahara, OsloMet, on his research in the Sertão region of Northeast Brazil, a region long plagued by drought, and controlled by local elites.

Couple in front of water tank and house in dry area
Photo: Yuri Kasahara

This seminar was filmed. See the video.


The Brazilian semiarid zone (Sertão) has been traditionally considered one of the most political backward regions in the country. Prone to regular devastating drought periods, the semiarid zone is seen as region plagued by electoral clientelism and controlled by local elites who exploit the vulnerability of poor voters.

People coming to fetch water from water tank
Photo: Yuri Kasahara

To address this situation, the federal government has implemented during the last 15 years, different programs to increase the resilience of citizens living in the region. Cash-transfer programs, such as Bolsa Família, distribution of water cisterns, crop insurance schemes and subsidized credit are some of the initiatives aimed to improve life conditions of sertanejos. But what are the electoral effects of these programs? Do traditional elites manipulate these programs to strengthen their dominance? Or do they empower citizens and allow for new political players to rise?

In this presentation, Yuri Kasahara discusses some results of the project Breaking the curse? The politics of drought in the Brazilian Northeast and claim that anti-drought programs have allowed for a more diverse and competitive politics in small municipalities of the region.

Update: Kasahara just wrote a blog post on this research. Read it at SUM's blog Terra Nullius.


Yuri Kasahara


Yuri Kasahara is a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research – OsloMet.





Published Feb. 14, 2020 11:14 AM - Last modified Mar. 13, 2020 11:21 AM