Course  |  Northeast Region of Brazil – Alagoas to Maranhão  |  Introduction to the Northeast of Brazil Online Training

Lesson 1:

General Information

Brazil’s regions are composed of several groups of states. The purpose of these regions is to systematically manage public functions of common interest, direct public policies from the Federal and State Governments, and interpret statistics. The regions have no legal power of their own, as they don’t have autonomous political strength.

The Northeast region’s location just below the equator makes it the closest Brazilian territory to Europe. It is the third-largest region in Brazil, with a total area of 1,561,177 kilometres; it is also the region with the most states.

  1. Alagoas
  2. Bahia
  3. Ceará
  4. Maranhão
  5. Paraiba
  6. Pernambuco
  7. Piauí
  8. Rio Grande do Norte
  9. Sergipe

Due to its different physical characteristics, the region is divided into four sub-regions:

Meio-Norte, Sertão, Agreste and Zona da Mata:

Meio-Norte is made up of the State of Maranhão and a large part of the State of Piauí. The rain tends to fall mainly in the west towards the Northern states. In this region, it is very common to see Matas de Cocais. This local sub-tropical vegetation provides the soil with key nutrients.

Sertão is an extensive inland area with a semi-arid climate, which stretches across the coasts of the Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará states. The mostly flat soil in this region is rocky and rain scarce, and poorly distributed, making agricultural production harshly limited. Typical vegetation found in the sertão is a thorny, desert shrub called Caatinga. In the most humid areas, palm forests and Carnaubeira, a tree known for being able to grow anywhere and everywhere, can be found. The Sertão has many rivers that exist only in the rainy season and has very little, even irregular rainfall. The São Francisco River is the biggest in the region, and it is the only source of water for the populations that live around it.

Agreste is the transitional area between the Zona da Mata and the semi-arid Sertão. It is located on the Borborema Plateau, which is considered the region’s biggest geographical accident: a natural obstacle that prevents rain from reaching the Sertão. Stretching from the South of Bahia up to Rio Grande do Norte, the most fertile lands here are occupied by small farms, which bring about another defining feature of this sub-region: mixed farming (with the production of numerous agriculture products). The main cities in the Agreste were born from the vast cattle and food markets that were held here. Key cities in this sub-region include: Caruaru (Pernambuco State), Campina Grande (Paraiba State) and Feira de Santana (Bahia State).

Zona da Mata is the most populated and urbanised sub-region. It stretches from Rio Grande do Norte to the South of Bahia. This area attracts many tourists because of its beaches and tropical climate. Rain is most common during autumn and winter. Its name translates as "The Forest Zone" due to the Atlantic Forest originally covering the region. The fertile soil allows tropical and sub-tropical forests to grow here. Unfortunately, the forest is practically extinct, as sugar cane farms replaced it during the colonisation.


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