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Geography, climate and population


Brazil is politically divided into 26 states and one federal district. Geographically it consists of five regions: North, Northeast, Southeast, South and Centre-west. The total area of the country is just over 8.5 million km2. It is the fifth largest country of the world, after the Russian Federation, Canada, the United States of America and China.

In 2012, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 80 million ha, of which 91 percent (73 million ha) consisted of annual crops and 9 percent (7 million ha) of permanent crops (Table 1). In 2002, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 69 million ha, of which 89 percent for annual crops. Looking at crops with an harvested area of over one million ha, the largest increases were in the harvested areas of soybeans, from 13.97 to 23.97 million or 72 percent ha, and of sugarcane, from 4.95 to 9.60 million ha or 94 percent. A large amount of land is still available for further agricultural production, especially in the Centre-west in the cerrado (savanna) areas.


The average annual precipitation for the period 1961-2007 is 1 761 mm, ranging from values of 500 mm in the semiarid Northeast to more than 3 000 mm in the North in the Amazon region. The lowest long-term average annual precipitation occurs in the San Francisco basin (1 003 mm), the East Atlantic basin (1 018 mm), the eastern part of Northeast Atlantic (1 052 mm) and Parnaíba (1 064 mm). The highest long-term average annual precipitation is observed in the Amazon region (2 205 mm), Tocantins-Araguaia (1 774 mm), the western part of Northeast Atlantic (1 700 mm) and South Atlantic (1 644 mm) (ANA, 2012).

The five geographical regions show a very wide diversification of climate (Table 2):

  • The North covers almost the whole Amazon region, being the largest extension of hot and humid forest in the world. It occupies almost half of the country and the climate is hot and humid.
  • The Northeast includes Brazil’s semi-arid lands, which have an irregularly-distributed annual rainfall averaging from 750 mm to less than 250 mm.
  • The Southeast, stretching approximately from 14 degrees south to the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.5 degrees south, receives most of its rainfall in the summer and winters are milder.
  • The South is in the temperate zone with cool and relatively dry winters and warm and relatively humid summers. It has two well-defined characteristics: one is its homogeneous rainfall within the region and the other is the uniform climate, the prevalence of the mesotermic climate.
  • The Centre-west stretches from the fringes of the Amazon basin in the west to the state of Goiás in the east, and from 8 degrees to 24 degrees south. At its westerly extreme it has a relatively well-distributed annual rainfall of up to 2 500 mm. Further to the east, rainfall decreases to some 1 000 mm.


In 2013, the total population was about 200 million, of which around 15 percent was rural (Table 1). Population density is 24 inhabitants/km2. In 2003, the total population was estimated at 182 million (18 percent rural), reflecting an average annual demographic growth rate over this period of 1.0 percent. The North is the most sparsely populated and the Southeast the most densely populated. In 2001, the population density was 21 inhabitants/km2 varying from 3 inhabitants/km2 in the North, to 30 in the Northeast, 74 in the Southeast, 41 in the South and 7 in the Centre-west.

In 2012, 98 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (100 and 85 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 81 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (87 and 49 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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