Brazil: from the exit of the Hunger Map to international benchmark 815 million people live in food insecurity in the world - but the solution to part of the problem may be in Brazil

Paulo Palma Beraldo and Ludimila Honorato

SÃO PAULO AND ROME - Whether it is because of the use of technologies in the field, advances in productivity or public policies in the area of agriculture and food, Brazil is on the rise and has captured the eyes of the world. On leaving the Hunger Map in 2014, the country reduced the number of people in food insecurity situation by 84% in 24 years, which has caught the attention of the international community.

The reduction has meant that less than 5% of the inhabitants suffer from the problem, overcoming hunger as a structural issue in the country, according to the United Nations. But now Brazilian mission is bigger: helping other countries solve food insecurity, which affects 815 million people daily.

International interest grows as Brazil becomes a benchmark in global actions and discussions on poverty eradication and hunger reduction. According to the National Household Sample Survey (Pnad, in Portuguese initials) about Food Security, 6.9% of Brazilians lived in food insecurity in 2004, number that dropped to 3.2% in 2013, the year of the last survey. On the other hand, food security throughout the country increased - from 65.1% to 77.4% in the same years.

In addition, technologies adopted in the field were able to give more efficiency to production, increase income of farmers and contribute to the agribusiness development. The scenario is more than propitious to the sector that represents a quarter of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and almost half of the country's exports.

Public policies developed n Brasilia are a world reference for the eradication of hunger. Photo: Paulo Beraldo / De Olho no Campo

International model

What Brazil does in the field and in politics in relation to food and nutritional security have attracted the attention of organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Countries in Asia and Africa, for example, began to develop actions similar to Brazilian ones within their realities.

According to Odilson Ribeiro, secretary of international relations of the Ministry of Agriculture, the increase of production in the future will come from the intense use of technologies, like it happened in Brazil.

"There was a very large increase in Brazilian production and participation in international trade. This drew attention”, he says, recalling that in 30 years soybean productivity, the country's main commodity, increased by 70%. The current crop is expected to yield 108 million tonnes, one of the highest in history.

Examples of Increase in productivity, directly linked to the use of technologies, can be useful for other countries with tropical climate. Photo: Paulo Beraldo / De Olho no Campo

"The great interest of foreigners in Brazilian agribusiness is the contact with technologies that can develop agriculture throughout the world, especially in the tropical regions, where the underdeveloped countries are located”, says Ribeiro.

As innovations, he mentions techniques of soil treatment, the manufacture of machinery for small-scale production, the incorporation of organic matter to the soil and the integration between crop, livestock and forest, present in more than 12 million hectares in the country.

"The interest of countries to know and see these policies, seeking support in implementing these policies in their regions, remains firm", says Daniel Balaban, director of the World Food Program's Centre of Excellence Against Hunger. As an example, he mentions the Food Acquisition Program (PAA, in Portuguese) created in 2003 under the Zero Hunger Program initiatives to stimulate local agricultural and family production.

Brasília was chosen to become an international cooperation hub in the areas of agriculture and food security. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo / De Olho no Campo

"The program supports the maintenance of small farmers in their regions so that they are not forced to leave there in search of employment in large centers", Balaban explains. "The support is small, but is enough to keep them producing." The food purchase goes to hospitals and penitentiaries, for example.

The funds invested in this program, however, have fallen in the last three years, according to data from the Ministry of Social Development. In 2015, the government allocated R$ 655.6 million to the PAA, reducing to R$ 439.4 million in 2016 and a R$ 362.3 million last year.

According to Patricia Gentil, director of the Department of Structuring and Integration of Public Agri-Food Systems of the National Secretariat of Food and Nutrition Security of the Ministry of Social Development, the reduction in budget is due to the "current social situation of the government".

However, she believes that programs have the potential to continue to evolve. "We have a solid construction, despite the difficulties from the crisis point of view, which is a bigger problem, the programs are working. Our expectation is that none of this will stop happening, because it has demand and (international) interest", says.

Another Brazilian reference project in the world is the National School Feeding Program (PNAE, in Portuguese). "The best way to feed [children] is by creating programs in the schools, because it encourages children to go to school, encourages gender equality - there are countries that forbid girls from going to school, but with food they allow them", says Daniel Balaban, of the World Food Program. In addition, at school, children have contact with other ones and see the importance of eating well, taking home better habits.

The office of the United Nations in Brasília will also represent the International Fund for Agricultural Development by the end of 2018. Photo: Paulo Beraldo / De Olho no Campo

South-South cooperation

With such actions, Brazil begins to integrate the South-South cooperation model, in which developing countries in the Southern Hemisphere share solutions to problems they have in common. According to economist Leonardo Bichara Rocha, director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Brazil, the country has the responsibility to lead the debate and dialogue in this cooperation.

"We have to hand on successful experiences to other countries, to federal government agencies and to set joint rural development goals with other multilateral institutions", Rocha says.

According to Jeff Terry, Amway's global social responsibility leader, a multinational food and health care company, this cooperation strengthens the countries. "Though there remains higher volatility in economies in the South, the rise of stronger middle classes in more countries is and will continue to bring stronger and more stable economies", he says. According to him, therefore, the socio-economic opportunities and partnerships between countries in the South will grow in the future.

Partnerships between the public and private sectors with the civil society are also seen as exemplary. For Terry, all sectors need to bring their knowledge to systemic approaches in order to solve problems.

"A primary focus needs to be trust-building between the sectors so that resources to be used across the sectors to achieve mutually agreed upon objectives for hunger and malnutrition reduction and improved health", he says.

He cites the work of Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), which combines private sector, civil society, large donors and government to address hunger challenges around the world. "It is not a perfect model, but it allows for all these sectors to work collaboratively together and to align around country-level goals and objectives."

Creating bonds

International interest in the Brazilian model motivated IFAD to choose Brasilia as one of the three cooperation centers in the area of small and medium-scale agriculture. The United Nations' agency was created in Rome in 1978 to reduce poverty in the countryside. The other headquarters are in Ethiopia and in China.

With the inauguration of the new office, Brazil will be the only country to have two offices of the organization - the first is in Salvador and coordinates operations in seven states in the Northeast, where the agency serves 400,000 families.

"Brasília will be an international hub for cooperation and knowledge management in family agriculture and rural development", says Italian economist Paolo Silvestri, coordinator of Latin America and Caribbean region and responsible for Brazil at IFAD.
Paolo Silvestri, coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean regions of Ifad in Rome. Photo: Paulo Beraldo / De Olho no Campo

According to Silvestri, this UN agency is unique because it can reach places "where no one arrives" with economically productive and sustainable proposals. "A desert territory, without future and hope, can, with the actions of Ifad and with local forces, transform the situation of poverty into a latent wealth," he explains.

The economist says that the poor regions have many people in disposition, but without the resources and tools to go beyond. "When you can develop human capacities and put financial resources at the disposal, the multiplier effect is impressive." According to the expert, many regions, such as the Northeast, the region most affected by poverty in the country, only need a catalyst to generate a positive reaction . "And Ifad is that catalyst," he says.

According to the North American Ronald Hartman, leader of the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions, Ifad is able to support the 500 million small farmers around the world in actions such as facilitating access to credit, creating organizations and obtaining insurance agricultural activities. "Many people in the countryside are not organized into cooperatives or associations. Together, they can have a stronger voice and get more support locally", says.

For Ashwani Muthoo, the director of global strategies, Brazil is attractive for the capacity of producing and exporting technologies created for small-scale agriculture and the techniques of adaptation to tropical conditions.

Headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Ifad, the agency set up by the United Nations in 1978 in Rome to reduce rural poverty. Photo: Paulo Palma Beraldo / De Olho no Campo

"With the increasing impact of climate change and the need to improve the efficiency of agricultural production, Brazilian technologies have a golden opportunity to be known and adopted," says Ashwani Muthoo, director of global strategies at Fida.

"Being in Brasília is a great opportunity and will allow a more consistent and constant dialogue. Brazil has many lessons to teach us. The spaces for cooperation are changing and emerging countries want to collaborate and grow together" - Ronald Hartman, leader of the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions of Ifad.
"Opening another office in Brazil was a growing desire of the institution to bring the international community closer to Brazil. The physical presence in Brasília increases the opportunities for joint initiatives and develops even more the South-South cooperation agenda" - Ashwani Muthoo, director of global strategies of Ifad.
"Brazil can capitalize on this role and be a pioneer in cooperation technologies among developing countries. Many countries are looking for opportunities the country can offer. We must use what is good internally and spread the practices to help solve food insecurity problems" - José Maria Souza Jr, professor of International Relations at the Faculdades Rio Branco.
"Brazil has a number of public policies that have worked and made the country an example to follow" - Alan Bojanic, representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Brazil.

What is missing?

Although it is creating a positive vision internationally, Brazil still has some internal challenges. According to the Malnutrition Mapping Project, conducted by Amway with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, 5.6% of Brazilian children under 5 do not have the ideal height for their age - one of the first signs of malnutrition - and 7.1% are overweight.

Although he still needs help to combat this scenario, he believes that the country can collaborate internationally. "Brazil is a leader and must be at the table in developing strategies and plans to eliminate hunger and malnutrition around the world", says.

In Brazil, Amway works in schools and communities in the North and Northeast with the Power of 5 campaign to ensure that children and families are receiving nutritional education, regular health assessment, vitamins and food. "Early childhood development is the key to fighting both hunger and malnutrition," says Terry.

According to Daniel Balaban, what is more important, more expensive, can be solved by encouraging farmers. "The more people without productive field, the cheaper to have access to what makes us good."

Balaban also points out that current policies need to be maintained and improved. "The issue of combating hunger and poverty can not be tied to partisan politics because it prevents them from being perpetual and continues to be developed."

Faced with political and economic uncertainties, he remains confident. "I no longer see any change in government affect policies like these, because they are successful and internationally recognized," he says.

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