Perhaps, the Brazilians are the luckiest set in voting back to power a president crusading against hunger exactly as he did in his first time in power. That campaign makes him as well as Brazil the cynosure of all eyes in global governance, from great powers to global civil society, researchers, anti-globalisation campaigners and the media. The article was originally titled Brazil’s return: Towards zero hunger (again).
By Saulo Arantes Ceolin & Luiz Carlos Keppe Nogueira*
Brazil is predominantly known by many as a major player in the agricultural sector and a powerful exporter of soy, beef, and coffee, but the nation’s role is much broader in the realm of food security and nutrition.
Brazil’s dedication to food security issues at the international level is deeply rooted in its belief that hunger is more than just a passing crisis. It is a telling symptom of larger developmental challenges and systemic poverty. Hunger is the most severe and perverse consequence of global inequality. Brazil positioned itself as a prominent voice on this issue by leading by example.
From the 2000s, the Brazilian government rolled out a suite of strategic policies promoting food security and nutrition. These initiatives were highly successful, leading to Brazil’s removal from FAO’s Hunger Map in 2014 and establishing the nation as a global benchmark in the promotion of the Human Right to Adequate Food (HRAF).
Fight against food insecurity through South-South cooperation
By engaging on bilateral and South-South cooperation, Brazil has been able to share its experiences and insights with other developing nations, particularly those in Africa and Latin America. The Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), for instance, has spearheaded several technical cooperation projects, focused on reinforcing local agricultural practices, bolstering institutional capacities, and championing the cause of family farming.
However, subsequent years brought a myriad of internal and external challenges, spanning political, economic, and environmental sectors, exacerbated by the Covid19 pandemic. This led to significant setbacks in Brazil’s efforts to reduce hunger within its own borders. According to the SOFI 2023 report (with data up to 2022), 4.7 percent of Brazilians are undernourished, 10 percent face severe food insecurity, and 23 percent experience moderate food insecurity.
Against this backdrop, Brazil’s new government is once again prioritizing the fight against food insecurity both domestically and internationally.
Efforts to update food security programs
Brazil’s triumph in enhancing food security and nutrition until mid-2010s was due to a mix of multi-sectoral strategies addressing structural barriers to producing, distributing, and consuming adequate food. Today, efforts are underway to emulate this success by revisiting and updating programs like Bolsa Família [Family Stipend], Food Acquisition Program, the Family Agriculture Harvest Plan, and the National School Feeding Program.
The revised Bolsa Família underscores the monitoring of conditionalities. These include health metrics for children up to seven, pregnant women, and women aged 14-44. The Food Acquisition Program (PAA) facilitates public purchases of produce from family farmers and traditional communities. The program’s budget jumped from R$ 2 million in 2022 to R$ 500 million in 2023. The 2023 Family Agriculture Harvest Plan has earmarked R$ 71.6 billion for family farm credit, a 34 percent hike from 2022. The interest rates are favorable, with some target groups paying as low as 3 percent.
Another key initiative is the restructuring of the National Food and Nutrition Security System (SISAN), comprising participative councils at federal, state, and municipal levels. The federal council, CONSEA (National Council for Food Security and Nutrition/Conselho Nacional de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricionalwas reinstated in February. It features a majority of civil society representatives, whose participation in the shaping and monitoring of national food security-related public policies is one of the distinguishing marks of the successful Brazilian approach.
The federal government’s upcoming plan called Brasil Sem Fome (Brazil Without Hunger Plan) aims to coordinate these and other public policies to uphold the Human Right to Adequate Food. The plan’s mission is to eradicate severe food insecurity in Brazil within four years. Monitoring mechanisms will be put in place, led by the Ministry of Development, Family Assistance, and Fight Against Hunger, ensuring constant evaluation and adjustment of the strategies.
Reflecting Brazil’s traditional approach, these revamped policies aim to address hunger’s root causes, intimately tied to poverty and inequality. They seek to ensure sustainable food production, efficient distribution, and the financial means for people to access and regularly consume adequate, nutritious and sufficient food. Emphasis is also placed on the needs of vulnerable groups, addressing disparities associated with race, gender, and ethnicity.
Building equitable food systems
In light of the rising significance of food security, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently established a General Coordination for Food Security and Nutrition (CGSAN). CGSAN, along with other departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Brazil’s diplomatic network, actively engages in discussions and negotiations in forums like the FAO, WFP, IFAD, WTO and the World Food Security Committee. Brazil is also active in regional blocs like Mercosur and CELAC and platforms such as the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO). Within these fora, Brazil has been vocal about establishing a global system that is equitable, inclusive, and leans heavily towards the sustainable production and distribution of food.
In 2024, during its upcoming G20 presidency, Brazil intends to provide a sense of urgency to the global fight against poverty and hunger in the G20 discussions.
Within the framework of ACTO, Brazil has been pushing for initiatives related to food and nutritional security, sustainable agricultural practices, and fostering a thriving regional bioeconomy. The aim is to encourage knowledge exchange and propagate best practices among the member nations, aiming for the holistic development of the Amazon region.
Furthermore, Brazil supports the implementation of the Food Security Strategy of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), as well as its Council on Food Security and Nutrition (CONSAN-CPLP), which draw inspiration from Brazil’s food security and nutrition framework.
The future of food security and nutrition
In summary, Brazil’s journey in promoting food security and nutrition, though marked by challenges, showcases the nation’s unwavering commitment to address hunger’s structural causes. The current policies, enriched by past experiences, signify the country’s dedication to protect the human right to adequate food and nutrition both at home and abroad. As Brazil continues to innovate and integrate these policies, its leadership in global fora cements its role in shaping the global food security landscape.
The authors are of the General Coordination for Food and Nutrition Security (CGSAN) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil