2003, Rome -- In Brazil poverty affects more
than a quarter of the population - some 44 million people. In
the nine states in north eastern Brazil, the poorest parts of
the country, almost half of all families live on approximately a
dollar a day.
The first priority of the
new President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is to ensure that
every Brazilian eats three times a day. He has launched an
ambitious programme called Zero Hunger, with the support of FAO.
Andrew MacMillan, Director of the Field
Operation Division, talks about FAO's support for the Zero
has long been viewed as a country with great social
inequalities, but hunger has hardly been mentioned. Has there
always been a lack of food in Brazil or is this a recent
Hunger is the most
extreme manifestation of the huge problem of poverty in Brazil.
Few people die of starvation, but there is widespread chronic
food insecurity and malnutrition. This means that people are
unable to produce or gain access to enough food of an adequate
quality for a healthy life. It is the hunger of the missed meal,
and it is very debilitating.
current situation needs urgent interventions and President Lula
has given himself just the four years of his mandate to solve
the problem. Will Brazil need emergency interventions?
It was President Lula himself who answered
this question when he launched the Zero Hunger Project on 30
January 2003. He said solving hunger cannot be simply an
emergency project but the situation requires both giving fish
and showing how to fish at the same time.
Zero Hunger shares FAO's philosophy of
eradicating world hunger, following the two-pronged approach of
FAO's Anti-Hunger Programme - to both develop
income-generating household agriculture and ensure adequate
access to food.
In the north east of
Brazil, almost half of all families live on approximately a
dollar a day. It is for these people that we must act. And it is
for this group of people that the Zero Hunger Project has begun
its activities with the technical and financial backing of FAO.
What is the basis for the Zero
The Zero Hunger
Project recognizes that low incomes are the main cause of
chronic hunger and that an income supplement needs to be
provided. It will be done through an electronic card. The
beneficiaries will have to show that funds received have been
spent mainly on basic food items and cooking fuel. They will
have to proof that their children go to school and that adults
have enrolled in a training programme which will improve their
employability, and thus reduce their dependence on future help.
How is FAO supporting this
Director-General, Jacques Diouf, will visit Brazil to explore
how we can deepen our collaboration further. For the moment, FAO
has already approved three projects. Through these initiatives,
FAO will support the Zero Hunger with expertise in areas such as
urban and peri-urban agriculture, family farming, settlements
and land reform, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation.
It is a paradox that Brazil is one
of the world's main exporters of agricultural commodities -
selling soya, sugar and coffee abroad. But on the other hand,
according to FAO, 16.7 million people are
Yes, there is no
doubt that there has been a very impressive growth in
large-scale farm production in Brazil over the last two decades
but this has not happened in the subsistence farming sector.
In many countries, the very success of
agriculture has been disastrous for poor rural people. Advanced
countries have absorbed their surplus rural population in other
sectors, allowing farm size to increase and economies of scale
to take effect. But in most developing countries, small farmers
have either had to remain on the land, often with a diminishing
size of plot as families have grown, or tomigrate to the cities
with no job in sight. Most chronically food insecure people are,
therefore, small farmers or recent urban migrants who have fled
The Zero Hunger Project
seeks to address this imbalance. It will use the extra demand
for food which it creates to stimulate local markets, generating
growth opportunities for farmers, especially small farmers. In
this way it will help both poor consumers and poor producers.
Facts and figures:
- The top 20 percent of the population earn
60 percent of the country's income, whilst the lowest 20
percent survive on less than 4 percent.
In 1999, 44 million Brazilians, more than a quarter of the
population, lived in absolute poverty. Their daily income was
below US$1.06. Recent figures suggest that this number is now
over 50 million.
- The number of people who
suffer from chronic undernourishment is not known accurately and
is a subject of much debate. According to FAO's estimates,
using methodology applied internationally, in 1998-2000, some
16.7 million Brazilians ( about 10 percent of the population)
were chronically undernourished.