14 February 2003, Rome -- Brazil will receive US$1 million for its Zero Hunger Project from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The UN agency will provide technical support for the programme which aims to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. The Zero Hunger Project was launched by President Luiz Inązio Lula da Silva on 30th January 2003.

FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf is to meet today with President Lula to discuss means of further strengthening the close collaboration between FAO, the government and other sectors involved in the struggle against hunger.

They are also expected to discuss issues related to agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development as well the production, sale and distribution of food products.

"This sum represents a modest initial contribution which will allow the Zero Hunger Project to begin immediately," Dr. Diouf said. "The Zero Hunger project is a very important programme, not just for Brazil but also for the entire international community and for FAO," he said.

"It represents the strongest and most concrete position taken by a government to reach the goal set by Heads of State and Government during the World Food Summit: to halve the number of hungry people in the world by 2015," he added.

The initial sum of one million dollars will allow FAO to shortly begin three technical cooperation projects in Brazil to:

  • Adjust internationally financed projects in order to support the Zero Hunger Project.
    FAO contribution: US$ 252 000.

  • Design and offer capacity-building courses to counter the effects of drought and bolster the profitability and productivity of the rural populations of North-Eastern Brazil.
    FAO contribution: US$ 377 000.

  • Support the initial implementation of the Zero Hunger Project with technical consultation on urban and peri-urban agriculture, rural household agriculture, settlements and land reform as well as follow-up projects and evaluation.
    FAO contribution: US$ 368,000.

FAO will also provide Brazil with the broad experience gained through the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS). The programme, promoted by FAO since 1994 and currently active in more than 70 countries, will provide an important point of reference for the practical application of the Zero Hunger Project principles.

The Hunger of the Missed Meal

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 regions of the country, almost half of all families live on an income of approximately a dollar a day.

"The problem of hunger in Brazil is different to the tragic images that we associate with Southern Africa, where people simply have nothing to eat," said Andrew MacMillan, FAO's Director of Field Operations.

"In Brazil, hunger means having a half-full plate or perhaps just eating one meal a day. Over the long-term this is debilitating for the population and it weakens the development opportunities of a country rich in potential like Brazil," MacMillan said.

"Fighting hunger is not merely a moral imperative but represents a highly profitable investment which will generate much more than the initial small sum invested," he added.

The Zero Hunger Project recognises that low incomes are the main cause of chronic hunger in Brazil. It aims to tackle this problem by providing an additional income through an electronic card which will enable people to buy basic food items. It is hoped that the additional demand for these basic foods will stimulate their production by small-scale farmers who represent a large portion of the country's poor and hungry.

Encouraging both adult and infant education will also be incorporated into the project. In order to benefit from the system families will, for example, have to prove that theirchildren attend school and adult family members will have to enrolon training courses.

The project's long-term central objective is to reduce the population's dependence on immediate aid and assistance programmes.

Nuria Felipe Soria
Information officer, FAO
[email protected]
(+39) 06 570 55899