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The Brazilian experience

An approach to development centred on hunger eradication

An approach to development centred on hunger eradication

In the 1930s, Josué de Castro reached the conclusion that hunger in Brazil was the consequence of distortions created by an economic development model that exploited the poor, effectively excluding them from enjoying its benefits. By the end of the 20th century, Brazil’s economy was growing fast, but the gap between rich and poor was widening and 44 million of the country’s 170 million people were caught in a hunger trap. They were too poor to buy the food they needed for a healthy life and so were denied the opportunity of participating in Brazil’s growing prosperity. Zero Hunger was launched by President Lula in 2003 to help improve the situation by introducing a new development model centred on hunger eradication and social inclusion, linking macro-economic, social and productive policies. He sought to make this a truly national effort by engaging the widest possible participation of Brazilians.

Brazil is now looked to by other countries for lessons on how to tackle hunger, food insecurity and poverty reduction. The success of Zero Hunger is due to five main factors:

1. Political commitment at the highest level: From his first day in office, PresidentLula placed hunger eradication and poverty reduction at the very centre of Brazil’s development. He engaged all sectoral ministries and levels of government as well as Brazilian society in general in a massive, concerted effort to work on this agenda.

2. Zero hunger goals were reflected in Brazil’s macro-economic policies.

3.  An integrated national food and nutrition security policy was created, which was later underpinned by a new legal and institutional framework. This was based on the concept that it was the Government’s duty to ensure that all Brazilians could enjoy their right to adequate food.

4. Twin-track approach: policies for raising production were linked to those promoting social inclusion so as to enhance effect. In this way, the new buying power created by social protection was harnessed to stimulate increased food production by small-scale farmers who were poor themselves, thereby strengthening the local economies of their
communities.

5. The Zero Hunger initiative learned from other experiences: Zero Hunger built upon existing local and national policies in Brazil and also looked for inspiration elsewhere. The cash transfer programme is inspired by the United States Food Stamps programme, created in the aftermath of the Great Depression, while the virtuous circle between local production and consumption is based on experiences from California.

In the ten years since it was launched, Zero Hunger has shown that it is possible to combine rapid economic growth with improved income distribution. It demonstrates that social protection is not ‘welfare’; rather it is a sound investment in human capital that not only puts an end to hardship, suffering and the worst of injustices, but also stimulates growth by enabling people to fulfil their creative and productive potential. In so doing, the people who benefit become a new source of demand for goods and services, including food.

This approach to development has inspired a new generation of policies in Brazil and its success has led the country to set itself a new goal in the ‘Brazil Without Extreme Poverty Plan’.

For more information, please download the document in pdf.