Information and news on Brazil

 BrazilBy hosting both the Football World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games in recent years, Brazil put the focus of the world’s attention firmly upon itself. In the resulting spotlight, many Brazilian citizens took the unique opportunity to voice concerns to the Brazilian government, with the wider world audience looking on. Protests and reform movements abounded in the past decade as a rapidly widening middle class made unprecedented demands in Brazil’s increasingly mobile and globally integrated society.

Among these movements, students and teachers in Brazil banded together to protest deficiencies in an education system that has long underserved Brazil’s citizens. In 2016, protestors occupied hundreds of schools nationwide to bring attention to the country’s needs.

In response to the protests and upheavals of the past few years, governments at every level in Brazil are beginning initiatives to address educational shortfalls. In many areas, education reforms in Brazil look familiar to readers from the United States. Ideas like performance pay for teachers and turning school management over to private charter organizations are spreading throughout the country at a rapid rate.

Application of the new American-inspired techniques is inconsistent however, and most education reforms in Brazil are still too new to evaluate effectively. In particular, schools in large urban centers are innovating at a faster rate than systems in less developed areas of the country. Regardless, enthusiasm is high. Many of the movements are being fueled by the personal initiative of teachers, who are in some ways pulling their more conservative institutions forward with them.

Technology in Brazilian schools shows a similarly inconsistent yet hopeful picture. Schools in Rio de Janeiro, for example, are leaders in educational technology use in South America. In Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city, one nonprofit foundation leads an initiative to translate and implement the Khan Academy materials for use in Brazilian schools. This popular online curriculum and method now features in hundreds of Brazilian schools reaching over 70,000 students.

In addition to the visible presence of the popular video-based curriculum, officials at the Lemann Foundation are even more excited about the potential for the support material and quality measurement features of the Khan Academy method. They see these “back end” features as creating real lasting value for future advances in Brazil’s schools.

Still, regions outside of the country’s largest cities have not progressed as quickly. Internet speeds to schools in Brazil are one unexpected challenge. While Brazil is a world leader in mobile internet infrastructure, most connections to schools do not reach the 2Mbps threshold considered ideal for the delivery of online materials. Fortunately, one potential solution to this challenge is on the way. KALite, a compressed, offline version of the Khan Academy materials, is now being implemented in areas with less robust infrastructure.

Some of these tech-heavy initiatives are showing early signs of success. Brazilian students using these self-paced, interactive tools are more likely to show up to class, and anecdotal reports indicate a higher level of morale and enthusiasm as well.

Brazil instituted compulsory primary education in the 1980s, after the end of military rule. In many ways, that change was impressively successful. Literacy rates, for example, are far higher today than in the latter half of the 20th century, and enrollment has strongly improved. Still, educational attainment lags behind nations at a similar stage of development. Brazil’s education system is ranked 105th in quality out of 122 nations by the World Economic Forum.

As time passes, results from more structural changes will be seen as well, and time will tell whether the legacy of these education reforms in Brazil will garner the same attention as the sporting events that precipitated their beginning.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in BrazilThe United States Department of Agriculture defines sustainable agriculture as the production of plant and animal products using practices that will appease human needs for food, increase the quality of the environment and enhance the conditions of life for farmers and ultimately society.

Agriculture is a crucial industry in Brazil, as the country has immense agricultural resources available to it. It is one of the world’s largest countries and contains a vast area of land, an ample supply of fresh water and an abundant variety of various species of plants and wildlife. The country’s wide range of atmospheric conditions, paired with its advancements in technological developments, has allowed for sustainable agriculture in Brazil.

This, however, has not stopped the rise of obesity that this developing country has faced. Approximately 20.8 percent of the country’s population over age 15 has been categorized as obese. About 25 percent of women and around 18 percent of men aged 15 and over are considered overweight in Brazil.  

The obesity increase has created a huge issue for Brazil’s public health system. Diagnoses of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease have skyrocketed. Doctors and weight specialists have identified this weight gain as occurring mostly among the poorest segments of the population, caused by the low cost of junk food and processed food.

In May 2017, Brazil became the first country to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) commitments towards curbing obesity, as part of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025.

The three commitments they promised to achieve by the year 2019 are to halt the rise of the rate of obesity in adults, lower the consumption of sugary beverages among adults by at least 30 percent and increase the number of adults who regularly eat fruits and vegetables by 17.8 percent.

Brazil has outlined the specific measures it will take to achieving these goals. These include, but are not limited to, reducing the price of fresh foods, providing loans to farmer families at a lower interest rate and providing direct transfers payments to poverty-stricken families so they can purchase fresh produce. The government has also made promises to create more sustainable agriculture in Brazil by vowing to increase public procurement of goods from family farmers.

The Brazilian people can play a critical role in creating sustainable agriculture in Brazil. Through their purchases, they are able to send messages to these producers and businesses about what they think is important for consumption. By promoting healthy, affordable diets made possible by Brazilian agriculture, the country can address multiple issues in a single effort. 

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

Technology Boosts Credit Access in Brazil for Small BusinessBrazil’s commercial sector is overwhelmingly populated by small businesses. According to a report by SEBRAE, a small business agency of the Brazilian federal government, microenterprises and small businesses, defined as those with less than $1 million in annual revenues, make up 99 percent of the country’s 7 million commercial ventures.

Small businesses have driven tremendous growth in the Brazilian economy in the 21st century, raising millions of Brazilians out of poverty, but these businesses still face numerous difficulties in their daily operations. For example, credit access in Brazil has historically been expensive and difficult to obtain. This poses a challenge for small businesses and sole proprietors wishing to borrow modest amounts to cover inventory or to invest in new ventures.

Among the 20 largest world economies, Brazil has had the highest interest rates for commercial lending in recent decades, and banking fees are similarly high. Brazil’s financial system is highly concentrated, with a few large banks handling the vast majority of assets and transactions.

In recent years, however, new players have entered the market for consumer and small business finance in Brazil. Financial technology (FinTech) firms are making inroads into the largely untapped market for credit access in Brazil and giving many small businesses in the large South American nation new opportunities for growth. A 2017 report by Goldman Sachs noted that the unusually high-interest rates and bank fees in Brazil increase the incentives for upstart financial companies to compete with large established banks. Because of the unusual concentration of banking in just a few small firms, FinTech stands to have a much larger impact by increasing credit access in Brazil than it does in other nations where the financial system is already more diverse.

By September 2017, Brazil had the largest number of operating FinTech startup companies in Latin America, topping even strong growth in Mexico, the region’s next most populous country. NuBank, Brazil’s most visible new financial technology company, has received more than 10 million applications in the past three years for new credit accounts. NuBank offers small business loans as well as personal credit in Brazil and the firm has recently seen growth as fast as 10 percent per month.

Some of the circumstances fueling these changes have been readily apparent on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and other large Brazilian cities for years. In the busiest urban blocks there, dozens of young people chat with each other using Internet-connected smartphones, and strangers exchanging information for the first time often offer a WhatsApp account or Facebook handle instead of a traditional phone number. FinTech firms are taking advantage of this phenomenon by developing a strong mobile presence and enthusiastically engaging with mobile and internet commerce.

Small enterprise is everywhere in Brazil’s large cities as well. Sidewalk kiosks and small local businesses make up the vast majority of retail establishments on every block of Rio’s densely packed downtown and its historical and beachfront neighborhoods. The scene is similar in Salvador and São Paulo, Brazil’s largest and third-largest cities, respectively.

Small business is an essential element to developing the economic potential of Brazil, the world’s sixth most populous country. Expanding employment and commercial opportunities can raise the standard of living for millions of low-income citizens who have not yet been fully helped by Brazil’s robust economic growth in the past few decades. With millions of Brazilians employed by these ubiquitous small businesses and the access to personal capital expanding at a rapid rate, the FinTech revolution in Latin America’s largest economy promises to be a winning story for economic development and poverty reduction for years to come.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in Brazil
Development projects in Brazil are creating change and improving the large South American nation. Although numerous efforts are being made to improve quality of life, here are the 5 most prevalent development projects in Brazil occurring today.

1. On October 20, 2017, Paraiba Sustainable Rural Development was approved.

Over the next five years (the project closes on the 15th of December, 2023), this project aims to improve access to water, reduce agro-climatic vulnerability, and increase access to markets for the inhabitants of rural Paraiba. Paraiba is a state of Brazil, located on the coast in the Brazilian northeast. It is most populated along the coast, and becomes more rural as one goes inland.

The most important aspects of this project will be its construction and rehabilitation of piped and non-piped water systems, and its construction of desalinization facilities and rainwater harvesting systems for individual households. These projects will directly impact and improve access to clean water for rural inhabitants of Paraiba. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that the project will cost $80 million.

2. Another development project in Brazil is the Fortaleza Sustainable Urban Development Project.

Approved on April 28, 2017, the Fortaleza Sustainable Urban Development Project aims to strengthen land use planning in the Municipality of Fortaleza and to “enhance urban environment and rehabilitate public spaces.”

Included in the project’s goals of rehabilitating public spaces are restoring Rachel de Queiroz Park, and reducing point-source pollution along the Vertente Maritima — the seaside of Fortaleza, the capital of Caera in northeastern Brazil. By improving the environment through reducing pollution and rehabilitating green spaces, the city will be a healthier space for its inhabitants, eventually leading to a higher quality of life.

3. A third of the development projects in Brazil is the Bolsa Familia social assistance program.

Bolsa-Familia is an older project — it began in 2003 — that serves as an example of a project that successfully fights against poverty. The program functions by giving poor families small cash transfers in exchange for keeping their children in school and attending preventive healthcare visits. About 50 million people benefit from Bolsa-Familia (1 in 4 Brazilians) and the project was responsible for reducing poverty in Brazil by 28 percent from 2002 to 2012.

Additionally, the poor in Brazil have gained greater autonomy through Bolsa-Familia, particularly women who make up about 90 percent of the beneficiaries. By helping families out of poverty, Bolsa-Familia gives the families’ children a greater chance of bettering themselves and their job prospects, and not requiring a program like Bolsa-Familia when they have their own families.

4. Government-invested research through institutions such as the Embrapa Institute has helped support agricultural development in Brazil. 

Small family farms have benefitted from this research in addition to large agribusinesses. The growth in productivity and wealth for small family farms is extremely important for agricultural development in Brazil, as family farms account for 84 percent of Brazilian farms and 24 percent of Brazilian farmland.

5. Another of the development projects in Brazil focuses on societal growth and inclusion– the Piaui Pillars of Growth and Social Inclusion Project for Brazil.

Two of the main focuses of the Piaui Pillars of Growth and Social Inclusion Project for Brazil are to reduce the dropout rate of students in public secondary school and to increase healthcare access for people with chronic diseases; the Piaui Project began in 2015 and will close in 2020.

By focusing on these areas, the project hones in on human development in Brazil, which aids in increasing the quality of life and chances of success for Brazilians. Ensuring healthcare and education for all provides greater equality of chance and helps those struggling to not have to spend as much time and money taking care of issues outside of their control — issues like chronic diseases.

Projects like these five not only improve development in Brazil by the ways outlined in their plans, but also through the research, planning, and implementation that goes into enacting them. All of these stages require people, such as researches and project managers; thus, more jobs are created, also helping to improve development.

A country cannot go wrong by implementing projects for the development of its people, particularly those of the lowest economic brackets. By this measure, Brazil is certainly doing right.

– Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Brazil
Brazil’s learning initiatives focus on ending poverty at both the national and international levels. However, the Brazilian economic boom of the last decade seems to have concluded with millions returning to poverty. The following 10 facts about poverty in Brazil provide insight on the country’s current poverty threshold, political state, budget cuts and programs created to combat poverty.

 

Facts about Poverty in Brazil

 

  1. Brazil’s poverty line is set at 140 Brazilian reais per month, which roughly converts to $44 at the current exchange rate. Brazilians making less than $528 per year are considered to be in poverty.
  2. According to the World Bank, 28.6 million Brazilians emerged from poverty between 2004 and 2014. The World Bank further estimates that, from the start of 2016 to the end of this year, 2.5 million to 3.6 million Brazilians have fallen below the poverty line.
  3. Several cuts in social services, such as Bolsa Familia, have occurred under President Michel Temer. Bolsa Familia is Brazil’s family allowance program that provides monthly subsidies to qualifying low-income people. Non-labor income, such as Bolsa Familia, is responsible for the nearly 60 percent reduction of people living in poverty. Although increased unemployment pushes more citizens toward the program, fewer people are actually qualifying for coverage. Bolsa Familia’s decline in coverage may correlate with the recent crackdown on fraud, as Temer’s administration found discrepancies regarding 1.1 million recipients.
  4. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been under investigation regarding corruption allegations. Da Silva is appealing a conviction regarding a 10 year sentence for corruption, but he continues to lead preference polls for next year’s presidential election. His campaign promises to refocus on the poor and return to better economic times.
  5. After hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro has suffered extreme economic unrest. The city struggles to pay thousands of public workers, with many receiving wages in late installments. Further items that have been reduced from the budget include garbage collection and a community policing program.
  6. Brazil’s learning initiative World Without Poverty (WWP), or Mundo Sem Pobreza, educates the world on social protection policies and initiatives to fight poverty. Brazil’s innovative solutions have been documented for international access since 2014 and WWP continues to compile the best practices used by other countries to improve global social protection systems.
  7. The Food Purchase Program, PAA, encourages family farming and increases food availability. The program increases regional and local marketing networks, promotes purchasing of foodstuffs by government, endorses biodiversity and organic food production, supports cooperatives and associations and encourages healthy eating habits.
  8. Cisterns Program, or Programa Cisternas, is a national program to support rainwater harvesting and other social technologies for accessing water. It is a part of the Water For All program where concrete cisterns are built for water storage. Stored water is consumed by households, business facilities and rural schools in the semi-arid region.
  9. Brazil’s semi-arid region frequently suffers droughts. The Cisterns Program’s initial goal was to install one million cisterns for domestic use, which was achieved in 2014, and has since been surpassed. Although the region has experienced a harsh drought since 2012, negative effects, such as child mortality, mass migration and starvation, are no longer widespread.
  10. 43 percent of children under five (almost 250 million) in low and middle-income countries face severe developmental issues due to hunger, malnutrition and violence. The Lancet launched “Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale” in Brazil. This study focuses on child development from birth to three years of age, emphasizing the importance of proper care during this critical period. Insufficient care can result in poor academic performance, chronic diseases and other developmental issues.

According to Fox News, the average American spends approximately $1,100 per year, more than double Brazil’s poverty threshold, on coffee. A simple conclusion can be reached from these 10 facts about poverty in Brazil: if every American cut their coffee budget in half, they could help eradicate poverty in Brazil.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Drops for First the Time in Three YearsThe relationship between deforestation and poverty has long been interlinked and mutually destructive. Forests directly contribute to the livelihood of 90 percent of the world’s poor.

Forests cover one third of the world’s landmass and serve vital purposes around the globe, including regulating the atmosphere and providing shelter, sustenance and survival to millions of people. However, since 1990, the world has lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an area larger than South Africa. When combating this injustice, it is important to note that the world’s forests are very unevenly distributed. Brazil holds the world’s second largest share of forests, with approximately one quarter of the world’s total.

The Brazilian Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and it is “vital to the well-being of the peoples on our planet,” according to Rodrigo Medeiros, Vice President of CI-Brasil. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has long plagued the nation’s people, environment and economy.

Seven institutions, including the Brazilian Ministry of Environment and the World Bank, have joined together for the largest restoration effort ever made in Brazilian forests. The efforts to reverse the rampant deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is proving to be effective; the region’s deforestation fell by 16 percent in July 2017 compared to the previous year. This is the first decline in three years.

This decline is an indication that Brazil is making strides towards its climate change targets and towards a more prosperous and sustainable environment, which is essential for the eradication of poverty.

The multifaceted response to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is “helping Brazil demonstrate that it is possible to preserve the forest, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and at the same time strengthen the local communities,” said Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for Brazil.

The harmful relationship between deforestation and poverty requires that both be targeted individually in order to halt the cycle of deprivation across the globe. Forests help us breathe, provide shelter, foster biodiversity, regulate temperatures, influence weather patterns, prevent flooding, refill aquifers, block wind, stabilize Earth’s foundation, purify the air, provide nutrition, supply medicines and create jobs. When any of these life-saving advantages of forests are compromised due to deforestation, it is the world’s poor whose health and livelihood suffers most. It is imperative that the fight to end poverty, as well as the fight to sustainably manage forests, both continue without impeding each other.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Chronic Violence in Rio's Favelas and the Apps Helping to Save LivesDespite the Brazilian government’s efforts to protect favela inhabitants from drug and gang-related violence, concerns over public safety and security in Rio de Janeiro are at an all-time high. The prevalence of gun violence amid the struggle to wrest control of favelas away from drug traffickers has resulted in a staggering number of bystanders to be hit, often fatally, by stray bullets in police shootouts. As the embattled Brazilian state struggles to find effective solutions, two humanitarian organizations have developed applications whose aim is to help keep citizens out of harm’s way.

Translated literally from Portuguese, “favela” means slum or shantytown, but the diverse nature of these urban communities often belies such narrow labels. Typically colorful and teeming with life, favelas are low-income, informal housing centers that have become ubiquitous in Brazil’s largest cities.

Brazil’s first favela, now called Providência, was built in the center of Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th century by soldiers who found themselves homeless following the civil conflict known as the Canudos War. Today, an estimated 1,000 favelas are home to about 1.5 million people in Rio, which means that about 24 percent of Rio’s population lives in these communities.

Though the term “favela” has a historically negative connotation, conditions in favelas vary widely today and have over the past decade. While some of these centers are typified by destitution and the lack of resources, not all favela inhabitants identify with the negative labels typically applied to their communities. In fact, a 2013 study found that 85 percent of favela residents like the place where they live, 80 percent are proud of where they live and 70 percent would continue to live in their communities even if their income doubled.

Since this study, however, Brazil has entered into its worst economic recession since the 1930s. In 2014, Brazil celebrated its removal from the U.N. Hunger Map and prosperity seemed to be on the horizon. Just three years later, however, 14 million people are currently unemployed, hunger is yet again a pressing issue, and the number of incidents of gun violence between the police and drug traffickers has significantly increased.

Urban violence related to drug trafficking, which was largely believed to be a problem of the past, has reemerged in Rio de Janeiro. In 2008, the state established 38 Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) across the city’s favelas in response the problem of drug and gang-related violence, which has historically been centered around favelas. This program, which represents the state’s largest public monetary investment in the favelas to date, is dedicated to protecting inhabitants from gang and drug-related violence in Rio and removing the physical manifestation of the drug trade.

Initially, studies demonstrated that the UPPs were affecting positive outcomes in the favela communities. Crime rates fell and the price of real estate was on the rise. In the last three years, however, Brazil’s economic crisis has caused an uptick in crime rates, and the UPPs are struggling to maintain control of favelas.

Public safety concerns and the perception that the UPPs are not up to the task at hand have been exacerbated by the recent rise in the number of killings by police officers. In Rio, 569 people died at the hands of on-duty officers from January to October 2015, which represents an increase of 18 percent over the same period in 2014.

Sadly, shootings and assaults have become routine in Rio. This year, at least 2,800 shootings have been recorded since January, which equates to an average of more than 15 per day.

Last month, the Brazilian Army was called in to dispel a shootout that had emerged between police and an armed drug gang in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio. Just under 1,000 soldiers were dispatched to surround the favela and bring an end to the violence, which had forcibly closed schools, offices and other public buildings and added to the number of civilian fatalities.

Endeavoring to help protect citizens caught in the crossfire of the embattled police and military forces and drug gangs, two humanitarian organizations have developed applications that notify citizens of the location of gunfire in their locality. Amnesty International and a local researcher created “Fogo Cruzado,” or Cross Fire, and “Onde Tem Tiroteio” (Where Are the Firefights) was created by a volunteer group of Rio citizens. Operating in real time by collecting police and eyewitness reports, both applications are available for Android and iOS users.

As a home to millions, the reemergence of violence in Rio’s favelas despite past endeavors aimed at its eradication is extremely disheartening, and the resultant deaths have been mourned as tragedies. Though these applications are only temporary aids rather than the comprehensive solutions that the city desperately needs, they can help protect its residents and reduce the number of deaths caused by gun violence in Rio.

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Deforestation and PovertyDeforestation and poverty have had a close relationship to one another for a very long time. Individuals around the world have used wood either as a fuel for fire, shelter or weapons for hundreds of thousands of years. Nowadays, communities around the world that are not prosperous enough to survive begin to rely on selling wood and clearing forests in order to survive.

Much of the deforestation today is illegal. However, there are still communities that continue to subsist on illegally-felled wood. In fact, a World Bank report estimated that “illegal loggers cut down an area of forest the size of a football field every two seconds.” This cannot continue. Forests are vital to sustaining the worldwide ecosystem.

Currently, the top three countries involved in deforestation are Russia (mostly in the east), Brazil and the United States of America, which still has plenty of woodland. The U.S. is prosperous enough that it can afford to put resources into sustainable practices, such as replanting trees and improving enforcement of the law.

However, most other countries cannot afford these things. Most of the illegal logging comes from Russia, Brazil and China, attributing to 16.9 percent, 16.0 percent and 12.3 percent of all illegal logging worldwide, respectively.

It is unknown, though, whether the communities which do the illegal felling are in fact severely poor. Because people who are committing this crime do not want to expose themselves, there are few to no statistics on the exact portion of deforestation that is due to poverty. All three countries have relatively low GDP per capita’s though (between $8,000-$9,000 U.S. Dollars) as well as high GINI indices of above 41, which suggest that many of the communities in those countries survive on deforestation, are very poor.

However, we must be careful to not generalize this for all illegal deforestation. In fact, according to Forests News, big corporations are responsible for fueling this industry, as they can gain profits from agricultural land. Putting pressure on these businesses, such as McDonalds or Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), will likely lessen the effect of deforestation. However, it won’t help the poor become more prosperous, and it will likely make them even poorer.

Thus, what can be done against deforestation and poverty and poverty diminished by deforestation, for the sake of the environment, for the sake of the lives at risk and environmentalism?

Deforestation is vital for farmers who want to expand their farms to create more food for the world’s hungry. Unfortunately, solutions to the problem require worldwide participation against unsustainable practices and, of course, general poverty.

Even if we as a humankind were, in theory, to halt deforestation completely, it would mean that millions of people would potentially go hungry and disrupt the world economy. Therefore, the solutions must be carefully implemented over time.

Brazil has a great record of reducing poverty in previous years, reducing poverty from 24.7 percent in 2001 to 7.4 percent in 2014, according to the World Bank. It has also decreased deforestation from 21,000 square kilometers annually to only 8,000 square kilometers. What has the country done to battle deforestation and poverty?

For deforestation, it has invested more money into protecting the forest: 10 percent of the Amazon is now a protected area. For poverty, it created a slew of social programs, such the updating infrastructure, paid school attendance across the country and, most importantly, created “first global center for poverty reduction” called “Mundo Sem Pobreza.” Together, the two programs have worked in tandem to make the country the next big leader in fighting poverty and deforestation.

If Russia and China can learn from Brazil and focus on these issues in their respective nations, humanity will make great strides in battling both world poverty and climate change.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Help People in Brazil

Though Brazil boasts a strong economy, income disparity between the rich and poor is vast, and 3.7 percent of the total population lives in poverty. Much of the poverty in Brazil is concentrated in northern rural areas, where young people in particular feel the effects of poverty. In Northern Brazil, about 25 percent of all children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. This income disparity is partially due to unevenly distributed land, and high land prices make it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete in the market. In recent years, the government has undergone measures to correct this imbalance, including reducing taxation on farming, which has already begun to improve the welfare of rural poor.

Brazil has been very successful in alleviating much of its own poverty, in particular through a government program known as Bolsa Familia. Through Bolsa Familia, parents receive a monthly stipend in exchange for sending their children to school and to health checkups. Still, there is much to be done to ensure that the rural poor continue to thrive.

Here are just three ways to help people in Brazil:

  1. Sponsor a child. With young people in Brazil most harshly affected by income inequality, this may be one of the most effective ways to disrupt the cycle of poverty and help people in Brazil. For example, Child Fund International offers programs to sponsor individual children. This money goes toward supplying a child with food, clean water and education.
  2. Volunteer. There are many ways to volunteer time toward bettering conditions for people in Brazil. Project Favela, based out of Rio de Janeiro, is a volunteer-run organization which offers both schooling and after school care for poor children (and many adults as well) completely for free. Volunteers help teach English, science, math, reading, art, theatre and even coding.
  3. Encourage vocational training. CARE, a nonprofit organization based out of the UK, has had tremendous success addressing the structural causes of poverty in Brazil and encouraging rural schools to provide vocational training to its students. In addition, CARE has helped poor communities in Brazil develop sustainable business practices and has provided access to microfinance.

Though Brazil still struggles with inequality and poverty, it’s clear that, on its own, the country has made tremendous strides toward fixing its problems. With a bit of help, it can continue to bring down the poverty rate and build a better future for all its citizens.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Violence in Latin America
Every year, the Citizen’s Council for Public Security in Mexico releases a ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world. The list is based on homicides per urban residents and does not include conflict zones such as Mosul, Iraq. The recently released 2016 ranking demonstrates the range of violence in Latin America: of the top 50 cities, 42 are in Latin America.

The biggest Latin American country, Brazil, accounted for the highest number of cities on the list at a whopping 19. Mexico and Venezuela rounded out the top three, and the Venezuelan city of Caracas topped the list. It is also worth noting that a number of smaller Latin American countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Guatemala, all had cities on the list. The concentration of urban violence in these 43 Latin American cities is alarming.

The link between global poverty and violence emerges clearly from this ranking. Many of the causes of violence in Latin America can be directly linked to symptoms of poverty such as hunger, political instability and weak public institutions. Venezuela, the country with the chart-topping city of Caracas, demonstrates this connection clearly.

Caracas ranked as the most violent city in the world for the second year in a row. In addition, four of the top 10 most violent cities were Venezuelan. Venezuela currently finds itself in a crisis state from a mix of political instability, extreme hunger and economic desperation. Venezuela’s financial woes spring from the collapse of the oil industry, governmental corruption and economic mismanagement. The crisis has become so extreme that 75 percent of the population has lost an average of 19 pounds in five years. The desperation and frustration from this situation have inspired massive government protests, many of which have turned violent. This confluence of factors has contributed to Venezuela’s prominent position on the list of most violent cities.

Venezuela presents one of the most extreme examples of the connection between poverty and violence, but a number of other trends also characterize the Latin American cities that dominate the list. Drug trafficking throughout the region is a large contributor. Violence between rival cartels placed Acapulco, Mexico in the number two spot on the list.

Brazil, the country with the most cities on the list, faces many of the same challenges as Venezuela. Governmental corruption and poor public services have spurred massive demonstrations that have led to widespread violence.

A few small Central American countries also face their own unique challenges. Countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have a disproportionately high number of cities on the list given their tiny sizes. Drug trafficking and weak public institutions are important causes in these countries. But impunity and histories of civil war and divisive social issues also play into the high violence rates in these small countries.

The range of violence in Latin America is large, but there are various factors that can be generalized across the region. Foreign aid from countries like the United States can help alleviate some of the common causes of violence. For instance, Venezuela’s economy has reached its last $10 billion. Providing food and economic support to the Venezuelan people could help stabilize the country and lead to more democratic and peaceful state than the violence currently ravaging the country. More than anything, people in Venezuela and the region at large need money and resources to stem the tide of violence across Latin America.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr