Efforts to Relieve Poverty in Brazil
Brazil is one of the fastest-growing countries in South America and faces significant challenges with high levels of poverty and income inequality. As the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported, inflation increased to 6.5% as a result of COVID-19, with essentials such as food prices increasing by 63%. Currently, the ongoing trends have resulted in a need for efforts to relieve poverty in Brazil.

While it is important to recognize poverty in Brazil as a complex and multidimensional issue, it is also necessary to recognize ongoing efforts to relieve poverty, as the nation seeks to build a more equitable and prosperous future for its citizens.

From Marginalization to Entrepreneurship: The Favela-Business Connection

Brazil’s favelas are characterized by their precarious building infrastructures and poverty-based living conditions — they have been a symbol of urban poverty for years. However, in recent years a remarkable transformation has occurred within these settlements. Favela-business partnerships are emerging as a driving force in reshaping these communities with a strong effort to relieve poverty. 

Organizations such as the Favela Business School (FBS) offer a digital platform on which residents have access to a diverse range of business information that can be applied directly to favela entrepreneurs. The organization creates an ecosystem aimed to promote entrepreneurship and drive economic transformation in underserved areas. It provides management training and tailored language skills to entrepreneurs in marginalized communities and favelas. Additionally, the program enables business growth through the facilitation of microcredits and effective strategies for connecting, networking and enhancing the local business ecosystem.

The economic impact of favela-business partnerships extends beyond creating jobs. By fostering entrepreneurship, local economies grow, which creates a positive ripple effect that benefits wider communities. This then gains the attention of a variety of investors, who in turn offer financial support for the program.

The impact of the FBS has been substantial, with numerous achievements in its first year of establishment. It provided free training to 146 entrepreneurs from favelas, including a comprehensive curriculum spanning 57 hours and 30 minutes of classes, complemented by 19 hours of mentoring and 4 hours and 30 minutes of live-stream content. These classes extend beyond basic management knowledge to include the development of soft skills. By the end of 2023, FBS aims to train more than 6,000 entrepreneurs annually.

Farmers as Changemakers: The Role of Rural Development Programs

Other innovative efforts to relieve poverty in Brazil include the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to alleviating rural poverty and hunger. IFAD plays a significant role in supporting rural development, offering financial resources to support sustainable agricultural practices, increase agricultural productivity and enhance rural infrastructure.

The program focuses on promoting organic and agro-ecological production methods and facilitating access to markets. It also emphasizes the implementation of water collection and conservation technologies. Incorporating participatory methodologies that blend innovation with traditional knowledge is a key aspect of the program. The initiative is also committed to fostering the full and independent engagement of women and youth, as well as policy dialogue with national counterparts.

These innovative efforts to relieve poverty in rural areas not only enhance agricultural productivity, but also help communities increase their income and food security. In collaboration with crucial co-financiers like the Brazilian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, the total investment in agricultural production has the potential to surpass $900 million. This substantial funding aims to benefit over 600,000 rural families, fostering improvements in productivity and food security.

Furthermore, IFAD places a strong emphasis on social inclusion in its projects, with the aim to empower indigenous and quilombola (afro-descendant) communities, agrarian reform settlers, women and youth. This focus is essential for preserving cultural heritage and achieving sustainable development, which in turn provides poverty relief.

In practice, 75% of the intended rural families experienced a 20% average increase in both farm and non-farm incomes. Additionally, 50% of the targeted rural families enhanced their production, diversified their output and improved nutrition through access to a broader and more varied food supply. The goal is to achieve a minimum 30% reduction in the rate of extreme poverty within IFAD project operation areas. Communities benefiting from business plans linked to IFAD operations are expected to see at least a 20% increase in assets. Lastly, a targeted 10% decrease in malnutrition rates is anticipated across IFAD project operation areas.

Tech For Good: Digital Inclusion

Brazil has been making large strides in expanding digital inclusion, recognizing that access to technology is a powerful tool for relieving poverty. The Wi-Fi Brasil program, launched by the government in 2022, aims to provide affordable internet access to communities living in poverty. This initiative improves connectivity and opens up opportunities for online education, remote work and e-commerce, empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty. The program includes 15,000 internet points to facilitate communities’ access to connectivity, as well as more than 10,000 internet points installed in public schools to improve the quality of education. Programs such as Wi-Fi Brasil allow communities to connect, share their stories and advocate for poverty relief by providing a platform for social and political mobilization.

Innovative efforts to relieve poverty in Brazil represent a beacon of hope in the journey toward a more equitable and prosperous nation. Brazil’s multifaceted approaches, ranging from favela-business partnerships and sustainable agriculture to digital inclusion have demonstrated the power of innovative efforts in the battle against poverty.

These initiatives not only alleviate immediate economic hardships but also foster sustainable development, empower marginalized communities and challenge long-standing stereotypes. By embracing technology, fostering entrepreneurship and focusing on inclusivity, Brazil is actively changing the narrative of poverty and providing opportunities for individuals and communities to break free from it.

– Mia Deniz Duru
Photo: Flickr

CARE BrazilBrazil’s history is rife with historical events that define its identity. Such events include colonization, wars and issues of rapid urbanization. CARE Brazil aims to fight persistent poverty and inequality in Brazil.

Brazil’s History

The colonization of Brazil began as early as the 1500s. Before European contact, Brazil had around two million to six million indigenous inhabitants living there. Portugal’s efforts to spread its colonies to the Asian and African continents led Portugal to discover South America during its journey to a water route reaching the Indies and an archipelago in Indonesia. The indigenous inhabitants of Brazil faced harsh rule from the Portuguese, and they subjected them to European diseases, ultimately killing a majority of the native population. 

Brazil’s economy originates in mining and agriculture, with its primary products of gold and sugar. From the 16th to 18th century in Brazil, the sugar industry contributed to most of the country’s wealth, while landholders with small amounts of land produced wealth through coffee and cotton. In the 18th century, coffee and cotton would become the country’s major exports. 

As a product of the Napoleonic Wars, Brazil gained independence in 1822 after centuries of Portuguese rule. In an attempt to seek refuge from the war, the Portuguese king fled Napoleonic rule in Europe to arrive in Brazil. This marked the moment Brazil started on its journey to gain independence from Portuguese rule. King Pedro I was responsible for the subsequent independence of Brazil from European forces. 

Poverty in Brazil 

In recent years, Brazil has experienced extreme poverty, with more and more of the country’s poor experiencing food insecurity and inequality. In 2021 alone, almost 30% of Brazil’s population lived in poverty. Some factors contributing to Brazil’s poor living below the poverty line can be attributed to preexisting economic and social challenges due to the country’s systemic issues. Brazil has high levels of inequality, high public debt, low education rates, low total factor productivity and deforestation, all contributing to the country’s challenges and hurdles. Although these issues are significant and burden Brazil.The country is an important player in the global economy with its goods and policies. 

Due to COVID-19, Brazil experienced an exacerbation of existing issues. The country faced a deep economic recession, further amplifying Brazil’s unemployment and economic issues. The repercussions of the pandemic are still visible today, with Brazil’s unemployment rate reaching 8.4% in January 2023. In addition, the country faces many ongoing challenges, with inflation and deforestation ranking among the top. 

Therefore, while Brazil has seen many conflicts and challenges, organizations such as CARE are committed to providing the resources and strategies necessary to garner long-lasting, meaningful change. 

CARE International

CARE is an international organization striving to fight global poverty and inequality. CARE focuses on women and young girls, aiming their fight against poverty and global, rampant inequality.

CARE tackles issues of economic justice, gender equality, inequality, crisis response, nutrition and health. By focusing on these issues, the organization strives to promote gender equality and eliminate poverty. According to CARE’s guiding philosophy, “At its root, poverty is caused by unequal power relations that result in inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities between women and men, between power-holders and marginalized communities and between countries. Poverty cannot be overcome without addressing these underlying power imbalances.” 

To achieve CARE’s vision on a global scale, the organization spreads its impact through humanitarian and development aid initiatives in over 100 countries. CARE utilizes its advocacy skills and innovations with programs that hone in on eradicating global poverty, specifically by targeting gender equality, the guiding beacon of CARE International. 

CARE Brazil

CARE’s help reached Brazil from 2001 through 2016. By partnering with Brazil’s government and local Brazilian organizations, CARE developed an approach to address structural challenges while prompting the country to respond to the needs of the impoverished. The organization develops programs implemented across multiple states within Brazil, working within various sectors to implement vocational training and offering help to those living in extreme poverty in Brazil by promoting local communities to form sustainable businesses and access to microfinancing. 

According to CARE, due to the large amount of forests in Brazil, the millions of inhabitants who live below the poverty line are more prone to the adverse effects of deforestation. Therefore, it is significant that the organization collaborates with Brazil’s state governments to tackle the issue of reducing the country’s overall poverty rate. CARE has helped Brazilian communities develop sustainable and responsible forest management and reforestation systems. The organization has also aided in policy reform by promoting state governments to form a metric identifying the effects and qualities of programs dedicated to decreasing deforestation in Brazil.

Although CARE’s reach extended to Brazil in 2001, in 2021 alone, the organization helped around 2,200 participants, 98% female. The magnitude of CARE Brazil is evident, underscoring their genuine efforts to bring about gender equality in the country. 

In 1953, Latin American countries, including Brazil, participated in war recovery efforts following World War II by sending CARE Packages to Europe. CARE packages, formed by the CARE International organization, help those living in poverty through emergencies and disasters. Since the 1940s, CARE has developed strategies to provide programs and solutions to needy people. The first CARE Package was delivered at the end of World War II and included meals and kits to be sent to people living in hunger in the aftermath of the war. Around 100 million Care Packages were sent to families across the globe. Today, CARE Packages include financial assistance and messages of hope to those working in health care, specifically addressing COVID-19. 

Today, CARE International works to develop solutions to the issue of poverty in Brazil by working closely with national partners to bring their vision to fruition. 

– Bianca Roh
Photo: Flickr

SDG 1 in BrazilIn the Federative Republic of Brazil, updates on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, “No Poverty,” reveal contrasting trends in local poverty headcount compared to other nations’ general developments. While Brazil faces challenges in tackling poverty, its experience shows significant progress toward achieving SDGs, making it a valuable case study to understand the complex nature of the issue. Here are some interesting facts about Brazil’s progress on SDG 1.

World leaders adopted the Universal SDGs in 2015, with a primary focus on alleviating poverty for all by 2023. SDG 1 aims to eradicate extreme poverty, while other SDGs aim to promote sustainable economic, social and environmental growth.

The Peculiar Case of Brazil

Since 1998, global extreme poverty has generally declined, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted progress, leading to a global poverty increase from 8.3% to 9.2% in 2020. However, Brazil’s situation diverged from this trend. The UN’s annual report on SDG progress revealed that Brazil experienced a rise in poverty levels since the adoption of SDGs in 2015. The estimated percentage of the Brazilian population living below the poverty threshold, which is less than USD 2.15 a day, reached 6.28% in 2018. However, following years of an increase in extreme poverty from the 2014 figure of 4.02%, during the pandemic, Brazil recorded a significant decline in poverty. The proportion of Brazilians living below the poverty threshold dropped from 6.18% in 2019 to only 2.41% in 2020 and indicators for SDG 1 in Brazil continued to show a slight but continued decrease up to 2023.

Explaining the Numbers

The year 2014 marked the beginning of Brazil’s longest and most severe recession. The indicator for SDG 1 in Brazil, measuring the poverty headcount ratio at $2.15/day, reached its all-time low of the decade at 4.02. Political turmoil resulting from domestic macroeconomic mismanagement and corruption scandals exacerbated the crisis. In an effort to reduce the state budget deficit, the government implemented cuts in public expenditure on education and health care, which, in turn, led to a contracting GDP and real incomes, and a significant rise in unemployment and inflation rates. Although exact figures are uncertain, estimates suggest that extreme poverty increased from 5.2 million to 11.9 million between 2014 and 2017.

However, Brazil’s recovery in the subsequent years involved significant multifaceted reforms, including enhanced fiscal discipline, tax reform, improved labor rights and renewed spending on social assistance programs. A notable social initiative during this time was Bolsa Família, the world’s largest program providing cash payments to low-income individuals and families. Bolsa Família aims to reduce poverty, hunger and inequality, serving both as a layer of social security for the most vulnerable as well as a tool of wealth redistribution. The program annually benefits more than 46 million people directly, monitoring the health condition of nearly 10 million and the education of 15 million individuals. Estimates suggest that extreme poverty rates would have been one-third higher without Bolsa Família and it is credited with reducing the Gini coefficient by 15%.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazil faced the second-highest death toll, as concluded by the IMF. However, the country responded with a swift vaccination campaign and resilience in the face of accompanying economic shocks. Alongside a more robust social and macroeconomic framework established after 2016, Brazil boasts one of the strongest health care systems in Latin America, allowing it to maintain an improving figure on SDG 1 indicators despite the existing challenges. Additionally, the government’s pandemic policies focused on improving conditions for vulnerable segments through the expansion of Bolsa Família and the introduction of emergency aid for self-employed and unemployed workers.

What Brazil’s Experience Says About Poverty

Since 2018, Brazil has been incorporating SDGs into its sectoral action plans, including initiatives targeting education and health care, as well as efforts to enhance economic management. In 2023, the concerned U.N. authorities awarded Brazil an overall score of 73 out of 100 on the SDG index.

Brazil’s experience underscores the complex nature of poverty, shaped by a blend of economic, social and political factors. Consequently, the adoption of SDGs to address different aspects of a nation’s development and their promotion as a comprehensive set of measures appears to be vital in confronting the interrelated factors contributing to the endurance of poverty.

– Nadia Asaad
Photo: Flickr

Increasing Disability Support in BrazilBrazil’s poverty rate was 13.10% in 2020, well above the global average poverty rate of about 9% for the past several years. Among Brazil’s low-income residents, many have physical and mental disabilities. A global survey shows a strong correlation between disability and poverty in low and middle-income countries such as Brazil. Increasing disability support in Brazil is crucial to decreasing its poverty rate.

Statistics on Disability and Poverty in Brazil

In 2019, the National Survey of Health (PNS) reported that 17.3 million adults and children in Brazil were living with a mental or physical disability. PNS found that nearly half, 8.5 million, were 60 and older. Currently, Brazilian law recognizes disability in those who live with any long-term impairment that hinders full participation in society.

Poor Conditions Found in Institutions

Brazil has been criticized for its poor treatment of people with disabilities. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch released an 83-page report exposing inhumane conditions in institutions for people with disabilities. The report revealed a lack of basic food and hygiene services, neglect, abuse and little to no legal rights for those detained in institutions. The HRW visited eight institutions that forcibly restrained patients and sometimes tied them to their beds. Although the government passed the Brazilian Law for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in 2015, poor treatment of people with disabilities still occurred, as the HRW’s 2018 report shows.

A Need for More Government Support

Article 11 of the disabilities inclusion law states that people with disabilities retain legal rights to refuse medical intervention or forced institutionalization. However, many of these people have little choice. Often, they or their caregivers lack enough financial means for people with disabilities to live independently.

The government offers Benefício de Prestação Continuada (BPC), a monthly social pension for those with disabilities who cannot support themselves. BPC provides 954 Brazilian reals, $259, per month to an individual, but families state that this is not enough. The 2018 HRW report presents testimony from Brazilians calling for more services such as physical therapy and mobility devices.

HRW states that an over-reliance on institutionalization occurs partly because the Brazilian government does not provide enough support for these households. In addition, BPC is not adequate alone: In many cases, people with disabilities did not directly receive their social pension, and HRW found that institution employees had used these pensions without permission.

Increasing Disability Support and Funding

The Brazilian government responded to HRW reports and expanded the BPC program as of March 2020. More people with disabilities became eligible for a monthly pension in the expansion. Actions taken by other countries may also provide some models for supporting people with disabilities. Italy annually recalculates disability benefits based on changes in inflation and cost of living. Japan provides monthly compensation based on disability severity rather than a fixed amount.

Following the HRW’s recommendations, critics call on Brazil to do more for its people with disabilities: to continue expanding BPC, regulate institutions while working toward deinstitutionalization, pass legal reforms that protect autonomy, and develop more community-based services such as health care and inclusive education.

– Luke Sherrill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons