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Food Insecurities Decrease Around Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America. It also has the largest economy, which has been a key contributor to agriculture and business all over Latin America. Even with improvements in income distribution, poverty remains widespread, as income inequality remains an unsolved issue at the root of rural poverty. Thirty-five percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day, which is a reason for the food insecurity in Brazil. Additionally, 19 percent of Brazil’s population lives in rural areas, which means that Brazil has 18 million poor rural people. Meanwhile, the country’s northeast region has the single largest concentration of rural poverty in Latin America. In this region alone, 58 percent of the total population and 67 percent of the rural population live in poverty.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is an important subtopic coinciding with global poverty. When someone is food insecure, it means that they lack access to enough safe and nutritious food to give them the growth and development necessary to be active and in good health. Food insecurity might include a lack of resources or availability altogether.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has implemented the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which explains the differences between the following categories:

  • Food Security to Mild Food Insecurity is uncertainty regarding the ability to obtain food.
  • Moderate Food Insecurity is the reduced quality and/or quantity of food, as well as uncertainty about how to obtain food due to little or no money or other resources. Moderate food insecurity can also lead to malnutrition. An example of this is stunting in children, which is where they do not have adequate nutrition for necessary growth and physical development. Micronutrient deficiencies are another hazard where children do not receive enough nourishment to give them the proper nutrients they require for growth.
  • Severe Food Insecurity is when one has simply run out of food, and at the most, has gone a number of days without eating.

How Fome Zero Has Decreased Food Insecurity

Brazil, which is the largest country in South America, has been able to combat food insecurity, along with poverty, through government spending on social welfare programs. For instance, one way that poverty and food insecurities have decreased around Brazil is through Fome Zero or Zero Hunger. It launched in 2003 under President Lul da Silva and has been successful in leading the nation out of poverty and improving its food security conditions. Fome Zero has been able to provide meals that have nutritious value and can support the poor’s overall health in order to combat food insecurity in Brazil.

Stunting and Food Insecurity

From the standpoint of public policy, the program has also implemented other ways of protection for those under the poverty line. These include providing not only meals and overall health improvement but also education reform, food production, health services, water, sanitation services and the prevention of growth stunting in children under the age of 5. Stunting has resulted in malnutrition, impaired cognitive ability and declining school performance later on in their lives. With Fome Zero as a premiere social-welfare program, stunting has also declined by almost 20 percent in the last quarter-century. From 1996 to 2007, stunting reduced by half from 14 percent to 7 percent.

These improvements happened because of optimal breastfeeding practices, ensuring a child’s healthy growth and development. Initiating breastfeeding for six months provides protection against gastrointestinal infections, which can lead to severe nutrient depletion, causing the process of stunting to begin. Setting a daily diet and schedule for children, as well as diversity in diet, has improved their health and overall growth.

Stunting results from a household, environmental, socioeconomic and cultural standpoint that requires that interventions for better nutrition integrate in conjunction with nutrition-sensitive interventions. One example is that one can prevent infections by hand-washing with soap, the success of which depends on behavior change to adopt the practice, the availability of safe water and sanitation needs and the affordability of personal hygiene products. Available high-quality foods and affordability of nutrient-rich foods will affect a family’s ability to provide healthier foods to prevent stunting.

Bolsa Familia

Another program that da Silva started in 2003 is Bolsa Familia, or Family Allowance, which has helped decrease poverty and food insecurity in Brazil. The conditional cash transfer program supplies low-income families with a minimum level of income. However, there are two stipulations that go with the deal: their children must attend school daily and they must schedule doctor’s appointments in order to receive aid from the government. More than 20 percent of Brazil’s global domestic program went towards education, health care and protection for all low-income families. From 2003 to 2013, the extreme poverty line population has decreased from 9.7 percent to 4.3, with Bolsa Familia reaching 14 million households, equaling 50 million people. As such, many consider the program to be the most successful in the world.

More than 50 million people receive payments from the program. This depends on family earnings that range from $14 to $140, whether people work part-time or full-time, as well as the number of dependents. As the largest conditional cash transfer in the world, Bolsa Familia reaches more than a quarter of the nation’s population and has lifted more than half out of poverty.

BF has also started a trend globally that has expanded conditional cash transfer programs, alongside Latin America, where over 40 countries have adopted this model to aid those on the poverty line and who are food insecure. Brazil’s next step to put a halt to poverty included the Brazil Learning Initiative for a World without Poverty (WWP), launched in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, Ipea and UNDP’s International Policy Center in 2013. The Initiative helped support continuous innovation.

The endgame of these program developments is to sustain, if not overachieve, in providing aid to families in Brazil. The levels of success and vast improvements of these programs have helped the country come close to eradicating food insecurity in Brazil, as well as poverty.

Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in BrazilDevelopment 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 the 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 by 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

Brazil's Poverty Rate
In a mere decade, Brazil’s extreme poverty rate has dropped dramatically. In fact, among the BRIC nations, Brazil has the second-lowest percentage of its population living under the poverty line. Former President Lula’s unprecedented Bolsa Família Program (BF) is modestly responsible for this success.  In 2003, Brazil’s poverty rate stood at 9.7%; in 2013, that percentage was down to 4.3.

The concept of the Bolsa Família program is straightforward and trusting. The BF gives low-income families small cash transfers and in return, the families attend preventative health care visits and keep their children in school.  Bolsa Família has both short and long term goals. In the short term, BF has exceeded expectations.

Not only has BF help halve the poverty rate, but it has also improved income equality by 15%. Historically, Brazil has struggled with social and economic equality. As recent as the 1980s and 1990s, the nation’s poorest 60 percent of the population had only four percent of the total wealth.

The BF’s long term goals are grounded in sustainability, for it provides a more promising future for the youth generation. Through education and health, the BF works to give children opportunities to prosper later in life.  This work breaks the cycle of poverty that many in Brazil face.

The likelihood of a 15-year-old girl being in school has already increased by 21%, and infant mortality rates have significantly dropped. Long term monitoring is required to see the actual long term benefits of the program, but thus far the evidence is encouraging.

Aside from the economic advantages of the program, Bolsa Família has also restored integrity and hope to Brazil’s poor. Most of the beneficiaries of BF are women, and female empowerment leads to a more educated, efficient and modern society.

The first of its kind of such a large scale, BF is an example for the rest of the world. By 2013, 120 different delegations had visited Brazil to find out more about the program, and similar cash transfer programs have already popped up in 40 countries.

BF may be a simple concept, but its innovation and success are far-reaching. By providing 50 million people, or ¼ of the population, with small, monthly cash transfers, Bolsa Família has slashed Brazil’s poverty rate and given poor children better futures.

However, Bolsa Familia is only one part of the government’s four-pronged solution for fighting poverty in Brazil. Other strategies include setting the minimum wage, providing support for rural families, and creating a more formalized employment system.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Flickr

How Dilma Rousseff's Impeachment Impacts People Living in Poverty and What Can Be Done to Help
Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil since 2011, has been impeached after breaking rules surrounding manipulation of the federal budget. More specifically, it is believed that she masked the full extent of Brazil’s economic crisis when she ran for re-election in 2014.

Prior to Rousseff’s impeachment, she argued that if she were to be impeached, Brazil’s economic troubles would only worsen. This is because a governmental change this big is felt most strongly by the poorest in society, who are most dependent on the federal government.

Rousseff’s successor, Michel Temer, stated that he hopes to reduce public spending by increasing taxes on the lower and middle classes. He also stated that social programs aiding the poor will not be immune from budget cuts.

One example of a social program helping Brazil’s poor is Bolsa Familia. During her tenure, Rousseff was an advocate for this program, which gives stipends averaging $50 per month to 47 million Brazilian citizens — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population. Dilma Rousseff had recently increased spending toward this program by 9 percent and had also reworked the definition of poverty in order to allow more people to qualify for benefits.

The only conditions for citizens to receive Bolsa Familia’s benefits are that their children be vaccinated and regularly attend school. Despite the fact that the funds help lift people out of poverty and improve community infrastructures, the social program still requires public spending.  According to Temer, this kind of program will not be immune from spending cuts, which could seriously impact the millions of citizens who rely on government assistance for survival.

On a more hopeful note, Temer is confident that he can help Brazil make an economic recovery, despite the ramifications the poor may face. He intends to reform Brazil’s costly pension system, possibly by defining a minimum age of retirement.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Temer’s ideologies and proposed policies, it is reasonable to believe that major policy changes are the only way to get out of an economic depression. Temer has been vocal about his preparedness to make these major policy changes. While they may negatively impact Brazil’s poorest citizens in the short run, the country’s economy may ultimately recover, resulting in a better quality of life for all.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Bolsa_FamiliaMore than a decade ago, in Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spearheaded a national social welfare program as a part of his network of federal assistance. Bolsa Familia was born in 2003 as a poverty reduction initiative that relied on conditional cash transfers in a country where income inequality has persisted for decades.

Since that time, Bolsa Familia has blossomed into one of the largest programs of its kind, with close to 14 million Brazilian families receiving funds.

In 2001, Brazil’s Gini coefficient, a tool used to measure inequality, hovered at around 0.6, which is particularly high for global standards. On the Gini coefficient scale, the closer the number is to 0 the better, “0” denotes perfect equality whereas “1” represents perfect inequality where one individual owns all the wealth.

However, between 2001 and 2013 the measure declined, thanks in part to Bolsa Familia and other poverty reduction programs.

Bolsa Familia targets families below the poverty line and creates stipulations for receiving funds meant to increase human capital. For instance, children under the age of 17 must regularly attend school and mothers need to ensure their children are vaccinated.

According to a 2010 analysis of polling data and media coverage by the World Bank, the strict conditions for government assistance legitimized Bolsa Família with Brazilian voters and generated widespread support on both ends of the political spectrum.

The program has also been lauded for being highly affordable. “The amount spent on Bolsa Família is nothing,” Yoshiaki Nakano, the director of the São Paulo School of Economics, said in an interview with Foreign Affairs. As one of the world’s largest poverty reduction programs, Bolsa Familia costs Brazilian taxpayers less than 0.5 percent of the country’s $2.3 trillion GDP.

Bolsa Familia was structured to benefit not only those living in extreme poverty, but all Brazilians.

President Lula explained the benefits to Foreign Affairs when he first introduced Bolsa Familia, “When millions can go to the supermarket to buy milk, to buy bread, the economy will work better,” he said. “The miserable will become consumers.”

Daniel Liddicoet

Sources: World Bank 1, Estadao, World Bank 2, Foreign Affairs
Picture: Google Images

extreme_poverty
The end to extreme poverty will not occur solely as a result of charities, businesses or governments. Defeating extreme poverty entails changing the rules, systems and structures that are designed to keep people poor. Change must occur through a country’s specific policies and practices that contribute to keeping people in extreme poverty.

Countries should ensure that governments, businesses and individuals act to establish alignment in the vested interests of the world’s poor. If executed progressively and strategically, such systems, structures, policies and processes can make a change. Five countries have made a boisterous and public commitment to ending poverty – Brazil, Colombia, Malawi, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Brazil – The Bolsa Familia Program

Efforts to end extreme poverty in Brazil originated from Bolsa Familia. The program directly transfers cash to pre-designated households deemed impoverished. The decisions about allocation are based on assessments of the depth of poverty rather than household composition. Over 45 million people are currently enrolled in the program. As a direct result of Bolsa Familia, the number of those living in extreme poverty in Brazil has dropped from 20.4 million to 11.9 million.

Colombia – Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative

In 2010, Colombia created a poverty reduction plan and multidimensional solution to address poverty. Their national development plan has three pillars: employment, poverty reduction and security. Due to a lack of successful poverty reduction results by the original program, adoption of a new poverty reduction strategy called the GOC occurred. According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the strategy outlines the poverty index designed to monitor and measure different indicators of multidimensional poverty. This initiative will reflect the multiple deprivations that people suffer by identifying disparities across health, education and living standards. It will indicate the number of people who are poor on a multidimensional level and assist in allocating funds and determining efforts to eliminate extreme poverty.

Malawi – Malawi Growth and Development Strategy and the Farm Input Subsidy Programme

In 2002, the Malawian government launched the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy (MPRS), which had the express purpose of achieving “sustainable poverty reduction through empowerment of the poor.” In 2005, the MPRS was reorganized as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Currently, the MGDS comprises the overarching policy framework for social and economic development to reduce extreme poverty. In 2005, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme was introduced as a measure to increase agricultural production. In an effort to ensure food security, the government provides subsidized agricultural inputs to farmers with smaller land holdings. This has matured into agricultural policy. An estimated 50 percent of the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget is spent on methods to reduce expenditures of research and extension. The subsidy program is now a firmly established pillar of Malawian agricultural policy.

The United Kingdom – The Department for International Development

In the United Kingdom, The Department for International Development (DFID) leads national efforts to end extreme poverty. Their primary areas of focus are creating jobs, empowering girls and women and saving lives. The DFID honors the international commitments and purpose to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Their objectives are achieved through the effective improvement of governmental transparency, openness and value of money and policy development on economic growth and wealth creation.

The United States – USAID

In the United States, the USAID is the leading agency that works to end extreme global poverty. Their philosophy suggests an interconnected world in which instability anywhere around the world can impact us domestically. Thus, the focus is on military collaboration in active conflicts, efforts to stabilize countries and the building of responsive local governance. Essentially, the main objective is to utilize the transition period between conflict and long-term development by investing in agriculture, health systems and democratic institutions.

In order to end global extreme poverty, we must invest in common solutions. If all countries make the pledge commitment to end 0.7 percent of poverty, we can end extreme poverty by 2030.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Global Citizen, Global Humanitarian Assistance, Global Poverty Project, UK GOV Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank USAID
Photo: The Atlantic

Brazil Swamped in Garbage
Brazil’s metropolis, Recife, is often associated with mystical bridges, vibrant entertainment and picturesque beaches. The splendor of this tourist hub, however, has recently been blighted, when in November the Jornal do Commercio released a photo of a nine-year-old boy swimming in a garbage-filled canal beneath one of the most famous bridges. What’s more, he was picking cans out of the contaminated water so that he could sell them.

Although Brazil has the ninth largest economy in the world, it is fraught with extreme economic disparity. Half of the country’s income is enjoyed by a meager 10 percent of the population, while the poorest 10 percent receive less than one percent.

Half of the country’s 60 million children live in poverty.

The photo of nine-year-old Paulo Henrique exposes this grim reality. According to government accounts, in Recife alone nearly 65,000 children live in the slums in the Arruda and Campina Barreto neighborhoods on the city’s north side. And a good majority of them are making their fortunes by wading through waste.

In reaction to the photo, the Brazilian government promised to provide welfare for Paulo, his mother and his five siblings. As a more all-encompassing response to the issue of poverty, the country created the first global center for poverty reduction in March. Mundo Sem Pobreze (World Without Poverty), will become a market of ideas and experiences in applying programs to benefit the most disadvantaged citizens.

The inspiration behind Mundo Sem Pobreze came from Bolsa Familia, the most successful Brazilian program in history. In just one decade since its advent, the program has managed to reduce poverty by half in Brazil, 50 million people of which were low-income Brazilians.

Though the photo of Paulo is saddening and morose, it has opened up a national conversation in efforts to address the issue of poverty. Photos can often have a profound impact on society; historically, they have served as galvanizers of radical change. During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the iconic photo of a young African American man being attacked by a police dog in Birmingham, Alabama pushed the U.S Government to finally intervene after decades of discrimination and violence.

Photos have the capacity to reach an entire nation, even an entire world. The photo of Brazil swamped in garbage has created a dialogue that will hopefully set the pace for a united national movement to eradicate extreme poverty.

– Samantha Scheetz

Sources: Save The Children, Vice, World Bank
Photo: VICE

economic Inequality
As the curtain of the World Cup comes down, the fever and enthusiasm for soccer are going to be put aside for a while. In addition to hosting a seemingly successful World Cup, Brazil is facing numerous social issues such as economic inequality.

Brazil has one of the highest Gini Coefficients, which indicates how unequal the nation’s social distribution is. The richest 10 percent of population is controlling 42.7 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 34 percent own only 1.2 percent. According to the figures of IBGE (Brazil’s government statistics bureau), approximately 16.2 million people (8.5 percent of the country’s population) live under around $1.30 per day.

The disparities are too obvious to ignore. People can feel the inequality right away by standing in front of the expensive beachfront apartments, with favelas (a Portuguese term for a slum) next to these displays of wealth. “Paradise for the rich” has become one of the nicknames for Brazil. To eradicate this social problem, the government has come out with the Brazil Without Misery program.

The central part of the program is the Bolsa Familia cash transfer program started in 2003, which gives low-income families cash from $15 to $95 per month according to per capita income. In return, the families promise to send their children to local schools.

The second step of the program is to put more people under the protection of healthcare and the benefits of public infrastructure. Third, the Busca Activa (or “active search”) aims to help the poorest who are isolated due to geological reasons or lack of information. The Busca Activa has registered 678,000 families who were previously unnoticed.

The Brazil Without Misery program aims to eradicate poverty by 2014. It is the middle of July, but there are still millions of people remaining homeless, living in slums and under the poverty line. Problems such as corruption still riddle the country.

In 2013, Pope Francis visited the slums in Brazil, scolding the rich and corrupted who put themselves before the people. Just like he said, a “culture of solidarity” should replace “selfishness and individualism.” Clearly, there is still a long road ahead if Brazil is to solve its issues of inequality.

Jing Xu

Sources: Chaurahha, Reuters, The Rio Times
Photo: Insight Guides

bolsa_familia_brazil
Brazil has created an anti-poverty program, Bolsa Familia “Family Grant,” which gives cash money to mostly women. Since its implementation in 2003, around 11 million families, a quarter of Brazil’s population, have joined the Bolsa Familia program. This program is the largest of its kind and is based on a conditional cash transfer.

If a family earns less than 120 reais ($68) per family member each month, the mothers are given debit cards and up to 95 reais ($35 to $70) each month by the federal government. As part of the program, their children are required to attend school and receive vaccinations. If a family does not meet these conditions, their payments are suspended after several warnings.

Similarly, microfinance programs in Brazil give women loans to empower them and alleviate poverty. Although evidence from several studies supports the idea that microfinance empowers women, these microfinance programs have not succeeded due to their reinforcement of “informality of labor and the creation and persistence of gendered discourse that places greater burden on women.” The microfinance loans, despite the programs’ positive intentions, may place women under greater stress. Instead of pursuing activities that may benefit themselves and their families, these women can become trapped by the programs, and become less independent as a result.

The microfinance programs give loans and credit to primarily women because they believe that females are more reliable than men, and that they will use the money on food, education and family; women will not squander the money on alcohol, drugs and gambling.

However, are women truly more reliable than men? Although researchers argue that women repay loans faster and save more money than men do, this may be due to popular perceptions of the female gender. Women are believed to be more honest, sensitive, caring and nurturing due to their gender and traditional female roles of childrearing and domestic chores.

There are two main concerns about the program. First, corruption and fraud could prevent beneficiaries from receiving 100% of the money. Local officials could also report inaccurate information on eligibility to receive kickbacks. Second, these programs are meant to be a “temporary boost” to aid the poorest families in Brazil. Critics worry that it could turn into a permanent program upon which many families will remain dependent.

While the microfinance programs have failed, Bolsa Familia has seen early success. The program has reduced income inequality across the country, encouraged the growth of small businesses and increased the rate of economic growth. The cash money allows women to be more financially independent from their husbands and to have a larger decision making role in the household. After 10 years of the Bolsa Familia program, researchers have found that the program is empowering women and changing traditional gender roles in Brazil.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Deseret News National, Economist, Prospect Journal
Photo: Keck Journal