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

Fighting Global Poverty and Deforestation: Trees for the FutureTrees for the Future is an organization that is focused on restoring the environment as well as fighting global poverty. It recognizes the large effect trees have in economic, environmental and social improvement. The slogan of the organization is, “Planting Trees, Changing Lives.”

Dave and Grace Deppner founded the organization in 1989 after an eye-opening experience in the Philippines. It was there that they discovered they could restore communities while saving degraded land.

Roughly 80% of the developing world has health and nutritional needs met by non-wood forest products and there are approximately 100,000 acres of forest lost each day in the world. The Deppners were determined to help reverse to statistics.

One country Trees for the Future works in is Senegal. Senegal’s increased deforestation has led to the loss of more than half of the forests. They have helped farmers plant more than half a million trees and develop forest gardens.

Trees for the Future has also partnered with the Peace Corps and the Senegalese Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry throughout their time there.

Brazil is another country where Trees for the Future’s impact can be seen. The organization has helped rebuild communities through the development of education programs on effective agroforestry. The main purposes of reforesting in Brazil are to bring back the nutrition in soil as well as to provide a source of food for the livestock.

One tree in particular, has proved invaluable to the Brazilian communities that the organization works with. The moringa oleifera tree produces edible pods, leaves and flowers. These are high in calcium and Vitamin A. The powder that comes from ground seeds has also helped improve the quality of water due to its purifying qualities.

The trees planted in these countries are unifying communities as well as creating sustainable agriculture. Trees for the Future has planted more than 50 million trees in various parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their influence has reached 58 different countries and 12,000 villages.

– Iona Brannon

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization, Trees for the Future, Trees for the Future: Senegal, Trees for the Future: Brazil,
Photo: Google Images

How the UN Fights Global Poverty
2015 represents an important year for the United Nations to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Among the goals that the United Nations has to eradicate poverty and hunger are: to reduce by half the amount of people that make less than $1 per day, accomplish employment and work for everyone including minorities such as women and to reduce by half the amount of people who are suffering from hunger.

The United Nations partners with different organizations and foundations in order to achieve these goals to eradicate poverty.

The Zero Hunger Challenge, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the UNDP-IKEA Foundation are three movements that the United Nations are partnering with.

1) Zero Hunger Challenge

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives the invitation to every country to work for the future, a future in which every person has the adequate nutrition and doesn’t lack food.

The Zero Hunger Challenge involves having no stunted children, 100 percent access to adequate food, sustainable food systems, 100 percent increase in smallholder productivity and zero food waste.

According to this challenge, the investment in agriculture, rural development and equality of opportunity helps to eradicate hunger.

This challenge promotes different strategies and cooperation in order to strive for results that combat hunger.

2) Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement

The principle of this movement is that everyone has the right to good nutrition and food. This movement is supported by donors, people from the government, the United Nations and various others.

This movement seeks to address malnutrition by activities such as implementing programs and collaborations.

The principles of engagement are to: be transparent and honest about the impact that collective action has, bring solutions that can be proven and interventions to scale, have a commitment to support the rights and equity of all human beings, resolve conflicts if they arise, be responsible so stakeholders can feel collectively accountable to the commitments, establish priorities and be communicative toward what works and what doesn’t.

3) UNDP-IKEA Foundation

This is a foundation that is benefiting 50,000 women from India.

This foundation has helped 9,000 dairy producers to form a company through provided financial literacy training. Profits also double within a year through the participation of the members.

The United Nations also contributes with other organizations, such as the UNDP and Brazil’s Natura Cosméticos, which brings training to beauty advisors in areas that vary from direct sales to customer training.

It is clear that the United Nations uses different methods to obtain results in the different humanity issues that it focuses on.

While they address different issues such as climate change, terrorism, food production, human rights, health emergencies and many others, global poverty and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is under the Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations has, and partnering with different associations, movements, organizations and foundations has resulted in a way to reach for success in addressing these issues in the year of 2015.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: United Nations 1, United Nations 2, Scaling Up Nutrition
Photo: Flickr



 Brazilian Inflation Hits New High- BORGEN
As the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics loom, Brazil finds itself in the midst of an inflation crisis. At a staggering rate of 9.56 percent, inflation in the South American nation is higher than it has been in 12 years. Brazil has not seen such a level since November 2003. This stark increase highlights one of the main problems facing Latin America’s largest economy.

Although the rising cost of electricity has likely played a role in the increasing inflation rate, the main reason behind the economic slump is a lessening demand for Brazilian products. China plays a major role as one of the nation’s consumers, but the Asian giant is suffering an economic slowdown as well. Dwindling demand for commodities from the Chinese is a central cause of Brazil’s economic woes.

Extremely fast price increases and the depreciation of the Brazilian real versus the U.S. dollar have opened the door for the country’s central bank to raise interest rates substantially. To combat rising prices, the central bank has raised interest rates to 14.25 percent. This number is among the highest of major world economies. Officials at the bank hope that this raise will help the country reach a target inflation rate of 4.5 percent.

However, the outlook is bleak. Brazil’s economy is projected to shrink 1.5 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Current statistics show the Brazilian economy ranked seventh in the world.

Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, is actively trying to cut the country’s deficit. Rousseff supports several measures to both cut spending and raise taxes in hopes to get the country back on its feet. Facing fiscal setbacks and possible impeachment, however, Rousseff’s political influence is at a low point and her actions may be in vain.

Although high inflation in Brazil affects poor and rich alike, those living below the poverty line are being hit particularly hard. Long known as a nation with a shocking income gap, there is little sign that this discrepancy will improve in the near future. The poor find it difficult to strive in a prospering economy, let alone one that is dramatically faltering.

Katie Pickle

Sources: BBC, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Flickr



Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and has been on the rise for many years. Along with a rise in overall GDP and standard of living, experts have found a rise in obesity levels. This trend has come to be associated with countries that are rapidly developing as snack foods have become a symbol of wealth and locally grown produce is seen as cheap and unrefined. Bela Gil, daughter of one of Brazil’s most famous singers, Gilbert Gil, recently posted a photo of her daughters’ lunchbox, and this created an uproar.

The young girls’ lunchbox contained fresh food, yams, bananas and more, all locally grown and in proper portion size, her daughter was being fed well and with Brazil recently being named the nation with the best health reforms, it would usually be something worthy of praise. Instead, the internet reprimanded Gil, saying that she was not feeding her daughter enough and making jokes about how little food there was and how unrefined it was. The truth is that was a great meal because it was so unrefined, in the processed sense of the word.

This healthy farm to table style of eating has only recently gained popularity, and with more and more celebrities jumping on board to endorse healthy eating, it is a wonder it has not been more popular. By posting pictures of her daughters’ healthy meal and various other meals, Gil is using her position of influence to proposition the public to really watch what they are eating. While fast food and highly processed snacks with name brands may be a sign of wealth they are also the cause of Brazil‘s increased obesity rate which has nearly doubled in the past decade.

While we often associate poverty with a complete lack of food, we must also begin to connect it to an abundance of unhealthy food. Overall health can be an indicator of a country’s poverty levels and Brazil’s is on the steep decline. In order to remedy this, individuals of influence must begin to associate wealth with healthy eating and good health habits. By posting pictures of this and promoting healthy portion size and control we are promoting healthy living, saying that class can be found in the food choices we make. Essentially, in order to take away the stigma of wealth and junk food we must reassociate it to wealth and health food.

While many other celebrities are joining this bandwagon, some coming under similar scrutiny for their choices, it may take some time for this new idea of healthy living to really take hold in nations that are just reaching the peak of their development, such as Brazil. These healthy meals are grown in the farms of Brazil, supporting local business and people in the neighborhood, and these choices will not only make for a better person, but a better community as a whole.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: NPR, CNN
Photo: NPR

The Child River Trade Workers in Brazil
In Brazil, home to the world’s largest Amazonian rain forest, an ever-increasing number of young children are joining the workforce as so-called ‘river children.’ These river children make a living and help support their families by canoeing up to the side of larger barges and tourist boats, where they climb on board and attempt to sell goods, such as ingas, an elusive jungle fruit that is particularly popular with ferry passengers.

Following a process of bargaining, the children then climb off the boats with the few rials earned in their pockets, only to have to canoe back home for the entire length of the river that passed beneath them while they were above deck.

An Al Jazeera documentary created in 2011 and reviewed in the past week–entitled The River Traders of Brazil–helped shed light on the shadowy lives of Brazil’s ‘River Children.’ The documentary focused on the life of Jesse, an 11 year old boy who lived along the narrowest stretch of the Tajapuru River in the Amazonian basin in northern Brazil.

Jesse, like the other river children working on the Tajapuru river, made a few rials for his family of 12 adults and 16 children by engaging in the river trading business. As the beginning of the documentary illustrates, Jesse and the other river trader children were initially tolerated and even treated warmly by crew members on the barges. The opening scene pans to an image of Jesse and a young girl sharing a plate of pasta in the underground cabin of a boat, with the narration smoothly announcing over the image “on the boat, there is always food set aside for the river children.”

However, as the documentary progresses, a noticeable friction between the river children and the adult crew workers grows more and more. A captain, who claims that he always takes down the names of the river children, tells the camera that the information he has been taking down in his notebook has been increasing in recent years, with an ever-increasing number of stray children climbing aboard.

Further on in the documentary, it becomes obvious why.

Jesse, like his fellow classmates, attended school—which was an hour away by canoe—sporadically at best (the documentary claims he never went for longer than one month at a stretch). A scene with Jesse and his teacher films them on opposite sides of an argument: the teacher, trying to encourage the children to come to school more often, argues, “You are already so good on boats. Think about how much better you could be if you knew how to read and write.”

But Jesse, who comes from a family where the existence of daily food depends upon the pennies brought into the house each day by river-trading activities, counters that making the one-hour canoe journey in search of an education is ultimately futile.

Later on the documentary, the friction between the crew and the children reaches its breaking point, with the crew becoming openly more hostile to the swarms of young children tying their canoes to the sides of their boats.

The viewer discovers that part of this hostility lies in the fact that young river children, frustrated with the instability that a river trade life has to offer, have begun to turn to piracy. Jesse, along with his brothers and some of his cousins, also turned to crime–only to come to a fatal end shortly thereafter following an attempted heist, where he was killed by an angry crewman.

The fate of Brazil’s river children is little known outside of the small Northern Amazonian river communities directly affected by river trade activity. Yet the Al Jazeera documentary, initially filmed in 2011, and reviewed more recently within the past week, marks an important first step in unearthing the dangerous lives lived by so many desperate and juvenile Brazilian children. The young individuals risk everything–rowing against raging and intolerable currents, and facing intolerance and even violence at the crew members who await them, in the hopes of earning a few pennies for their families a day.

Ana Powell

Sources: Al Jazeera, Huffington Post
Photo: Ultimate Journey

Brazil will be the first South American country to host the Olympics for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Although Brazil has an emerging economy, the 2016 Olympics may do more harm than good as it relates to the economy and those living in poverty.

The theory is that hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics will cause a growth spurt in the economic development of Brazil with an influx of tourism and employment. However, Brazil also spent more than $11 billion on hosting the FIFA 2014 World Cup. The data from the World Cup shows that the costs of hosting such a big event may outweigh the benefits. The World Cup did little to boost the economy and the jump in tourism the government was anticipating was not as significant as expected.

The economy in Brazil is looking rather weak considering the fact that the country has $900 billion in foreign debt and economic activity is decreasing yearly by almost five percent.

The state of the economy coupled with the costly and grueling task of Olympic preparation seem to be rather dangerous. The budget for the Olympics was originally $2.93 billion but has risen to $13.2 billion since January 2014.

Although Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janero claims that 57 percent of the funding will be from private enterprise, the brunt of the consequences of the infrastructure projects will fall upon the shoulders of the Brazilian taxpayers.

Amid the excitement of the coming of the Olympic Games is the very real crisis of eviction that families are facing. The scarcity of land in Rio means that things have to be shifted around to accommodate the new infrastructure.

Thousands of families have been moved out of poor neighborhoods called favelas so the neighborhoods can be destroyed and then rebuilt as different Olympic structures. Approximately 3,000 families in Rio have been forced to relocate as a result of the Olympic projects.

An estimated 67,000 people have been evicted from their favelas since 2009 when Rio was chosen to host the Olympics. Those who fight against the eviction and refuse monetary compensation and alternate housing are met regularly with aggressive eviction attempts.

The price of land is quickly rising in anticipation for the Games. After the Games, the complexes will be converted to luxury condos for sale for up to $700,000.

The 2016 Summer Olympics will change the economy of Brazil and leave a lasting impact. Those who will feel the weight the most will be the voiceless poor.

Iona Brannon

Sources: Bloomberg Business, Business Insider, The Guardian, NPR, Reuters, Seven Pillars Institute, Washington Times
Photo: Brazil the Guide

Although the country is preparing to host one of the largest athletic and globally recognized events in the world, attention in Brazil has not been as focused on the upcoming 2016 Olympics as one might think. Between police corruption and brutality, protests and utter violence plaguing the country, it is no wonder that the world is holding its breath to see how the country manages to resolve its issues before the rest of the world gathers there in just a year.

Due to large numbers of cases involving police brutality, and protest involving the overthrow of the president and change in the overall political system, the entire country is in an uproar. The number of instances of police violence and even cases of homicide at the hands of police officers in the country have been incredibly high. That being said, many of these cases do not receive the type of attention that such instances would in, say the United States, and many officers go unpunished and victims’ families are left without retribution.

That being said, the most recent concern in Brazil is not focused on police corruption, but much higher up in the political sphere. Recent peaceful protests have people gathering in the major city of Sao Paulo calling for a change in the government, starting with the removal of the current president.

These protests and such controversy mean a few things for the country, at least over the next year. The country and the government have to respond to the people somehow, whether they satisfy any or part of their requests or not. Furthermore, the state is feeling the pressure with the Olympics happening in just about a year, meaning there needs to be answer to the upheaval in time to create stability for the global stage. Over the next few weeks, and even months, it will be interesting to see how the state responds to the protests, and what changes the public will push for leading up the grand event next summer.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: CNN, New York Times
Photo: Storify

Historically, Brazil’s educational system has been lacking. Primary education was mandatory, but extremely ineffective. Even tertiary education was offered with insufficient supplies and buildings. While Brazil is still behind many nations in their scope of educational initiatives, progress has been made especially in regards to Brazil’s primary education.

UNESCO’s 2015 data reports that among 15-24 year olds, 99 percent of females and 98 percent of males are literate, as compared to only 82 percent in 1980. The general population’s literacy rates are also improving as 72 percent of the total population aged 65 and older are literate whereas only 42 percent were literate in 1980.

Education in Brazil is compulsory between the ages of 4-14 with attendance and completion rates improving. Primary school completion is well over 100 percent – a number possible because of the inclusion of older students returning to school or the students who may have repeated a grade – which exceeds most developed countries.

This shows improvement because people who were previously uneducated are now going to school. However, it also shows that there has been a serious educational gap for Brazil to overcome. Smaller classrooms are also the average as the teacher/student ratio is currently around 20:1.

While those numbers are amazing, much work can still be done. When comparing Brazil’s literacy and math skills to other countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “ranked Brazil 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania” (HuffingtonPost).

One of their higher education institutions, the University of Sao Paulo, also falls far behind being ranked on a global university scale at 178 out of 200 institutions. This could pose a future problem for Brazil as their economy is becoming more vibrant; they will not have adequate educated workers coming through their educational system.

Another problem that can skew the astounding numbers presented is the disparity between those students in wealthier parts of the country and those students living in extreme poverty. The educational system is not maintained by the nation as a whole; each individual municipality is responsible for the maintenance of their schools. Much like what is seen in the United State’s educational districts, the schools maintained in wealthier municipalities are given more money while the poorer ones lack the same resources.

Children in poorer parts of the country are also subject to absenteeism due to malnutrition, child labor and high examination failure. So although education is free and compulsory, many children are still falling through the cracks especially those in poverty.

The UN has addressed this very issue as countries are progressing towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) #2, Achieve Universal Primary Education.

In an UN article, a press report by Mr. Lake says, “In setting broad global goals the MDGs inadvertently encouraged nations to measure progress through national averages. In the rush to make that progress, many focused on the easiest-to reach children and communities, not those in greatest need. In doing so, national progress may actually have been slowed.”

This appears to be the case in Brazil. Many children are in school and the benefits are being seen through national literacy rates. But many children are still left behind and not in school like they ought to be.

Hopefully the media attention surrounding Brazil’s sporting events over the next few years will help draw out this disparity and some permanent changes can be made for those children still not receiving adequate education. Even with so much still to do though, the quality of education in Brazil is improving.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Brazil, Huffington Post, The Global Economy, UN 1, UN 2, UNESCO
Photo: The Rio Times

Rocinha, a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the largest and densest slums in Latin America. The neighborhood that still struggles with drug cartels, lack of access to education and healthcare, and seemingly inescapable poverty is beginning to slowly change with the visionary architectural work of Ricardo de Olivera, as well as impactful government planning initiatives.

Featured in the series Rebel Architecture, architect Olivera has no formal training. This has given him the adaptable ability to work with the material of the local context of his favela, rather than imposing ineffective westernized techniques. “Ricardo is famous around here. Everyone wants his services,” says a local resident in the film entitled “The pedreiro and the master planner” directed by May Abdalla.

“A foreign architect would not get into this hole and dig. He would hire someone or would hire machines. But here in the favela, we are hands on… Most of the buildings here were built by pedreiros like me… I did all three things. I didn’t need an engineer or an architect or a decorator,” says Olivera in the film.

Olivera has built over 100 houses, as well as supermarkets and parking garages. He is visionary and passionate about improving the quality of life of his birthplace. Olivera’s simple designs meet the needs of his clients and neighbors both socially and financially. Favelas arise spontaneously with no help or design from the government, explains the film. Rocinha is considered Brazil’s most urbanized slum. The tiny 0.8 by 0.8 square mile, steep area is home to 100,000 to 200,000 people. Residents live in states of extreme poverty, in small shanties stacked on top of each other, up to 11 stories high.

Residents of Rocinha rarely have access to education. Citizens on average have had only 4.1 years of formal schooling, and less than one percent of adults have earned a degree above a high school diploma. Jobs in Brazil are reserved for citizens with formal degrees—so Rocinha residents do not have easy access to escaping the impoverished conditions they were born into.

“It has its problems—sanitation, access to quality housing. The other problem is because of the narrow streets where the police can’t go, drug traffickers settled in Rocinha. The government closed its eyes to the arrival of those forming the favelas because they didn’t have the resources to provide housing and they needed cheap manpower. This logic is present in each and every city in which there is a poverty belt,” says Luis Carlos Toledo, the architect behind the master plan for the government’s improvement plan for Rocinha in the film.

As Rio preps itself for the upcoming Olympic games, there are competing forces at play determining the future of Rocinha. The city has implemented pacification programs, which destroy slums in an attempt to make the city look cleaner and less impoverished to outsiders.

The city has also created an ambitious transportation plan— a cable car system that connects downtown Rio with Rocinha. Citizens are against this system, seeing it simply as an investment in the tourism industry rather than a viable transportation solution.

At the same time, various foreign urban planners, NGOs, and architects have come to Rocinha with good intentions, but without a working knowledge of the local community, threatening to bring gentrification to Rocinha.

Amidst these various forces, citizens of Rocinha are speaking up more than ever before. Community meetings in Rosinha have raised a collective voice against the cable car system. “Only the population of Rohica can preserve the spirit. And without that, there is no future for Rohinca,” declares the film.

“The residents have aspirations for the whole favela, not just their house,” explains the film.

Despite the Brazilian government’s mixed history with creating helpful change, localized urban planning by the government has brought improvements to parts of Rocinha. In 2011, an ambitious project to change the district called Rua 4 was successfully implemented. Residents were moved to public housing within their neighborhood, rather than being moved to the outskirts of the city which is often the case in attempts to improve housing.

Before the changes, the Rua 4 area was a 60 centimeter ally, known for having the highest tuberculosis rate in the world.

Dictated by the urban planning project, roads were widened in Rua 4 to about 12 meters. Buildings were improved structurally and painted brightly. Gardens and plazas shot up. Staircases were built to connect different levels. Residents have contributed to building playgrounds, a stage, mosaics and murals.

Here, people relax on their porches outside and no evidence of the drug trade is present. Head architect Luiz Carlos Toledo said “Rua 4 is… an example of how you can, without abandoning the traditional pathways of a favela, improve them, adapt them to the scale and the topography of the site.”

The successful government project and Olivera’s rebel architecture demonstrate that impactful change in favelas is possible. As the community begins to demand more change collectively, hope and greater improvements in Rocinha seem to be in the favela’s future.

Margaret Mary Anderson

Sources: Arch Daily, Al Jazeera, Mundoreal, Rio On Watch
Photo: Flickr