poverty in brazil
Poverty in Brazil impacts all aspects of the country. Last month, thousands stormed the streets of Brazil to protest increased transportation fares. As the protests persisted, the causes of the protests expanded to include government corruption, poor social services, and high taxes, while meanwhile, billions were being spent to host the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Amidst this public upheaval, President Rousseff’s approval rating slipped from 73.7% to 49.3% in July. During Rousseff’s election campaign, she promised to eradicate poverty, saying it would be her top priority in office. Many are upset that these changes have not come soon enough.

With some of the highest paid executives in the world and an appreciating currency, the Brazilian economy appears to be well off. In addition, poverty in Brazil has been halved in the last two decades. The government is credited with lifting 28 million out of extreme poverty and bringing 36 million into the middle class. But despite being the sixth largest economy in the world, Brazil’s GDP per capita ranks 100th, behind Iran and Costa Rica. In Brazil, poverty disproportionately affects the young and those in the northeast. 8.5% of the population (16.2 million) lives on less than $45/month. Of the 16.2 million living below the poverty line, 4.8 million survive on no income at all.


Poverty In Brazil


To put it simply, Brazil is a nation of stark contrasts. Although the nation has some of the wealthiest in the world, many more suffer from extreme poverty. 26% of the population still lives below the poverty line. Brazil spends a lot of money on social programs, but because these programs are pro-rich, Brazil’s poorest only see 13% of all total benefits compared to 24% at the top. Increased social spending would not alleviate poverty in Brazil. Rather, Brazil must restructure its spending to reach the poorest. Maercio Menezes, professor of economics at the University of Sao Paulo, told the BBC, “Brazil is one of the most unequal countries on the planet… The reduction (of poverty) that has been taking place in the past decades is minor. If you are born into a poor family it is very difficult for you to eventually become rich.”

In June of 2011, President Rousseff expanded the country’s aid programs to reach the nation’s poorest. Rousseff launched a multi-billion dollar social assistance program called “Brazil without Misery,” and its aim is to eradicate extreme poverty from Brazil by 2014. The program expands a cash transfer benefit program started in 2003 by the Bolsa Family, which provided families with cash benefits in exchange for keeping their children in school and following a simple health and vaccination program. Since the program’s inception, it has helped tens of millions of Brazilians by providing food and basic social services. But, according to President Rousseff, Brazil cannot be content with just a big social program – it must do more to reach the nation’s poorest.

“Brazil without Misery” is made up of three components. First, it extends the cash transfer program to reach more people. The program increases the number of eligible children per family from three to five, in order to reach an additional 1.3 million children. Second, the government aims to improve access to health services, education, and improved infrastructure (running water, electricity, sewage disposal). Lastly, the plan intends to improve the economic means available to Brazilians through job creation, vocational-training and microcredit. To assist Brazil, the World Bank has offered $8 billion towards the program.

Several weeks ago, Pope Francis made a visit to one of Brazil’s most infamous slums. The Brazilian government was most worried about protesters during the Pope’s visit, but the Pope showed support for the nation’s poor and even criticized the government for not doing enough. “Here, as in the whole of Brazil, there are many young people… You have a particular sensitivity towards injustice, but you are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of the people who put their own interests before the common good.”

In order to eradicate poverty in Brazil, it is clear that a social overhaul is necessary. The stark inequalities within Brazilian society keep the rich wealthy, but prevent the poor from attaining economic security. Social and economic restructuring will not come easily, nor will they come immediately. Moreover, Brazil will need to reassess “Brazil without Misery” once its term is up in 2014 to see if continuation or expansion is required to meet the needs of the nation’s poorest.

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources:World Bank,Rural Poverty Portal,Rio Times,ISSA
Photo: Paraiba Paradise

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Ten years ago Brazil began working towards food security improvements, specifically providing Brazilians with biofortified “superfoods”.

Today, this work has come to fruition with eight biofortified foods accessible in fifteen municipalities as part of a pilot study.

The project originated from the need to prevent micronutrient deficiencies with the government taking appropriate action. Ailments of nutritional deficiency include anemia, blindness, and fatigue, among other symptoms.

What nutrients will cure these ailments? The micronutrients that the project aims to condense include iron, zinc, and vitamin A. These nutrients are lacking in Brazil, much like the rest of Latin America. According to Marilia Nuti, a biofortification coordinator, “Iron is key. Half of Brazil’s children suffer from some degree of iron deficiency.” Iron deficiency can also impair child development, both physically and cognitively.

In place to mimic the average Brazilian diet, the superfoods consist of rice, beans, black eyed peas, cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and wheat.

In order to create more nutritious foods scientists must choose seeds that display traits most important for nutrition. When a seed demonstrates its benefit it will be used to breed a stronger food with the best possible qualities.

So what makes these new foods superfoods? The iron content of beans nearly doubled from 50 to 90 milligrams of iron per kilogram. Beta-carotene, the most important carotenoid of vitamin A, jumped from 10 micrograms (mcg) per gram to 115 mcgs/g. In rice, a major staple crop, the zinc content was increased from 12 milligrams to 18 milligrams per kilo.

Yet, after all this biofortification, Brazil is still in its trial stage and what happens in the municipalities determines the path that food security policy will take in the future.

Itaguai, one of the municipalities, must prove the health benefits of the biofortification within the pre-school lunch program. For this particular municipality sweet potatoes are grown and are incorporated into the 13 preschools in Itaguai, reaching 8,000 students. .

At the height of the project local farmers will be trained and integrated into the program, providing students within the municipality more nutritious meals.

But the country isn’t looking to drastically improve Itaguai; the project is instead aimed at Brazil’s poorest municipalities. If the results come back positive, implementation will begin in the areas needing the most help.

To understand if the pilot was a success, the country will begin assessing its impact next year by measuring and comparing health of those who consumed superfoods with those who did not.

Michael Carney

Sources: The Guardian, International Atomic Energy Agency

Pope Francis arrived last Monday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he is spending the week visiting the city as well as Varginha, a slum neighborhood in very poor condition. The Pope’s visit, which will be his first time back on his home continent since his election, is bringing high hopes to many who are struggling in Brazil because of his history in the region and focus on poverty.

Currently in Rio protests are raging over preparations for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, which involve the demolition of thousands of houses without reasonable compensation in the region and increased taxes. Citizens of Brazil are angry that their government’s resources are being spent on sporting events, rather than helping those in need. The people living in Varginha were already living in impoverished conditions before the government decided to destroy the neighborhood. Even after whole sections of their houses have already been demolished by the government, many people there still refuse to leave.

While the trip’s official purpose is for the Pope to meet with and speak to participants of World Youth Day, a large Catholic youth conference in Rio, much of the trip will be focused on commenting about social justice issues in Brazil. The visit was originally planned for Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. It is likely that in spite of scandals involving the Vatican, Pope Francis decided to make the trip in order to draw attention to the social justice issues in the region.

The hope is that the Pope’s visit will draw attention to the needs of Brazil. The last time a Pope visited Brazil was when Pope John Paul II came in 1980. He visited a neighborhood that was soon to be demolished, but by calling attention it, the government relented and the neighborhood was saved. The Popes influence is especially strong in Latin America, which is home to almost half of the world’s Catholics, and Pope Francis’ former home.

Despite all of the good that is expected to come out of the visit, many are protesting the trip along with the World Cup and the Olympics. The World Youth Conference is costing the Brazilian government $52 million and some of that is going toward hosting the Pope.

– Emma McKay

Sources: The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian
Photo: The New York Times

Former Brazilian president Inácio Lula da Silva, during an international conference in Addis Ababa last week, claimed that hunger can be eliminated in African countries by 2025. However, he said, in order to do so subsistence agriculture must be abolished.

Lula’s claim is based on the success his own country enjoyed through the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program. Under his eight-year presidency, the economy of Brazil averaged an annual growth rate of 5%, whilst simultaneously reducing poverty levels drastically with 20 million brought out of extreme poverty, and creating 20 million jobs. Small-scale farmers were given access to seed and credit, and 50 million people benefitted from a cash transfer scheme.

In order to replicate this success, Lula says that national policy will have to change to reflect the commitment to eliminating hunger and poverty. This means a change in the approach to support given to those in poverty. This support must be viewed as investment rather than expense. By giving subsistence farmers access to modern technology and machinery, and educating and encouraging them to produce, small-scale farming can be transformed to create excess crops for farmers to sell.

In speaking of the potential to emulate the Brazilian model, Lula targeted African leaders for designing good policies on paper, but failing to implement them and truly improve the quality of life of their citizens. He said, “We failed to include the poor in our national budget. Any financial support to politicians and the rich in society are regarded as investment yet when funds are geared towards the poor and the eradication of hunger, it is christened as spending.”

Lula’s remarks were made at a conference entitled “Toward African Renaissance: Renewed Partnership for a Unified Approach to End Hunger in Africa by 2025.” The conference concluded with a declaration, reaffirming government commitments and encouraging greater partnership between governments, the private sector, and civil society. Additionally, commitment was renewed to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an initiative that calls for African governments to commit 10% of their budget to investment in agriculture, and increase agricultural productivity by 6%.

– David Wilson

Source: The Guardian, My Joy Online

Norad 101
The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) has a yearly budget of just over one percent of Norway’s federal budget, approximately 27.8 billion kroner (or $4.5 billion USD). This budget of over one percent of Norway’s GDP makes Norway the biggest donor to development aid in the world. The money is used to support the agency’s goal of achieving political, economic, agricultural, and educational stability worldwide.

Brazil, the top recipient of Norad funding for the last two years due to the forestry initiative, received 400 million NOK for all five of Norad’s incentives: environment and energy, health and social services, education, economic development and trade, and good governance. The aid was most heavily concentrated for the environment/energy incentive, which received 365 million NOK.

The budget for Brazil has led to outstanding results in some of those categories. Environmentally, that money helped to reduce deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest by over 77% in the last seven years. It also helped Brazil’s economy boom, making that country the world’s sixth largest economy today.

However, there have only been tangible results in two of the five incentives. Brazil and developing countries like it would benefit more from being on some of the Norad plans to help countries support themselves.

For example, Norad is one of the partners in the program aimed to reinforce public financial management (PFM) systems, which are important for democratic governance and macroeconomic stability. The countries that receive PFM support are almost all African, with the exception of Nepal.

Programs like this that encourage poverty reduction and financial planning could be hugely beneficial to countries on an economic upswing like Brazil. Giving more developing countries incentives to create better PFM systems helps those countries meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and develop a global partnership for development.

Still, Norad’s donations to Brazil have been undoubtedly influential in creating such a booming economy there. Brazil was the 22nd highest importer of Norwegian goods in 2012, which shows that consistently donating aid to developing countries is a high return of investment. Brazil and Norway have recently founded the Brazilian-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce, which aims to promote the development of commercial relationships between Brazil and Norway.

Norad’s funding for developing countries like Brazil has changed the way these countries not only trade, but also how they view government, provide healthcare, and structure education. In a limited amount of time, Norad has made invaluable changes in some of the world’s poorest populations, all for just one percent of its GDP.

– Lindsey Rubinstein

Sources: Norad, CIA, BNCC

Brazil World Cup
Income inequality is at the heart of the protests currently raging across several Brazilian cities. Originally, the protests were about the twenty-cent price hike for bus fare. Eventually, however, they turned into protests about everything that’s wrong in Brazil.

Next year’s World Cup has added to the public dissent. Brazil’s rampant political corruption has resulted in huge expenditures. The government has spent twice the amount as Germany and South Africa spent on the World Cup.

It is predicted that FIFA will make over one billion dollars from the tournament, but Brazil will benefit very little. Originally, it was presumed that the Cup would be paid for by private investors and corporations, and that the public funds would go toward bettering the existing infrastructure. But then the Brazilian government lent money to build brand-new stadiums. Essentially, the government is spending billions of dollars on a private event that is so expensive that only the rich can attend.

It has become a bit of a paradox — a country that is a symbol of soccer to many has turned against the sport’s largest event. The huge public expenditure has left the people wondering: why can the country invest millions on a soccer tournament but can’t seem to find funds to fix the broken healthcare and education systems?

The independent protestors have balked at any specific political party that has tried to claim leadership in the demonstrations, preferring instead to remain a party-free dissident entity. Even the large Workers Party was shooed away.

The impact of the country-wide protests have already been felt. President Dilma Roussef went on TV and invited protestors into the head of the government to talk about what’s going on. She met with the Movimento Passe Livre, the university free fare group that started the protests, and ultimately ceded the twenty cent transport fare increase.

While the positive impacts have been felt, it is doubtful that any more progress will be made on the issue. With so little political cohesiveness within the demonstrators themselves, it appears that the dissidence will continue into the foreseeable future.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: Fair Observer, The Guardian

The greatest challenge of a generation remains as the world figures out in the decades ahead how to feed an additional two billion people. Unprecedented population growth, rising incomes in the developing world and a growing need for energy contribute to the increase in demand for agricultural products. Agricultural development is needed now more than ever to meet this demand, but if Brazil‘s success in recent decades is any indicator, development can be improved worldwide to address global poverty.

Agricultural Development or Perpetuated Hunger?

Depending on the actions of the international community, this increase in demand will lead the world down one of two paths. If agricultural production is not increased, millions of people will increasingly be left in a state of perpetual hunger. On the other hand, the increase in demand for agricultural products can be seen as an opportunity for economic development through new food markets in the developing world.

While there is a certain amount of truth to the argument that the global food security problem stems from distribution rather than production, there is also strong evidence that an increase in production is possible — and necessary. Economists predict that as incomes and population rise, the global demand for food will increase 60 percent by 2050. This means that the world will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as they did in the last thousand.

If done properly, agricultural development can be a driving force for economic development and poverty reduction. Research conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs suggests that global food security is particularly advanced with increases of the agricultural potential of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The benefits are two-fold: the increase in agricultural income for smallholder farmers can lift millions out of chronic hunger, and the increase in production can provide more food to the global market as a whole.

How can a country best facilitate agricultural development? The simple answer is through investment research and training in science-based agriculture. The success story of Brazil best illustrates this methodology.

Brazil’s Success Story

Through investments in agricultural research, Brazil has moved from a net importer of food to one of the world’s largest breadbaskets. Between 1996 and 2006, the total value of Brazil’s crops rose by 365%. The tropical country has now caught up with the “big five” grain exporters (America, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union) – all of which are temperate producers.

This astounding progress has been made through the successes of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation – Embrapa for short. Since its founding in 1973, Brazil has doubled its cultivated land and multiplied its agricultural output by six. Antonio Lopes, the president of Embrapa, says that the success lies in the delicate balance between agricultural expansion and land conservation.

Because no model for successful agricultural development in a tropical climate existed previously, Brazil was forced to create its own. First, they increased the amount of ploughable land by adding lime and nitrogen-fixing bacteria to soil that was previously unfit for farming. Second, they introduced a larger-leafed variety of grass and converted part of the new land into pastures so as to allow for the expansion of Brazil’s beef herd. Third, and perhaps most importantly, they converted temperate-climate soybeans into a tropical crop through genetic modification. Last, Embrapa encouraged and integrated new operation farm techniques such as “no-till” agriculture and forest, agriculture and livestock integration.

According to Lopes, Brazil will continue to invest in agriculture research and development for the foreseeable future. Brazil should serve as an example to the rest of the world for the ways in which private and public investment can transform a developing country in the tropics into an agricultural powerhouse.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: InterAction, The Economist
Photo: Guardian

In the last several years Brazil has made major efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from 16.4% in 1995 to 4.7% in 2009. Nonetheless, there are still 10 million Brazilians who live in extreme poverty. Protests have thus broken out over the heavy spending on new soccer stadiums in preparation for the FIFA World Cup.

Over a million people took to the streets to protest inequality within the country. The protesters’ main concern is government is major expenditures, in the billions, directed for new and refurbished stadiums for upcoming World Cup and Olympics. The protestors are demanding that the money instead be spent on schools, hospitals, and better public transportation.

When more than 50,000 people came together on Thursday the 27th, 90 people were injured in a barrage of rubber bullets and teargas. Their goal was to reach the stadium in Fortaleza where Spain was playing Italy in the Confederation Cup, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Brazil has a history of violent oppression and the police attacks during the recent upheaval have certainly touched a nerve.

The President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, responded to the protests saying, “I can understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard. Brazil asked to host the World Cup. We didn’t force it on them.” FIFA is expecting to make record profits from advertising and broadcasting. Money that will not benefit the Brazilian people.

Marcos Nobre, a political philosophy professor at the University of Campinas and author of a new e-book on the revolt, was interviewed by Reuters about the recent protests. He said, “The streets are saying to the politicians: you have heard our voices, now let’s see what you will do with this.”

Nobre also claims that the demonstrations are far from over. The people will have to keep fighting if they want any real change to take place. Even with numerous economic successes, Brazil is still a country plagued by poverty. The residents only ask they receive the attention and assistance of the government before they start spending large quantities of money on mega-events.

– Chelsea Evans
Source: Inequality Watch, Reuters
Photo: Reuters

While Brazil ranks as one of the world’s highest GDP rates, it still struggles with inequality and inefficiency. The World Bank has seen it fit to grant Brazil $500 million in loans to fund 3 projects that will help end inequality in Brazil. The loans fund three projects located in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

The first project is the Sao Paulo State Sustainable Transport Project. This project aims to improve environmental and disaster management as well as the safety of the transport system in Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo is home to over 40 million people and an efficient and safe transport system is essential to keep this region competitive with the world. More importantly this project will extend the transport system to regions that have not had access to public transportation. This project will give citizens the opportunity to find jobs in the metropolitan area and hopefully lift them out of poverty.

The second project will help millions of citizens in the South East of Brazil. It is the Belo Horizonte Urban Inclusive Development Policy Loan. This $200 million loan will help with the development of this region, which has been plagued with inequality. This project will focus on development strategies to provide safe housing to all citizens. Belo Horizonte has had increasing economic growth but an increase of irregular housing. The hope is to increase the quality of life of the low income population.

The third project involves the municipality of Rio de Janeiro which received a $16.2 million loan for the Rio de Janeiro Strengthening Public Sector Management Technical Assistance Project. In the past decade, the administration of Rio de Janeiro has implemented several different program such as The Family Health Strategy and new education programs to combat the high levels of poverty and inequality in the region. However, the administration does not have the money or power to implement all of these reforms immediately. This loan will help the administration to achieve these reforms.

– Catherine Ulrich
Source: World Bank, Political Press
Photo: Professional Jeweller

São Paulo’s visionary new mayor, Fernando Haddad, plans to elevate the city’s sprawling and overcrowded slums out of abject poverty by 2020. His goal is to improve the horrible living conditions of the favelas while also halting their insurgent growth.

The favela slums of São Paulo remain a brazen example of the poverty and income inequality that still lingers in Brazil despite its recent (and remarkable) economic growth. They serve as hotbeds for violence and crime as well as uncontained waste and rampant pollution.

In a campaign promise during last year’s election, Haddad created what will become the city’s main development plan named “Arco do Futuro.” This plan promises to provide more housing and jobs for the favela’s cramped and unemployed populations. He maintains that the improvements will occur as a result of economic growth, government funding, and demographic changes.

Previously, the government’s efforts to develop a 100-acre area around Luz, which is notorious for drug activity and known as Cracolândia, sparked intense protests within the community. According to Haddad, this was because the public did not trust the private companies in charge of the housing programs.

The mayor plans to allow for members of the community to have a greater voice in order for the development plan to not be seen as a threat. He emphasized that giving individuals a greater sense of ownership would negate the negative feelings toward the project.

This mentality fits well with the message of the New Cities summit, which was hosted by São Paulo this year. The message is this: “The Human City, placing the individual and the community at the heart of discussions on our urban future.”

The New Cities summit, held in São Paulo this year echoed this idea as a way of developing solutions to the challenges of rapid urbanization. São Paulo was chosen to host last week’s New Cities summit because it faces many of the same problems as other metropolises across the developing world. If São Paulo can find ways to alleviate their problems of crime, pollution, overcrowding and waste, then the hope is that other cities can too.

By 2030, it is estimated that 60% of the world’s total population will be living in urban areas. Each year, a million people are added to this figure in China, India and the Middle East. Latin American countries have the highest percentage of urban populations with 87% of the population of Brazil living in cities.

“We need more just cities. Not just playgrounds for the wealthy, but cities where all people can thrive,” said John Rossant of the New Cities Foundation, “This is a global summit to look at problems facing cities in the 21st century, but also opportunities. There are lots of interesting solutions.”

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: The Guardian,New Cities Foundation,Estado Sao Paulo
Photo: Mind Map-SA