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The Implementation of Brazil’s Food Security Policies

Brazil’s Food Policy Framework

The human right to adequate food has been a milestone in the national policy debate for several years and on February 2010, by means of a constitutional amendment, the right to food became part of Brazilians social rights. The following analysis will highlight the main findings of the country study entitled “The Food Security Policy Context in Brazil”. This report will provide quantitative data, quotes and comparisons on the issue of food security in Brazil.

Food security policy framework in Brazil

In recent years accomplishments such as the Zero Hunger strategy and the National Food and Nutritional Security Policy (PNSAN) have reflected a strong food policy framework.

Recently, related public action comprises interventions geared to tackling the underlying causes of hunger, such as inequality, poverty and social exclusion. They aim at supporting insertion into the workforce, increasing family income and redistributing resources. Food-security interventions include programmes targeting immediate access to food as both regular and emergency interventions.

The Zero Hunger Strategy

Zero Hunger is Brazil’s national strategy on food and nutritional security consisting of more than 20 initiatives in four areas of intervention:

  • Food Access
  • Strengthening of Family Agriculture
  • Income Generation
  • Articulation, mobilization, and social control

The Zero Hunger initiative introduced major programmes such as the “Bolsa Família”, a conditional cash transfer scheme, and it incorporated a range of existing initiatives in an effort to put together a multi-sector array of public interventions to tackle hunger and guarantee universal access to quality food.

Bolsa Família has the largest budget within Zero Hunger, equivalent to over $8 billion USD in 2010, followed by two other programmes: the National Programme for Strengthening Family Farming (PRONAF) and the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE).

The scale of Bolsa Família in recent years, in terms of budget and visibility, could be interpreted as a shift in focus from food and nutritional security to poverty reduction. The maintenance of Zero Hunger itself as a long-term framework for public action brings uncertainties. This is aggravated by the new presidential term that started in January 2010, when President Lula, whose two consecutive terms were Zero Hunger’s implementation period, will be terminated.

The National Food and Nutritional Security Policy (PNSAN)

The National Food and Nutritional Security Policy (PNSAN) general aim is to promote food and nutritional security and to ensure the human right to adequate food. Its specific objectives are to:

  • Identify, analyse, disseminate and act on the factors that influence food and nutritional insecurity in Brazil.
  • Link the programmes and actions of various sectors to respect, protect, promote and provide the human right to adequate food, considering the variety of social, cultural, environmental, ethnic-racial, equity of gender and sexual orientation, as well as provide tools for its accountability.
  • Promote sustainable agro-ecological systems for food production and distribution that respect biodiversity and strengthen family agriculture, indigenous peoples and traditional communities, and that ensure consumption and access to adequate and healthy food, respecting the diversity of national food culture.
  • Include respect for food sovereignty and the guarantee of the human right to adequate food, including access to water, as a state policy, and to promote them in international negotiations and cooperation.

PNSAN and the future plan comprise an important additional step to Zero Hunger and a significant consolidation of government action on food and nutritional security. On the one hand this broadens the scope of the Zero Hunger strategy, opening up the possibility of including other issues in the food-security policy framework, and ensures follow-up mechanisms. On the other, government action is now legally enshrined as state policy and can thus endure whether or not Zero Hunger is maintained by future governments.

The Brazilian Food Security Situation and the Policy Context

The Brazilian Food-Insecurity Scale (EBIA) is a recent effort to provide a picture of the country’s food security situation. This methodology consists of a set of questions about the informant’s perceptions of household access to food in proper quantity and quality.

  • Its latest application showed that 30.2 per cent of households were in some degree of food insecurity in 2009.
  • In 2009, 65.6 million people in 17.7 million homes had some constraint on their food intake or at least some concern about the possibility of constraints because of a lack of resources to buy food.
  • In 2010 show a total of 18.7 per cent living in mild food insecurity,6 6.5 per cent in moderate,7 and 5 per cent (2.9 million people) in severe food insecurity

The health sector’s System of Food and Nutritional Surveillance (SISVAN) is a data tool used to track the nutritional status and food consumption of the people who attend the basic units of the public health system and are served by the family health strategy.

  • SISVAN reveals that in 2010, 3.7 percent of children below five years of age who had used the related health systems had low or very low weight-for-age, while 7.2 were overweight.
  • SISVAN also revealed that  6 percent of infants below two months old had an exclusively breastfeeding diet

The Ministry of Health also finances the National Survey of Demography and Woman and Child Health (PNDS). This is part of the global project MEASURE DHS (Demographic and Health Survey) supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners.

  • PNDS found that 4.3 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 are underweight, which is below the levels considered proper for healthy populations (5 percent).
  • The Northeast region, however, is slightly above that level and has the highest share of the regions at 5.2 per cent.
  • At the national level, 7.0 per cent of children below the age of five were estimated to have insufficient height-for-age, with a higher share in the Northern region (14.7 percent).

In addition, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) develops the National Household Budget Survey (POF) to investigate families’ financial conditions and to gather other information about living standards.

  • The 2008–2009 POF reveals significant trends in the population, with a substantial decline in malnutrition and food insecurity, and worrying figures on overweight.
  • The study found that 6 per cent of children under five years old have height deficiency.
  • The proportion of those who are overweight (33.5 per cent) is eight times higher than the underweight in the 5–9 age group and more than eighteen times in adults (the alarming figure is 49 per cent)
  • On the other hand, the share of households perceiving that they have access to sufficient food has increased by over 11 per cent in the last six years, and currently stands at 64.5 per cent, but 35.5 per cent of households still say that they do not to have access to enough food.
  • Conditions are more disturbing in the North and Northeastern regions, where over 50 per cent of families reported that they do not consume sufficient food.

Multiple Dimensions of Brazil’s Food security Policy Framework

The Rights-Based Approach

Brazil is a part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the most important human-rights instrument for the right to food, and thus the government has committed itself to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food. At the national level, Brazil has made significant progress on the legal framework of food and nutritional security. In 2006, the Organic Law of Food and Nutrition Security (LOSAN) was enacted and the human right to adequate food (HRAF) was clearly stated.

In Brazil, the right to food is conceived as consisting of two indivisible dimensions:

  • The right to be free from hunger and malnutrition
  • The right to adequate food
    • This implies the duty of the public sector to respect, protect, promote and provide that right, as well as monitoring and evaluating the realisation of the right and thus guaranteeing the mechanisms to claim it

Land Reform

Land reform is a key area of government intervention in Brazil. The plan includes land redistribution, regularisation of land tenure, credit, education in rural areas, rural extension and activities geared to different groups. The main body responsible for these initiatives is the National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA).

The land-reform process has had various achievements and faced various challenges. The number of settled families has been increasing in recent years and now amounts to nearly 907,000 in more than 8,500 settlements covering 84 million hectares.


PRONAF was created in 1995 to provide financial support for family farming. PRONAF provides loans nationwide, mainly through public banks, to cover yearly costs or longer term investments in agriculture, agro-industry or other rural activities. In 2009, nearly 1.3 million credit contracts were signed, amounting to about US$5.5 billion.

PRONAF has had many achievements especially in the last 15 years.

  • The amount of financial resources available and the number of beneficiaries have increased
  • It has covered nearly 2 million families nationwide and currently offers the lowest interest rates for rural credit available in Brazil
  • Over $685,000 families contracted SEAF in the 2008–2009 agricultural year, totaling over US$2.6 billion.

General Achievements & Challenges of Brazil’s Food Security Policy Framework

Development on the policy arena

The approval of the amendment that made the right to food an obligation of the state, greatly reinforces the need to implement programmes and actions to discharge that duty and which are supported in PNSAN. A clear challenge is to define who should be accountable for the violation of that right, as well as to establish and make known the proper mechanisms to ensure that accountability.

The food and nutritional security arena reinforced this process, since it is clearly oriented towards support to family farms as the model responsible for ensuring food sovereignty. This also highlights further aspects of food-production systems, such as the promotion of agro-ecological production systems as a guideline for the development of the National Food and Nutritional Security Plan in Brazil.

Impacts on food and nutritional security

Brazil has made much progress in reducing the following four elements:

  • Malnutrition
    • The percentage of children under five years old whose weight is below that expected for their age has decreased from 4.2 in 1996 to 1.8 in 2006, according to PNDS.
  • Food inaccessibility
    • According to the Brazilian Food Insecurity Scale (EBIA), the number of households facing some degree of food insecurity declined from 34.9 per cent to 30.2 per cent between 2004 and 2009 (IBGE, 2010c).
  • Poverty
    • The percentage of the population living on less than US$1.25 a day fell from 25.6 in 1990 to 4.8 in 2008.
    • Brazil has already met the targets of the first MDG and has defined more ambitious goals of reducing extreme poverty by a quarter and eradicating hunger by 2015.
  • Inequality
    • The Gini coefficient has also fallen continuously, particularly from 2001 (when it was 0.594) to 2008 (when it was 0.544).

To learn more please visit: Country Study entitled “Food Security Policy Context in Brazil

Interested in learning more about food security and hunger in the world? Watch the follow IPC-IG video to learn more about its concepts and main policy issues:

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Posted by on Jul 6 2011. Filed under Development Innovations, News, Online Discussion, Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “The Implementation of Brazil’s Food Security Policies”

  1. […] Learn more about how Brazil designed and implemented its food security policies here. […]

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