Fighting Hunger in Brazil

Much achieved, more to do

Publication date: 15 June 2011
Author: Kate Kilpatrick

Brazil has made impressive recent strides in reducing poverty, food insecurity and hunger. Between 2000–2 and 2005–7, the proportion of people living in hunger was reduced by one-third in Brazil. Between 2003 and 2009, the number of people living in poverty decreased by 20 million.

These successes are widely considered to be due to pro-poor policies introduced during the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, including a national cross-sectoral strategy called Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), launched in 2003. This consists of 50 linked initiatives including cash transfers for poor families and support for small-scale food producers. Under the championship of President Lula, Fome Zero was able to integrate the activities of multiple government ministries within a broad agenda. These transformational policies were also the result of many years of activism by Brazilian civil society and social movements.

Brazil still has major food security challenges to overcome. Despite an enabling policy context, economic growth, and a buoyant agricultural sector, around 66 million Brazilians still face some degree of daily food insecurity. Nevertheless, Brazil’s experience shows that hunger is a multi-sector, structural problem that can respond to an integrated, coordinated, cross-government response under the right conditions.