Brazil Shows World How To Beat Hunger, Says WFP

Brazil's impressive progress in fighting hunger is largely thanks to an ambitious strategy called Zero Hunger.  WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran spent the first day of a trip to Brazil visiting family farms and schools to get a closer look at how it works. Video

BRASILIA – Brazil's Zero Hunger (Fome Zero) strategy is helping to feed hungry people at a faster rate than any other programme in the world, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said on Sunday from the fields of a small farm near Brasilia, where a family grows food that is then used for local school meals programmes.

“We’re here to listen and learn, to see how they are doing it so these best practices can be shared,”  said Ms. Sheeran, speaking on the first day of her trip to Brazil.

Slashed malnutrition

Between 2000 and 2006, a mixture of financial support to farming families and community projects such as school feeding has slashed malnutrition among children under the age of two from 12.7 percent to 3.5 percent. The strategy has also contributed to a 47 per cent drop in infant mortality.

In northeastern Brazil, the poorest area of the country, overall levels of malnutrition fell from 17.9 per cent in 1996 to 6.6 per cent in 2005. Stunting, the physical and mental damage that results from child malnutrition, also fell by half during that period, from 13.5 per cent to 6.8 per cent.

two young girls eating school mealsBolsa Familia

An important part of the Zero Hunger strategy is the "Bolsa Familia" program, cash stipends that help families weather poverty with income that also helps boost local economies. In the Brazilian heartland, the programme has helped many farm labourers become independent farmers with land of their own.

During her visit, Ms. Sheeran met with one such grower whose fresh produce now forms the base of nutritious meals served up at local schools. She said connecting the interests of smallholders with community assets like schools was one of the main secrets behind the success of the Zero Hunger strategy.

After visiting a local grade school, where she helped serve the students lunch, Sheeran underlined the vital role small farmers play in the global fight against hunger. “Virtually no society has become rich by stepping over the small farmers,” she said. “The world today cannot feed itself if it neglects them”.