For many years, Brazil lived the paradox of being a nation with extraordinary agricultural resources and yet, with millions facing hunger and malnutrition. For that reason, the Brazilian government implemented the Zero Hunger Programme in 2003, thanks to which 40 million Brazilians were taken out of poverty in the last decade. Today, more than 55 per cent of the Brazilian population is part of the middle class.
The integrated actions of all different Brazilian authorities involved with the implementation of the Zero Hunger Programme allowed a planned and articulated policy aimed at assuring access to the production and consumption of healthy food. It has enhanced income, created jobs and improved educational conditions, school attendance, health conditions, municipal infrastructure, access to basic sanitation and drinking water. We are aware, however, that there is still plenty to be done, not only in Brazil but also worldwide.
It makes me extremely proud to see the “zero hunger” battle cry transformed into a global endeavour and it is reason of great joy to have Pakistan as a partner to fight this battle together. The launching last March of the Zero Hunger Action Plan by the Pakistani government shows well that Brazil and Pakistan can, indeed, work together on this issue.
In the first week of December, six Brazilian experts on food security and poverty alleviation will come to Islamabad to share with Pakistanis the successful experiences of the Brazilian programmes in these two major subjects. There will be a one-day seminar followed by two-day bilateral meetings. This groundbreaking initiative will pave the way for Pakistan and Brazil to identify areas of cooperation, inaugurating another important chapter in the global effort against hunger and poverty, as well as strengthening the old and friendly relations between the two countries and peoples.
It is important, nevertheless, to keep in mind some essential questions. Brazil cannot separate food security from agricultural trade issues, as international trade plays a decisive part in the matter. It is widely accepted that the biggest obstacle to a food secure world is not the production of food but the distribution and distortive market mechanisms, such as protectionist policies and subsidies adopted by many developed countries.
Another important issue is the necessity of support to what is known in Brazil as family agriculture, or smallholder farmers. In Brazil, 70 per cent of all the food consumed comes from this kind of producer and that should be emphasised on a global scale. By giving support and strengthening the generation of income for families in rural areas, we are automatically guaranteeing their nutrition security and boosting rural production as multi-cropping is a common feature of those properties.
It is also important to highlight the necessity to increase and improve agriculture productivity. In Brazil, thanks to agricultural research institutions, we were able to multiply the production of food without expanding the use of lands and damaging the environment. This is also an important tool against climate change and ecological imbalance.
The issues indicated above must be addressed combined with the implementation of domestic policies. International cooperation, multilateral activism and the development of well-structured social protection policies are the formula to face this massive challenge. In bilateral terms, the Pakistan-Brazil Seminar on Food Security and Poverty Alleviation is an important step taken by Brazil and Pakistan to work together in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2012.