Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Subscribers Section User ID Password
State sustenance
Ricardo Soca
Send a comment Print this page

Hunger no longer acceptable.

"Zero Hunger" by 2007 was the promise made by Brazil´ s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva when he served up a program to eliminate poverty and malnutrition Jan. 30. An estimated 50 million Brazilians, nearly one-third of the population, live in poverty (LP, Jan. 15, 2003).

At the program launch in Brasília, Da Silva also swore in the new members of the National Food Security Council (CONSEA), made up of cabinet ministers, legislators, governors, trade unionists, business leaders and representatives of indigenous and civil society movements. CONSEA will develop the program in partnership with the Ministry of Food Security and the Fight Against Hunger, headed by José Graziano. The Council was previously founded and disbanded respectively by ex-Presidents Itamar Franco (1992-94) and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002).

Da Silva emphasized that the "Zero Hunger" program does not just mean more food. He aims to implement structural measures that will combat the causes and effects of hunger, targeting the most marginalized social groups in an effort requiring "the mobilization of society."

Da Silva recognizes the urgent nature of the program. "Those who are hungry can t afford to wait another day," he said. "Our fight against hunger is a fundamental step towards eliminating misery, poverty, the lack of opportunities and social inequality."

Food security, according to Da Silva, can only be guaranteed by increasing food demand, lowering the prices of essential foodstuffs and providing assistance in hunger-related emergencies. To do this, he intends to boost rice and bean production by 30 percent, at the same time creating 350,000 new jobs in the agriculture sector.

"Zero Hunger" consists of 60 action plans split into three groups and is set to be fully operative by August. The three-pronged attack aims to tackle hunger on "structural," "specific" and "local" levels. This involves increasing food production via technical training, assisting families in extreme situations and decentralizing the program to include the participation of civil society and 5,600 municipalities.

Da Silva has committed US$1.4 billion to the program in its first year, including $500 million in state funds and the remainder from other ministry programs, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations (UN). "In Brazil hunger can be represented by a half empty plate or the acceptance of just one meal a day," said Andrew MacMillan, of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. "In the long run this weakens the people and undermines the development opportunities in a country filled with potential."

"Zero Hunger" kicks off at the end of February with pilot programs in Acauá and Guaribas, in the northeastern state of Piauí. Electronic cards are to be distributed to 716 families with which they will be able to draw $13 a month from state-owned banks to cover their food needs. The cards are renewable every three months, subject to proof of sale receipts.

The program, despite receiving widespread popular support, came under fire from conservatives as well as some CONSEA members, including Mauro Morelli, Bishop of Duque de Caxias in Rio de Janeiro, who can t stomach the idea of controlling what beneficiaries buy.

World Bank officials share Morelli s critique, calling such controls pointless because hungry people do not waste money on products other than food anyway. Conservative commentators have called the program "a political marketing program that sells redemption for remorse."

Further discontent was expressed over the slow start to the program, limited to a small corner of Brazil. "We had to start somewhere and give priority to one area in particular," explained Rev. Carlos Livanio Christo (better known as Frei Betto), Da Silva s special "Zero Hunger" advisor. "Little by little the program will extend nationwide", said the priest.

Government goals target aid such as food banks and public dining halls for 1.5 million families in 1,000 municipalities across the semiarid region of the northeast, one of the poorest parts of the country, by the end of 2003. Da Silva s Minister of Cities, Olivio Dutra, intends to link "Zero Hunger" with his program "Zero Thirst", aimed at bringing an end to chronic water shortages in the same region.

With Da Silva s public approval at almost 84 percent, the new president appears to have the nation behind him. Politicians across the spectrum, as well as media moguls, businessmen, bankers, and trade union leaders, have lent their solidarity and support in the fight against hunger and poverty.





Related News
Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
Reproduction of our information is permitted if the source is cited.
Contact us: (511) 460 5517
Address: Comandante Gustavo Jiménez 480, Magdalena del Mar, Lima 17, Perú

Internal Mail:
This website is updated every week.