Investing Locally: Lessons Learned from Brazil’s Zero Hunger Strategy

Reprinted from

Written by Daniel Balaban on July 3, 2014

The number of projects, NGO’s and international organizations involved with aid is constantly increasing, but effectiveness is still a challenge. Receiving large amounts of foreign aid does not guarantee that the countries will improve their national institutions. Many of them rely almost completely on the donations or even on the implementation of social programmes by international organizations. Their capacity to respond to emergencies or adverse scenarios depends on the classic north-south cooperation, which has not been able to bring real changes to countries and to its peoples’ livelihood.

Horizontal Cooperation: the way to strengthen effectiveness

As south-south cooperation emerged as an answer to the classic aid, the term used by policymakers and academics to describe the exchange of knowledge and technology between developing countries gains a broader approach when called horizontal cooperation. As with the sharing of best lessons and the promotion of social policies and programmes that have been proved sucessful started with developing countries in support to others, the type of cooperation not involving direct donations is now being accepted and advocated for many countries, sometimes in triangular agreements. This cooperation in an horizontal way is effective because it focuses on tailored issues and requires political will in order to function.

Empowering Local Governments: Brazil’s National Zero Hunger Strategy

Horizontal cooperation mobilizes the government, civil society, and schools around school feeding in Niger. Photo Credit: WFP/Vinicius Limongi.

Horizontal cooperation mobilizes the government, civil society, and schools around school feeding in Niger. Photo Credit: WFP/Vinicius Limongi.

After decades being an aid recipient country, Brazil started to realize the importance of strengthening national institutions when it comes to tackling hunger and poverty.  When a National Zero Hunger Strategy was officially launched in 2003, the country was already going through years of ideological reform, and the civil society and the government were both empowered. In my opinion, the most important change in Brazil came when the Government realized that political will would be the only answer to end inequality and to provide a better life to the entire population. After that, a range of multisectorial actions were designed and Brazil started to implement the social programmes and policies that are widely known nowadays.

The National School Feeding Programme

Under the Zero Hunger Strategy, the 60-year old National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) could be improved and broadened to reach universal standards. PNAE is currently a model for the rest of the world as its functionality attracts many countries interested in developing sustainable social safety nets. An important innovation within PNAE is the law approved in 2009 that establishes that 30% of the food used by the programme must be purchased from smallholder farmers. In the past, the school feeding programme in Brazil depended on foreign donations and relied on external products to be operationalized. This is not the case anymore, and PNAE is responsible for the creation of a crucial market for locally produced food goods, which promotes local development, especially in rural areas.

The importance of sharing – the Centre of Excellence against Hunger’s example

As more countries are acknowledging the need of developing a different type of cooperation that could be an alternative to the North-South approach, Brazil is one of the biggest players in the horizontal cooperation setup. In a partnership with the UN World Food Programme, Brazil launched a Centre of Excellence in the end of 2011, aiming to share its successful social programmes, policies, and methodologies, and to advocate for the development of hunger governance and the creation of institutions that could be sustainable and nationally owned. In the past two years, the Centre of Excellence received ministerial delegations from 29 different countries willing to understand how Brazil took over 40 million people under the extreme poverty with no foreign support.

Delegation from Tunisia visits school near Brasilia during the study visit. Photo Credit: WFP/Isadora Ferreira.

Delegation from Tunisia visits school near Brasilia during the study visit. Photo Credit: WFP/Isadora Ferreira.

Investing locally – guaranteeing national development

Among Brazil’s best practices promoted by the Centre of Excellence is the idea of investing in social programmes targeting local communities in order to achieve an economic boost. By addressing rural and other specific populations and supporting their access to the market, the government can guarantee the sustainability of programmes and then promote real development in the livelihoods. This, combined with better education and opportunities, is key for a country’s growth, proving that social policies are not an expenditure, but an investment. In Brazil, the implementation of a national strategy was responsible for switching the country from an aid recipient to a model of success that inspires other nations. Political will is the main answer and should be widely promoted and advocated to avoid that another 2 trillion of US dollars are spent in projects that would not be able to foster a real transformation in the African continent.

To understand more, download the Centre of Excellence against Hunger’s Annual Report to know more on horizontal cooperation here or watch our video.

About the author

Daniel Balaban, an economist, is the Director for World Food Programme’s (WFP) Centre of Excellence against Hunger. He has also led the Brazilian national school feeding programme as the President of the National Fund for Education Development (FNDE), which feeds 47 million children in school each year. Prior to this, he worked in the private sector as the President of Fiscal Council of Bank Banespa Leasing and as the Fiscal Counsellor of Banco do Brasil Turismo. Additionally, he had been a financial analyst for the Ministry of Finance, an Economic Advisor to the Secretary of the National Treasury, and the National Coordinator of the Studies of the Fiscal Economy. In 2003, he served as the Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Council of Economic and Social Development under the Presidency of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

The original post can be found here.

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