Brazil’s Food Acquisition Programme has shown that procurement power can be mobilized to deliver on state strategy while also addressing equity principles for sustainable development.
Rather than examining an overarching state strategy, as in the cases of PNG and Ecuador, this chapter briefly appraises a sectoral programme to demonstrate the versatility of the proposed framework.
Zero Hunger (Fome Zero), was a key state strategy that helped Brazil reduce its poverty gap by half in the 2000s, as well as the prevalence in the country of undernourishment, which fell from 10.6 per cent in 2001 to below 2.5 per cent from 2009. In the international arena, Brazil’s Fome Zero gained traction after the UN adopted and multiplied the idea to create a global Zero Hunger challenge, which was eventually embedded in the missions of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), as well as in the SDGs. Alongside the conditional cash-transfer programme Bolsa Família, the Food Acquisition Programme, a public procurement programme, became a global benchmark for the developing world.,,
State strategy: the role of the Food Acquisition Programme
Through the Food Acquisition Programme, the Brazilian government has procured food from smallholder family farmers, mostly peasants, to contribute to localized food security initiatives. The innovation in the procurement process is in relieving family farmers from heavy bureaucratic procedures that impeded their access to public procurement markets. This is a procedural change that has proved effective in giving family farmers access to a market mediated by the state. In this sense, the Food Acquisition Programme in Brazil resembles PNG’s strategy of buying from SMEs, but in Brazil’s case, the beneficiaries are the rural poor who are not necessarily organized into enterprises – as in the Ecuadorian strategy. The Food Acquisition Programme was deemed successful in reducing poverty and improving nutrition and food security. It had a successful trajectory from its inception in 2003 up to 2012, when Brazil entered a period of fiscal austerity. However, the programme’s legacy remains, particularly in changes made to the way school meals are now sourced across the country. Since 2009, at least 30 per cent of the central budget for school meals is mandated to be spent on food purchases sourced directly from local smallholder family farmers. In the period from 2009 to 2018, the Food Acquisition Programme purchased R$12 billion worth of food from family farmers across the country. The central budget for school meals is around R$4 billion a year, reaching more than 40 million students.
Development and sustainability
The Food Acquisition Programme has tried to change the situation of peasants and the urban poor in a two-sided programme. On the supply side, the programme supports the development of a market exclusive to family farmers – which is decentralized, with shorter supply chains. Local economies are strengthened and producers receive fairer payments. On the demand side, the programme increases the food security of vulnerable populations, who would normally struggle to afford nutritional meals. As illustrated in Figure 4, the Food Acquisition Programme is based on at least two ‘development blocks’, providing 1) economic facilities to peasants and other smallholder family farmers, through the improvement of the conditions of exchange; and 2) protective security to food-insecure populations, in the form of a social safety net that helps prevent starvation. The programme has improved opportunities for peasants to remain in (or even return to) the countryside, should they wish to, instead of living on the outskirts of urban centres (in favelas or informal settlements) and being pushed into providing cheap labour (for example, in sweatshops or the construction sector). By so doing, the programme demonstrates a number of the ‘sustainability pillars’ in the proposed framework for procurement for sustainable development.