Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):
The "social protection floor" concept is consistent with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially those associated with combating poverty and improving childhood social indicators. The direct correlation between Brazil’s social protection programs and achievement of the various MDGs has been widely documented. The Bolsa Família program has been largely credited with improving Brazil’s MDG indicators. The Bolsa Família currently provides monthly assistance of up to R$140 (US$80) to 12.4 million families. In this way, the Bolsa Família program has contributed to attaining the targets associated with eradicating extreme hunger and poverty (MDG 1), increasing the number of children enrolled in primary education (MDG 2), reducing child mortality (MDG 4), and improving maternal health (MDG 5), by delivering millions from poverty through social assistance payments which promote school attendance and health care for children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women. Program social assistance provided to families residing in low-income communities has helped to buoy local economies and to create consumer markets where none previously existed.
Fighting Hunger and Poverty:
With respect to Brazilian government efforts to eradicate hunger, the most significant is its “Fome Zero [Zero Hunger]” program, owing to its strategy of guaranteeing the human right of access to adequate food for those who lack it. The program is based on four key components: food access; strengthening family farm agriculture; income generation and articulation, and mobilization and social control.
One of the primary initiatives of Fome Zero is a family-centered social welfare program known as Bolsa Família, which provides financial assistance to 12.5 million families in all municipalities of the country. The Bolsa Família program provides food security to families in need, and contributes significantly to reducing extreme poverty and social inequality.
Established in October 2003, the Bolsa Família program provides assistance to Brazilian families earning less than R$140 (approx. US$80) per month,1 with benefits ranging from R$22 (approx. US$12.50) to R$200 (approx. US$114), based on a family’s monthly income, the number of children and adolescents through age 15 (up to three per family), and young people between the ages of 16 and 17 (up to two per family). The program’s benefits are provided directly to mothers by means of an electronic benefit card. The disbursement of Bolsa Família benefits is contingent on children attending school and family health care needs.
More than half of the 50,000 Bolsa Família beneficiaries enrolled in the “Next Step” (Próximo Passo) program go on to complete professional and vocational training courses. In this way, the Próximo Passo program prepares some 332,000 workers for jobs in the civil engineering and tourism sectors. More women enroll in the program’s course offerings than do men, and account for 78.7% of graduates. Representing an investment of R$20 million (US$11.42 million), the goal of the Próximo Passo program is to prepare 145,000 workers for civil engineering jobs in 16 states and the Federal District, and another 25,000 for careers in tourism throughout the country. These programs are the result of a partnership between the federal, state, and municipal governments.
It is the position of the Brazilian government that the convergence of strategies on policies of food and nutritional security and rural development, at the level of the Americas region, should preferably take place within the relevant multilateral forums.
Worthy of note in this regard are Brazilian government cooperation activities with Central America and the Caribbean, which provide training to technical personnel from these countries, through the transfer of social technologies. One specific example of such cooperation with Central America and the Caribbean has been a training program to share information on organic seed production and food crops, administered by BIONATUR (a family farm cooperative based in the state of Rio Grande do Sul). Between October 2008 and April 2009, BIONATUR provided its expertise in these areas to farmers from Ecuador, Venezuela, Haiti, and Nicaragua, whose travel and per diem expenses were covered by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC). In another cooperation project carried out in Nicaragua between 2008 and 2009, the Brazilian government sponsored a series of workshops on biogestors, animal feeds, and combined rice/fish cultivation, in partnership with Nicaragua’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAGFOR) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Another important international cooperation activity involves the experience of Brazil’s National School Lunch Program (PNAE), coordinated by the Ministry of Education. The program’s success in Brazil caught the attention of the international community and became a model of technical cooperation for numerous school lunch programs elsewhere. With the support of the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Brazilian Development Agency (ABC), the PNAE has since been refined and expanded to countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, and Suriname, as well as to partner countries in Africa.