The fight against hunger and poverty must be placed high on the agenda of governments, multilateral institutions and NGOs. In 2050, the world population will reach 9 billion. To ensure their needs, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) points to the need for a robust increase in world food supply. African production will have to increase fivefold. Latin American production will have to double.
The FAO estimates that 90% of those needs could be achieved with gains in productivity. But we also know that the problem of hunger is essentially a problem of access to food. The global challenges with respect to food supply are particularly complex, and the FAO can – and should – play a central role to fight hunger, stimulate the sustainable production of food, and enhance global food security.
Leadership – and partnership – in this arena have never been more urgently required. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand, so in addressing food supply we can help tackle the broader challenges of achieving global sustainable development at a time of increasing suffering and instability in many regions. Families are facing pressures over vulnerable food supplies with little hope for relief in the near future. Just this month the FAO forecast that high and volatile agricultural commodity prices are likely to prevail into 2012.
In fact, the bill for international food imports is expected to reach its highest level this year – $1.29 trillion – but the burden of that cost will not be shared equally. The UN-classified least developed countries will spend 30% more on food imports in 2011, raising their spending to roughly 18% of their imports, compared with a world average of around 7%. This situation is not conducive to global economic and social stability.
Brazil’s credentials in tackling hunger and poverty are well established. The Zero Hunger programme, created in 2003 and co-ordinated by Dr José Graziano da Silva, combined emergency actions with structural measures for food security. It was the starting point for all other policies implemented in the following years. Income transfer programmes such as Bolsa Familia – which supports more than a quarter of the population – combine food safety, access to education and health, and measures to foster local development, especially in rural areas.
The encouragement of family agriculture was fundamental to the success of social policies in Brazil. Family farming is responsible for 70% of food consumed domestically and represents 10% of Brazil’s GDP. These results would not be possible without agricultural research, agrarian reform and land tenure, technical assistance, and access to credit and insurance, among other things. With these, 32 million Brazilians (over 16% of the population) have overcome poverty.
Consistent with this, Brazil has been working internationally for a more balanced and socially equitable global order. Our approach is based on the construction of equal partnerships with developing countries worldwide.
Putting the fight against hunger and poverty as one of the top international priorities is a commitment made by my country. It was precisely for this reason that, as president of Brazil, last year I presented Graziano da Silva as a candidate to be the FAO’s director general.
No country can achieve sustainable development without improving the living conditions of its people; and the Brazilian experience shows that overcoming hunger requires co-ordinated actions, political will and the participation of all society. With Graziano da Silva’s FAO candidacy, Brazil reaffirms its commitment to the universal agenda of combating poverty and hunger.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil from 2002 to 2010.