Campaigning for the right to food in Brazil

Poverty Reduction Strategy

Cooking the evening meal in north-east Brazil. Photo: Marcus Perkins/Tearfund
Cooking the evening meal in north-east Brazil. Photo: Marcus Perkins/Tearfund

Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

by Daniela Sanches Frozi.

Brazil is one of the biggest food producers worldwide, but millions of people living in the north and north-east regions of Brazil experience food shortages. 

The National Council for Food and Nutrition Security (CONSEA) advises the President on what action needs to be taken nationally to guarantee the right to food. In CONSEA, members of civil society and government work together on public policy that will protect the most vulnerable people.

In 2009, CONSEA started a national campaign on behalf of people suffering from hunger in Brazil. The campaign requested a constitutional amendment which aimed to include the right to adequate food in the Brazilian Constitution. If it was successful, the Brazilian population would gain more protection from the government during times of hunger.

Different groups supported this and signed up to the campaign, including the National Evangelical Network for Social Action (RENAS) and FALE Network for advocacy.

In December 2009, the Chamber of Deputies had still not approved the constitutional amendment and CONSEA's national campaign stopped being a hot political topic. So Tearfund and its partners in Brazil decided to put pressure on the Chamber of Deputies to act. The opportunity to unite for a common goal encouraged many organisations, networks and churches involved in RENAS and FALE Network to take part in CONSEA's national campaign.  

They used two arguments:

  • Almost 14 million Brazilians live in households with a serious level of food insecurity, according to the data released by the first survey on Food Security carried out in 2004 by IBGE, a respected national statistics institute.
  • The Brazilian Federal Constitution (Article 6) guarantees the right to education, health, work, accommodation and other things - but what about the right to food?

Led by RENAS and FALE Network, the campaign for the human right to adequate food started on 22 December 2009 and continued until the constitutional amendment came up for vote on the Chamber of Deputies' agenda on 4 February 2010. Using websites and emails, those involved spread information across their networks to people at regional and local levels, giving clear instructions on what they had to do to support the campaign. People were asked to:

  • write to members of the Brazilian congress
  • raise food security issues with local politicians
  • pray.
  • This led to the approval of the constitutional amendment, which immediately guaranteed the human right to adequate food to all Brazilian citizens - a very important victory.

Mr Nazareno Fonteles, the representative of the Parliamentary Front for Food Security, told the RENAS representative in CONSEA that the pressure applied by the evangelicals was very important because:

  • a large number of messages were received
  • messages arrived every day
  • it demonstrated that evangelicals were concerned about the rights of the Brazilian population to adequate food.

The campaign's success demonstrates the influence that Christians can have on politics. The challenge we face is to continue promoting other advocacy campaigns, so we can work towards a society free from extreme poverty.

Daniela Sanches Frozi is a public policy consultant working in Brazil.