Linking Brazil’s food security policies to agricultural change
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Poverty, food security, and sustainability are intimately intertwined, driving conflict and synergy between environmental and societal concerns. Brazil’s flagship food security policies were implemented over a decade ago to address these issues simultaneously. Global institutions have pledged over 2 million US$ to develop similar programs in sub-Saharan Africa, yet empirical assessments of many aspects of these policies are still lacking. We focus on a case study in the state of Minas Gerais and assess the agricultural and environmental impacts of the Purchase with Simultaneous Donation (PSD) program. The PSD provides stable markets as incentives to diversify production, but we find no effect of participation on changes in local agricultural practices, production or income. While some farms are expanding, regional agricultural production appears to be declining due to local economic development and related shortages in farm labor. The PSD’s limited impact arises because most farmers only participate irregularly, typically during the dry season when the program offers higher prices than the local market price. Furthermore, participation is constrained by the specific nature of PSD contracts and centralized governance of the program. We complement these findings with data from the Brazilian Ministry of Social Development and the 2006 agricultural census, which show substantial variation in the availability of PSD initiatives, and the funding allocated to them at local, regional and national levels. We suggest that adaptive management strategies that can respond to local market conditions could lead to more equitable and efficient food security and agricultural policies in Brazil and elsewhere.
KeywordsAgricultural intensification Land abandonment Rural development Small-scale farming
We thank Belo Horizonte’s Secretariat for Food Security for their logistical support as well as the staff of the EMATER and farmers’ union offices in Mário Campos who were instrumental in setting up initial contacts with the municipality’s farming community. We remain indebted to all the participants for their time and willingness to take part in the study. We also thank David Abson, Joern Fischer, Lorenza B. Fontana, Brenda B. Lin and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments on previous versions of this manuscript. This research was funded through a Washington State University grant to MJC.
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