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UN rights expert credits Brazil with major progress on improving access to food

October 17th, 2009
Special Rapporteur on Right to Food Olivier de Schutter

Special Rapporteur on Right to Food Olivier de Schutter

Brazil has made substantial progress in ensuring all its citizens have access to food, but authorities in the South American nation should do more to help the most vulnerable groups, such as the landless and small farmers, a United Nations human rights expert said today.

Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, told journalists in Brasilia, the capital, that the country’s improvement on the issue since his last visit in 2002 was “inspiring.”

Professor de Schutter is carrying out a week-long visit to Brazil and has so far met with senior Government officials, including Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Minister of Social Development and Fight against Hunger Patrus Ananias, and Agrarian Development Minister Guilherme Cassel, as well as key lawmakers and representatives of the Brazilian National Council for Food Security and Nutrition (CONSEA).

He said that while Brazil has made important advances, “persistent pockets of poverty and hunger” remain and the country has “tremendous opportunities to do even better.”

But to achieve that, the Rapporteur called for the reinforcement of policies “that not only boost food production, but improve the situation of the most vulnerable groups.”

He urged all candidates in next year’s presidential elections to commit to strengthening social programmes; accelerating support for family farming; tackling land concentration through agrarian reform; and allocating public resources towards productive and sustainable forms of agriculture.

Family farming is particularly vital to the Brazilian economy, Professor de Schutter stressed, with data indicating that it accounts for 70 per cent of national food production and generates jobs.

“This is what countries need in a time of crisis,” he added. “The recent law organizing the procurement of a minimum of 30 per cent of school feeding from assentamentos [settlements] and family farming is actually one of the best levers the Brazilian Government has at its disposal to realize the right to food for all.”

Professor de Schutter urged Brazil to accelerate its sustainable farming practices, saying they could serve as an example to other countries.

“Indeed, there is a huge untapped potential in innovative agro-ecological practices, such as agro-forestry, and they could be scaled up.”

Professor de Schutter, who teaches at the University of Louvain in Belgium and Columbia University in the United States, serves in an independent and unpaid capacity as Special Rapporteur and reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

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