The strengths and weaknesses of the Brazilian approach
Défis Sud n° 116, SOS Faim
Brazil is undoubtedly one of the most important agricultural powers of the twenty-first century. With growth of 9.7% in the first quarter of 2013, agriculture is the main driver of national GDP. Moreover, in 2014, the harvest of cereals, oilseeds and protein crops should reach a new record of 189.5 million tons, with soybeans, corn and rice making up 93% of the total. In 2013, record soybean production totalled 81.6 million tons, according to data from the IBGE, the national statistical institute.
We recommend reading this article1, published in the latest issue of the magazine Défis Sud, it demonstrates the specificity of the Brazilian approach based on both agro-industrial agriculture and family farming, the development of which the State will support with its “Zero Hunger” strategy; a strategy based on facilitating access to adequate food, supporting agriculture, income generating activities and social participation.
This policy for support across the whole sector testifies to Brazil’s highly strategic vision on agriculture, be it either for preserving its economic and social stability, ensuring food security or even ensuring its rank as a world power. This is a far cry from the image of Brazilian agriculture completely free of trade barriers, benefiting solely from nature and the courage of its farmers.
momagri has been closely following these developments because their SGPAA indicator (Global Support to Agricultural Production and Food developed by momagri) on Brazil has a tendency to increase frequently (+55% between 2007 and 2012) and exceeds that of the European Union per capita for 2013-2014.
momagri Editorial Board
First an oil crisis, then a debt crisis, and later on, a liberal-democratic transition, the 1980s and 1990s were finally seeing the beginning of the recognition of family farming; this was in particular thanks to increasing pressure by popular movements and trade unions such as the Landless Workers' Movement (MST). The founding element for this was the creation of Pronaf (National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture) in 1994, a credit facility for small and medium sized farms.
Since reinforced and diversified, particularly under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, this specialized aid has gone some way to rebalancing Brazilian agriculture. Social roles and those of the land planning of family farms were finally recognized, as well as the capacity of family farms to provide agricultural produce in large quantities, especially within the context of food security.
The institutionalization of family farming was reinforced in 1999 by the creation of a dedicated ministry, the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA).
The MDA is independent from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (Mapa), which traditionally serves corporate and entrepreneurial agriculture.
Despite these advances, it was not until 2006 that a legal definition of family farming was clearly specified. This law defined family farmers as: those who own a single property not larger than four fiscal modules in size; whose labour is largely provided by the landowner’s own family; whose family income is mainly derived from economic activities associated with their own establishment.
Despite criteria for size, due to extreme land inequality in Brazil, this criteria is not too discriminatory; the economic viability of a farm being estimated at 1 fiscal module. The same applies to the criteria for income, not too restrictive and also takes into consideration part-time farmers with other jobs.
Various support programs
Based on this definition, the aid programs follow a three-pronged strategy: sector-specific policies that target specific populations, the territorialisation of public policies and the extension of social policies.
For sector-specific policies, aid derives mainly from credit and agricultural insurance, along with technical advice and marketing programs, also the diversification of production and value aggregation. Pronaf the main agricultural credit provider saw its averages significantly increase under Lula’s presidency.
In 2010, financing reached R$16 billion (€6.4 billion) which stimulated investment (infrastructure, engines, machines) in over one million family farms. Technical support includes a significant agro-ecological component and specific arrangements for the most marginalized populations (women, Native American communities or Quilombolas, etc.).
Marketing support is mainly provided by the AAP (food acquisition program).
This system was created in 2003 and enables family farmers to sell part of their production to public agencies at guaranteed prices. For example, a specific program for state schools (PNAE National school meals program), a derivative of the AAP has since 2009 requested that 30 percent of food served in schools to be locally sourced from family farms. New programs for the certification of family farm produce (Sipaf) are also being developed.
Territorial policies are chiefly managed by Pronat (Program for Sustainable development of rural areas). This was created in 2004 and offers locals the opportunity of developing territorial projects via various financing and development plans, which provides a form of territorial governance. Since 2004, 164 rural development territories have been created, aggregating over half of the national territory.
There is also the PTC (Citizenship Territories Program), which coordinates public policies at the territorial level in order to concentrate public effort on the poorest areas (specifically those with low human development indexes).
Finally, since 2003, family farming has greatly benefited from the reinforcement of social policies within the context of the “Fome Zero” (zero hunger) strategy, which includes “Bolsa Familia” (family allowance). The principle of which is to assign a monthly cash allowance to the poorest families under the condition that children be schooled and vaccinated. This program enhances social transfers to family farming, which only previously received a special pension scheme established in 1995.
In 2011, 12.6 million families benefited from the Bolsa Familia program, about 20% of the Brazilian population, for a total cost of 2% of the federal budget.
Strengths and weaknesses
One of the best aspects of the Brazilian approach is its pragmatism. The institutionalisation of agricultural duality, the separation of governance from family forms and employer/entrepreneurial forms of agriculture, have proved to work.
Each was able to clearly define its functions: socio-environmental for the first and contributing to the equilibrium of balanced payments for the second. This separation also improved the targeting of public interventions depending on the type of agriculture (particularly in terms of diversity of family farms), while easing the social dialogue between the state and family farmers. Finally, the government has actually tried to counterbalance the traditional power held by local elites by setting up mechanisms for territorial governance at the local level.
Another force was the innovative nature of certain measures, including instrument targeting (differentiating the public and places), as well as the introduction of mechanisms for coordination: between the different levels of governance but also between the differentiated sectors (social, education, infrastructure, rural development etc..). A good example of this type of inter-sectorial policy is the AAP, which combines agricultural and social policies. Another innovative element, even if it is not specific to family farming is having developed, as a founding coordination mechanism, the participation between the state and family farmers (in connection with the history of social movements in Brazil).
As for weaknesses, they include institutional resistance, due to among other things, the power of the local elected officials mentioned above, which resulted in strong political patronage (products of public policies are sometimes used as currency).
This resistance is also linked to the asymmetries in ministerial powers.
As such, the MDA (family farming) does not occupy a central place in the ministerial hierarchy, especially compared to Mapa (employer/entrepreneurial agriculture), which weakens the sustainability of its legal provisions (not validated by an Act of Parliament).
Another weak point is the lack of territorial administration (associated with the weakness of the MDA and its inability to induce constitutional reform), which weakens the operational capability of this level of governance.
Finally, Brazilian policies to support family farming are distinguished by their differential character vis-à-vis the policies of the employer/entrepreneurial agriculture and the use of specific tools and standards. Recognizing the duality of Brazilian agriculture means that the trap of the aggressive modernization of family farming, with its associated negative externalities (indebtedness, migration, environmental degradation, etc..) have been avoided.
Nevertheless, one could compare this strategy to environmental conservation policies: in simplistic terms, on one side family farming stocks, which generate employment and diversity in agricultural models, and on the other side, agro-industrial, export-oriented wastelands. Such a model presents many risks for dependence on state financial resources and on agricultural support policies for family farming in Brazil, which, as we have seen, are not yet fully institutionalized.
1 Read the entire article and the journal Défis Sud n° 116 on SOS Faim’s website or click here http://www.sosfaim.org/pdf/publications/defis_sud/116/defis-sud-agriculture-familiale-complet.pdf