May 21, 2013

Live Blog - Brazil And Food Security: A "Remarkable Story" With Lessons For Others

By Erin Stock, InterAction

In 40 years, Brazil went from importing most of its staples – such as rice, beans and milk – to being a major exporter of food worldwide. How?

Antonio Lopes, the president of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, points to “government decisions” – decisions to strengthen universities, hire and send researchers around the world for training, and create an enabling environment for the development of tropical agricultural.

“It had a tremendous impact on our country,” Lopes told attendees at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs annual Global Food Security Symposium today.

The question of “how Brazil did it” is one that Lopes frequently gets. It arose again today during a panel discussion on “A New Science of Agriculture to Advance Global Food Security," with the moderator calling Brazil's progress "a remarkable story."

Lopes explained that Brazil was able to move forward fast because of investments in “science-based agriculture” that improved efficiency, he said. The country has doubled its cultivated land since the 1970s, while multiplying by six times its agricultural output, he said. This balance of expanding agriculture and conserving the land is an important challenge, he later added.

Brazil had no model for tropical agriculture to mimic, either, which catalyzed the country to create its own, Lopes said. Many of these important decisions to advance agriculture development were also made when a military government was in power.

“I have to tell you that this had an impact,” he said, explaining that it was frankly easier for decisions to be made.

Today, Brazil continues to invest in agriculture development, he said. The government’s Science Without Frontiers program is sending 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students from Brazil around the world for training. Lopes’ organization was able to recently hire 1,000 new researchers through government funding as well, he said.

“We have to work with our policymakers if we are to make substantial advances in bringing new concepts of sustainable agriculture into reality,” he said.

Other panelists agreed. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chief executive officer and head of mission for the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, said it is critical to stimulate investment of research at a national government level. It is important that these investments support private sector involvement, initiatives grounded in farmer’s livelihoods, bold government vision and training for researchers who adapt their work for local contexts.

“What I take from the Brazil example – it’s this investment in people all around,” Sibanda said.

Erin Stock is the online coordinator for InterAction. This blog is cross-posted on the InterAction's blog. Follow @globalagdev and #globalag on Twitter to join the conversation.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.