Brazil’s Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos (PAA) commits the government to sourcing food from local smallholders and farmers, guaranteeing a liveable price for their food that would be impossible to obtain on the open market. The program, which is frequently managed through cooperatives that organise sales from many farms to the government, is one of the largest institutional procurement programs in the world. Studies suggest that farmers receive 30-100% more from sales to the government than other buyers, and the program has secured incomes for more than 200,000 families.
Results & Impact
The initiative has guaranteed sales and prices for some 200,000 families growing and selling food in Brazil. Over ten years, the government has purchased an estimated three million tonnes of food from the program.
ACT Alliance, Brazil, Smallholder and family farm cooperatives, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Program
After extensive campaigning from cooperatives and grassroots representatives of farmers, the Brazilian government introduced legal changes that required a proportion of government food procurement to be sourced from family farms. The legal changes are part of a country-wide strategy against food poverty which has been implemented since 2009.
Cost & Value
Christian Aid estimates that families can earn between $2,122 and $3,087 per year from selling food products to the PAA.
Running since 2009
The program has inspired the Purchase from Africans for Africa project, which prioritises the purchase of food from local farmers, mostly for the purposes of food aid. It’s also regarded as a model of best practise for other programs on the African continent including the Home Grown School Feeding program which sources school meals from local farmers
Brazil has given a secure income to struggling family farmers through a social procurement policy that puts smallholders first.
The Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos (PAA), or Program for Food Acquisition, is one of the largest state schemes for social procurement in the world. Since its launch the government has invested more than $1.9 million in the program, benefitting some 200,000 families.
Under the program, the government is legally bound to purchase a proportion of its food from ethical sources. When it comes to school meals, which form a key pillar of government social procurement under the Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar (PNAE) scheme, the government must purchase at least 30% of the ingredients for meals from family-run farms.
Food is purchased from small producers, often through cooperatives, without a bidding process and under fixed prices. That means smallholders are guaranteed not just a buyer but higher prices for their goods, too: one study suggested that farmers received 30-100% more for the food they sold to the government than via intermediaries.
The positive impact of these guarantees does not end with the income from government sales alone. Having dependable sales means farmers are in a stronger negotiating position on the private market, thus getting a better price for more of their food too.
Set up in 2003, the PAA is a crucial element of Brazil’s state-wide campaign against poverty and food insecurity, especially in rural areas. It links small farmers’ access to markets with a comprehensive state strategy against hunger for the first time. UN estimates state that more than three million tonnes of food have been purchased by the program over 10 years, and in 2012 PAA purchased food was consumed by some 22 million Brazilians. The government budget for food purchases in 2013 was $397 million for the PAA program and $284 million for PNAE, the program’s. As a result of these legal changes, Christian Aid estimates that between $2,122 and $3,087 can be earned per family per year from selling food products to the PAA, and an additional $7,718 for selling to the PNAE.
The human right to adequate food is constitutionally secured in Brazil. But despite this high priority the population continues to face grave challenges from food insecurity. According to the government’s own statistics 8% of agricultural organisations account for 85% of the value of production, while 45% of the country’s rural population live in poverty. Small farmers face significant obstacles in accessing a procurement process dominated by big businesses with much bigger resources.
The food procurement program was underpinned by a long political movement fuelled by grassroots organisations representing farmers and agricultural communities. One of the leaders of the campaign was the Movemento sem Terra (MST), the Landless Movement, which maintains 19 cooperatives for small farmers to leverage their purchasing power and partners with the ACT Alliance, a coalition of 144 NGOs working on social and economic justice issues globally. It’s common for these cooperatives to sell large portions of their produce to the government, and to invest their money back in ethical consumption for their products.
One such organisation, the Cooperative of Settled Workers in Porto Alegre, derives some 80% of its revenue from sales to the National Supply Company, a state body that guarantees prices for foods. It also invests back into training and sustainability for the farmers that are part of the cooperative. By enhancing the production methods, business plans and crop choices of its farmers, often through training and capacity building, it further increases the profit margins of the farmers selling to the government.
Since its founding, the success of the program has made it exemplary around the world and other social procurement programs, especially in the field of school meals on the African continent, have used the lessons of Brazil as a blueprint.
(Picture: Flickr/Ministerio do Desenvolvimentio Social e Agrario/Araujo Santana)