This article was compiled by Jodi Phillips May 2014, for the Institute of Black Academics
concerning Black Under achievement.

PUBLISHED 09 MAY 2014  04:26

 Although the country is an important agricultural and industrial power, with the strongest economy in Latin America, poverty is widespread in Brazil. Despite recent improvements in income distribution, the issues of income inequality and social exclusion remain at the root of rural poverty. Brazil is a middle-income country and is rich in natural resources, but poverty levels and human development indicators in poor rural areas are comparable to those in the poorest countries of Latin America. In the country as a whole, about 35 per cent of the population lives in poverty, on less than two dollars a day. But in Brazil’s rural areas poverty affects about 51 per cent of the population.

Since approximately 19 per cent of the total population, or about 36 million people, live in rural areas, this means that Brazil has about 18 million poor rural people, the largest number in the Western Hemisphere. And Brazil’s North-East region has the single largest concentration of rural poverty in Latin America. The North-East is the country’s poorest and least developed region and the focus of IFAD’s operations. In this region, 58 per cent of the total population and 67 per cent of the rural population is poor (ECLAC, 2007).

Poor rural communities live in disadvantaged conditions: education and health facilities are not readily available, water supply and sewage systems are generally inadequate, and rural people face severe constraints in accessing technology and infrastructure. People struggle to supplement farm income with income from salaried labour and small-scale enterprises such as handicrafts and other activities. Off-farm incomes have grown, and at least 30 per cent of rural people are engaged in non-agricultural employment as their main occupation.

The poorest and most vulnerable groups among Brazil's rural poor people are women, young people and indigenous peoples. Households headed by women account for 27 per cent of poor rural people. Either because their husbands migrate to other parts of the country in search of work, or because they are single parents, women bear responsibility for running the family farm as well as their households. And child labour is still common among poor households in Brazil.

In the semi-arid North-East, landless people and smallholder farmers are severely affected by poverty. In this region, low incomes, adverse climatic conditions, the limited natural resource base characteristic of a semi-arid region, and limited access to public services have led to the migration of large numbers of people to urban areas, mainly to big cities in south-east Brazil.

One of the main causes of poverty in Brazil is extreme inequality of land tenure, especially in the North-East and in the country’s central regions. An Agrarian Reform implemented in past years has accelerated under the current federal government. The reform improves the conditions of the rural poor, but much work remains to be done.

The majority of the 4 million farms in Brazil are very small, and many produce at the subsistence level. Yet small-scale agriculture, which is known as “family agriculture” in Brazil and which includes poor small-scale farmers, accounts for about 70 per cent of the country’s food production and a significant share of food exports. This means that family agriculture has a strong potential as a means of overcoming poverty, one of the main challenges facing Brazil.

Lack of access to formal education and skills training is another major cause of rural poverty. In recent years the government has invested large amounts in resources to broaden the scope of technical assistance services and facilitate access to them, especially for poor rural people. [Source :].

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