Free school meals in Brazil help local farmers stay on the land

  • 2016-09-01
  • Reuters

At an elementary school in Brazil's capital, students are not too concerned about who has produced their food as they tuck into an afternoon snack of pineapple and watermelon.

Nevertheless, they are among 45 million students benefiting from the world's biggest universal school feeding programme, whose meals are helping keep Brazil's small farmers on the land.

Family farmers and cooperatives have seen their fortunes rise as a result of the programme, which guarantees them a local market and has helped to expand formal land rights nationwide.

"Incomes have increased significantly because of it," Amanda Venturim, agricultural adviser to a cooperative of 56 small farmers outside Brasilia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The government makes a contract with us beforehand so farmers know how much food they need to produce and how much they will receive," said Venturim, standing beside vast grain elevators on the dry savannah land that surrounds the capital.

The cooperative has been selling food to the government for school meals for three years, she said, enabling farmers to invest in new equipment and to retain control of their land.