30 years of agroecology and the “Zero Hunger Programme” in Brazil
In 1978, in reaction to the Green Revolution, the Evangelical Church founded CAPA (the Support Centre for Small Farmers) as a counselling organization for small-scale farmers in the south of Brazil. Many local farming families had emigrated from Germany in the 19th century and worked on farms of between one and twenty hectares in size. The farmers did not want to follow the agroindustrial growth-oriented model with its monocultures and agrochemicals, either for financial reasons or for ethical considerations.
CAPA focuses on a model that would today be called agroecology, organic farming or food sovereignty. At one time an organization recommended to poor families by priests, CAPA has become an independent organization with some 50 employees, advising approximately 7,000 families. CAPA’s main guiding principle is to enable a family to produce enough to feed itself and to cultivate a sufficient variety of products on its land. It also aims to ensure that the farmers gain market access for their goods produced with agroecological methods since farmers are unlikely to shift away from cash crops if they cannot generate a secure income from this alternative form of food production.
CAPA developed different marketing channels for agroecological produce. This was initially done through cooperatives and farmers markets.
In 2000, CAPA convinced the regional government of São Lourenço, south of Porto Alegre, to start a pilot project: to prepare school meals (which are subsidized by the state) exclusively from produce grown by local small-scale farmers using agroecological production. The Lula government supported the approach of promoting both a healthy diet and fair prices for local farmers by introducing the Zero Hunger (Fome Zero) program and a new school meals program, which later became both a nationwide breakthrough.