Fome Zero (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈfomi ˈzɛɾu], Zero Hunger) is a Brazilian government program introduced by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003, with the goal to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty in Brazil.
Contents of the program
The program is co-ordinated by the Ministry of Social Development and Hunger Combat (Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome) and puts into action the government's strategy to guarantee the right of access to basic food. The program takes a number of forms, ranging from direct financial aid to the poorest families (with the Bolsa Família card) to diverse strategies such as creating water cisterns in Brazil's semi-arid areas, creating low-cost restaurants, educating people about healthy eating habits, distributing vitamins and iron supplements, supporting subsistence family farming and giving access to microcredit.
Fome Zero is the biggest initiative by the Brazilian government to combat hunger in the history of the country, and builds on similar assistance programs implemented by previous governments.
The program has clearly contributed to Brazil's recent improvements in its fight against poverty, according to research promoted by some universities and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). An ex ante econometric evaluation of Bolsa Escola did find significant effects on both school attendance rates and the number of children involved in child labor.
The World Bank, which created on June 2005 a Bolsa Família Project  to assist the Brazilian government in managing the Bolsa Família Program, declares that "Although the program is relatively young, some results are already apparent, including: (...) contributions to improved education outcomes, and impacts on children’s growth, food consumption, and diet quality".
A study by the UNDP Poverty Centre found that over 80% of the Bolsa Familia benefits go to families in poverty (making under half the minimum wage per capita), thus most of the benefits go to the poor. BF was also found to have been responsible for about 20% of the drop in inequality in Brazil since 2001, which is welcome in one of the most unequal countries on the planet. Research promoted by the World Bank shows a significant reduction in child labor exploitation among children benefited by the Bolsa Família program.
The program makes a significant impact on the ability of the poorest families to eat. Children in public school receive one free meal a day—two in the poorest areas—and so less of their family's limited income is needed to pay for food. In a survey of Bolsa Familia recipients, 82.4% reported eating better; additionally, it was reported to increase the incomes of the poorer families by about 25%.
In 2003, David de Ferranti, the World Bank IBRD representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, criticized the program, due to its lack of clear focus, saying the program did not combat the country's poverty and income inequality. He also criticised the mechanisms for money donation and food gathering and distribution.
Fome Zero is considered by the opposition (mostly the PSDB and DEM parties) as a failure, due to the government's inability to manage the program effectively. Murilo Zauith, a PFL federal deputy, in March 2005, said the program was faulty, citing as an example the death of several indigenous children due to malnutrition in the city of Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul. However, Humberto Costa, the Minister of Health at the time, considered the death count average and not alarming.
- SSRN-Ex-ante Evaluation of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs: The Case of Bolsa Escola by Francois Bourguignon, Francisco Ferreira, Phillippe Leite
- RAWLINGS, Laura B. e RUBIO, Gloria M. Evaluating the Impact of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs - Lessons from Latin America, Volume 1, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3119, August 2003, The World Bank, 2003.
- Brazil - Bolsa Familia Project, The World Bank
- Brazil’s Bolsa Familia Program Celebrates Progress in Lifting Families out of Poverty, News & Broadcast, The World Bank, Brasilia, Brazil, December 19, 2005
- International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (UNDP/IPC-IG) Evaluation Note
- YAP, Yoon-Tien, Guilherme Sedlacek and Peter Orazem. 2001. Limiting Child Labor Through Behavior-Based Income Transfers: An Experimental Evaluation of the PETI Program in Rural Brazil. World Bank, Washington, DC
- Microsoft PowerPoint - Mutzig_CCTs in MIC_Brazil_06-26_III.b.ppt
- Governo recebe novas críticas aos principais pontos do Fome Zero - Folha Online (March 31, 2003)
- Murilo Zauith considera Fome Zero programa fracassado - Correio do Estado (March 11, 2005)
- (Portuguese) Fome Zero Official Website