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Floods in the State of Rio Grande do Sul and the Impacts on Food Security

 

Francieli Iung Izolani

Translation: Ligia Payao Chizolini.

 

The state of Rio Grande do Sul is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis due to the intense precipitation affecting the region. In recent weeks, heavy rains have caused widespread flooding, far exceeding expectations, highlighting numerous infrastructure and urban planning failures. This has resulted in significant material damage, the displacement of climate refugees, socioeconomic damage, harm to public health, and consequently, serious challenges in terms of food security.


Historically, the Southern region has the lowest levels of food insecurity—whether mild, moderate, or severe—according to the National Food and Nutritional Security Council. However, the current climatic event drastically changes this scenario (ABRASCO, 2024).


What is food security?

According to the legal framework in line with the National Food and Nutritional Security Council (CONSEA, 2004, p. 4):

Food and Nutritional Security (SAN) is the realization of everyone's right to regular and permanent access to quality food in sufficient quantities, without compromising access to other essential needs. It is based on health-promoting food practices that respect cultural diversity and are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Therefore, it involves not only quantitative but also qualitative issues, as food must be available in sufficient quantities and also meet nutritional quality standards.


What was the pre-flood scenario in RS?


Although Brazil is one of the world's largest food producers, a significant portion of the population lives in a situation of food and nutritional insecurity, either due to lack of access, leading to hunger and malnutrition or poor diet, due to the consumption of food with low nutritional value and the use of pesticides in production.


Before the floods, despite being an agricultural state that produced monocultures for export, such as commodities, grains, and meat, Rio Grande do Sul had a reduced rate of food insecurity thanks to the existence and resistance of family farming, which served as a significant SAN policy.


Family farming promotes the pillars of economically sustainable agriculture, with increasing equity and social inclusion, as it encourages diversified production and expands the capacity of rural families to consume food and other goods (CONSEA, 2004).


This relevance is demonstrated in the following overview:


Out of an approximate total of 4.8 million rural establishments in Brazil, 4.1 million are classified as family units. They represent about 85% of the establishments but occupy only 30% of the total area and account for almost 40% of national agricultural production (CONSEA, 2004, p. 24).

Regarding Rio Grande do Sul, the Federation of Agricultural Workers in Rio Grande do Sul (FETAG-RS) highlights data from the latest Agricultural Census, conducted in 2017 and released in 2019, showing that:


In Rio Grande do Sul, 80.5% of establishments were considered family farming, holding 25.3% of the total cultivated area. The study also points out that the age group of people living in rural areas is high, and the number of young people is decreasing, representing a problem for rural succession.(...)
For FETAG-RS, the 2017 Agricultural Census demonstrates, in numbers, the significant role that family farming plays in food production in Brazil. In Rio Grande do Sul, 80% of establishments are family farming. We also believe that governments need to consider and value the importance of our category by increasingly investing in public policies that encourage production.

Additionally, according to 2021 data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), Rio Grande do Sul represents the fourth largest economy in the country, corresponding to 6.5% of the national economy, representing 12.6% of the agricultural GDP and 8.3% of the manufacturing industry GDP, generating R$ 581.3 billion (PODER 360, 2024). Therefore, there was a scenario of prosperity concerning the implementation of public policies aimed at food security, given the prominence of family farming.


What about the post-flood scenario in RS?


There is still no official concrete data on the impacts on food security. Firstly, because some areas are still submerged. Secondly, because many institutions have their systems down, personnel significantly affected, and roads and entire cities destroyed.

However, it is possible to empirically gauge the short, medium, and long-term impacts. In the short term, there is a scarcity of food, rising product prices, and a lack of minimum social conditions for the population, making the quantitative aspect of food security precarious.

In the medium and long term, with crop losses, there will be other problems related to the lack of supply of family farming products and the very subsistence of these people, leading to an increase in qualitative and quantitative food insecurity in the state, demanding the implementation and strengthening of local public policies in the face of national and international impacts that will still be felt.


REFERENCES


Associação Brasileira de Saúde Coletiva - ABRASCO. Enchentes no Rio Grande do Sul e os desafios para a Saúde Pública: crise, insegurança alimentar e violência. Available at: ABRASCO. Accessed on: May 15, 2024.


CONSELHO NACIONAL DE SEGURANÇA ALIMENTAR E NUTRICIONAL – CONSEA. Princípios e Diretrizes de uma Política de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional. Textos de Referência da II Conferência Nacional de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional. Brasília: Gráfica e Editora Positiva, 2004.


PODER 360. Chuva no RS desacelera a economia e pressiona inflação de alimentos. 2024. Available at: Poder 360. Accessed on: May 15, 2024

 

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