In a recent presentation on world hunger to a social welfare class at the University of New Mexico, I happened to mention that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a recognition in October for his tireless efforts to create "a world free from hunger and want."
Then I thought: "Wait a minute, isn't this the same thing The ONE Campaign and the Make Poverty History Campaign are asking the leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations?" Indeed it is, and Lula's efforts could serve as a great example to all other leaders.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) awarded the Agricola Medal to Lula for creating the Zero Hunger program to combat hunger in Brazil. The medal is the highest distinction awarded by the FAO to honor distinguished individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the fight against hunger and poverty.
In recognizing the Zero Hunger program, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf underscored Lula's vision in making the fight against poverty a priority of his government.
"The fight against hunger was a prominent part of your political platform during the elections, and since the very start of your mandate you have been showing exemplary leadership in the fight against hunger, inspiring other leaders, both at national and international level," said Diouf.
Lula's initiative was a necessary step to begin to reverse a problematic situation, with roughly one-fourth of Brazil's population of 44 million living in poverty. "In Brazil, hunger means having a half-full plate or perhaps just eating one meal a day, said Andrew MacMillan, director of the FAO's field operations. "Over the long-term this is debilitating for the population and it weakens the development opportunities of a country rich in potential like Brazil.
Lula created Zero Hunger with an eye on meeting the U.N. Millenium Development Goals . His program, which has received some financial support from the FAO, combines short-term measures like income assistance and innovative agriculture programs with long-term steps like education.
"It represents the strongest and most concrete position taken by a government to reach the goal set by Heads of State and Government during the World Food Summit: to halve the number of hungry people in the world by 2015," said Diouf.
Lula would like his program to serve as a model for the rest of the world. "It is certainly a successful program, and it will be even more successful when it is being practiced by other countries," the Brazilian president said in a radio address in October 2005. Read Article in Brazzil Magazine.
If we can convince other leaders--not just in rich countries, but countries of all income levels-- to follow the same or a similar path as Lula, then perhaps we can reduce global hunger, poverty and disease at a much faster rate.