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Editor’s note: In Context is a new series designed to inform and educate you on Heifer’s work in each country we have a presence. Every two weeks we’ll tackle a different country and examine unique situations related to hunger and poverty, how Heifer works to address them as well as take some time to explore local culture and traditions.

In the last 20 years, the Brazilian government has successfully halved poverty in Brazil. Despite this great move forward, incidences of extreme poverty still persist, particularly in rural Brazil.

5% of the urban population is classified as living in extreme poverty while 25% of the rural poor live in extreme poverty. Nearly half of all poor rural households are made up of smallholder farmers. And half of those farmers are landless, relying on odd jobs to for income.

Brazil's Northeast region is the poorest and least developed area in the country and hosts the most concentrated population of rural poverty in all of Latin America. This area, known as the Sertão is semi-arid and is prone to erratic rainfall, causing either flooding or drought.  Many of the farmers in this region migrate to Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro in search of work.

Facts and Figures:

  • Brazil's number one cause of rural poverty is inequality in land tenure
  • Only a few farmers own good, arable land.
  • 75% of the rural labor force is employed
  • Small-scale agriculture produces 50% of the country's food supply
  • 27% of rural households are headed by women
  • Child labor is common among households in rural Brazil

An infographic from Columbia Water Center illustrates the effects of water-based issues in Northeast Brazil:


Source: IFAD


Falguni Vyas

Falguni (sounds like "balcony") Vyas is from Atlanta, Georgia and began working with Heifer International in Little Rock as a copywriter in 2011. She received her master's degree at Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy and her bachelor's degree at Franklin College Switzerland in Lugano, Switzerland. She does not like writing about herself in the third person.