Delivering food security through small-scale farmers – lessons from Brazil

Cecilie Dyngeland

The project

Small-scale farmers in developing countries farm significant amounts of land and contribute disproportionately to national food production. Despite this, the poorest and most malnourished people in the developing world are small-scale farmers. They drive both conflict and potential solutions to societal and environmental concerns, and must be supported if food security is to be improved in developing regions.

In 2003, Brazil implemented a series of ambitious policies called the Zero Hunger programme to tackle poverty and food security, and results suggest that the country’s Millennium Development goal of eradicating extreme hunger by 2015 was met six years ahead of schedule.

This project focuses on Brazil overall and the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest regions in the state of Minas Gerais in particular, as this is an important agricultural centre and biodiversity hotspot.

Remote sensing and socio-economic data on a national level will be combined with detailed data from individual farms in the Cerrado and Atlantic regions. These will be used to examine three inter-related areas about how Brazil’s Zero Hunger programme has influenced:

agricultural indicators of food security (e.g. agricultural expansion and investment);

socio-economic indicators of food security (e.g. infant malnutrition);

deforestation and its effects on the benefits from ecosystems that are crucial for long-term food security.


Cecilie Dyngeland published one of the largest studies on the sustainability implications of social protection, funded by the Grantham Centre. Find out more.

Cecilie Dyngeland el al., “Assessing multidimensional sustainability: Lessons from Brazil’s social protection programs,” PNAS (2020).

This project is in collaboration with the Sheffield Institute of International Development and the João Pinheiro Research Foundation in Brazil.


Dr Karl Evans

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences


Dr Chasca Twyman

Department of Geography