Brazil’s Poorest Get a Helping Hand: UN and Development Bank Fund $147M to Lift Rural Families Out of Poverty

Brazil's Poorest Get a Helping Hand: UN and Development Bank Fund $147M to Lift Rural Families Out of Poverty

In a remote corner of northeastern Brazil, two major international organizations have joined forces to combat poverty and climate change through a $147 million development initiative targeting small-scale farmers.

The United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced the launch of the Sustainable and Inclusive Piauí project (PSI) this week, in collaboration with the government of the rural state of Piauí. The project aims to increase incomes and improve food security for over 200,000 poor rural people in Piauí, while also building resilience to droughts, floods and other climate impacts.

“This is the first jointly funded project between IFAD and IDB in Brazil,” said Rossana Polastri, IFAD’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, in remarks at the launch event in Piauí’s capital Teresina. “The partnership allows IFAD to increase investments in environmental recovery, nutrition, and digital solutions for smallholder farmers in one of Brazil’s most vulnerable regions.”

IFAD is providing an $18 million loan, IDB a $100 million loan, and the state of Piauí $29.5 million for the six-year initiative. Activities will focus on improving access to water, sanitation, climate-smart agriculture, nutrition and women’s empowerment.

“We are strongly committed to improving agricultural production and food security for the most vulnerable groups – women, youth and traditional communities,” said Morgan Doyle, IDB’s Brazil Representative, applauding the “focus on adaptation to climate change.”

Home to 3 million people living in extreme poverty, Piauí has long suffered from chronic droughts, land degradation, lack of infrastructure and high malnutrition rates. The semi-arid Sertão region, where most smallholder farmers reside, has been called “the largest pocket of rural poverty in Latin America.”

“This investment will improve the lives of vulnerable families in remote areas with very low human development,” said Piauí Governor Rafael Fonteles. He highlighted the focus on women, youth and quilombola communities, referring to descendants of escaped slaves.

A key component is building and restoring household rainwater harvesting systems, known as cisterns, along with water supply networks and sanitation. This will reduce women and children’s workload fetching water. The project will also work to boost incomes through cashew farming, beekeeping and other activities.

“We aim to address the root causes of poverty, while promoting climate resilience,” said an IFAD spokesperson. “Our long experience in Brazil’s semiarid region has shown investing in smallholders pays dividends for rural development.”

IFAD expressed hope this joint initiative with IDB can be a model for expanded partnerships to reduce rural poverty across Latin America. The banks plan to conduct impact evaluations of the Piauí project to inform future programming.

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