Human Rights and Food Security Capacity-Building Project for Food and Nutrition
Programme Managers at State and Municipal Levels. Ministry of Health – Brazil
Denise Costa Coitinho; Elisabetta Recine; Flavio Luiz
Schieck Valente; Jose Fernando Assoni;
Maria de Fátima Carvalho.
“The right to food is a fundamental human right, as without food there is no right to life. People need food in a
quantitative sense, however, this is not sufficient. The right to food also encompasses the right to eat according
to one's cultural and social values, the right to safe food, and to correct information about food contents, healthy
food habits and life styles. Also, food and nutritional security rests on two other pillars: health security, and
adequate care practices. The multiple causality of food insecurity, and the indivisibility of human rights makes
their governance the responsibility of all sectors of society: government, organized civil society and the business
sector”(Valente et al,1999)
As described in detail in SCN News # 181, Brazil embraced human rights in its National Food
and Nutrition Policy (NFNP), formulated in 1999, and in all derived programming, due to the
social mobilization process of two independent socio-political forces: the food and nutrition
security movement and the human rights movement.
That same article stated that “Having a human rights framework for the NFNP does not
automatically change the way managers think about the beneficiaries of the different
programmes. The beneficiaries of social programmes are not always seen as full citizens who
have the same rights as more fortunate members of society.” On the basis of that diagnosis it
announced the launching of a national Human Rights and Food Security capacity building
project for Food and Nutrition Programme Managers to facilitate the long process of
incorporation of these policy principles into the norms and directives and into in service training
This paper carries out a stock taking effort on this ongoing capacity building initiative.
The implementation of the NFNP is a responsibility of the national, state and municipal
governments, in partnership with different social actors, under the coordination of the Ministry
of Health. However, the NFNP recognizes that the promotion of the Human Right to food and
nutrition is not possible by health sector actions alone, demanding strong intersectoral
collaboration with other areas of government, within the framework of the food and nutritional
security, at all levels.
This new policy framework places new demands on health managers at different levels of
government, both in terms of intra as well as intersectoral coordination. The Ministry of Health
identifies capacity building as a fundamental strategy to implement NFNP derived actions,
programmes and services, within the guidelines of the Unified Health System and in
collaboration with other areas of government. The training programme should be directed to all
managing levels, including contents on human right to food, food and nutritional security and
the promotion of healthy food practices and livelihoods throughout the life cycle.
Valente, F.L.S. et al (presented by Denise Coitinho – Ministry of Health, Brazil) “Understanding Human
Rights Approaches to Food and Nutritional Security in Brazil”, SCN News # 18, ACC SCN, Geneve, July 1999.
The ultimate target of the capacity building process are the health teams working directly with the
population at the local level. The municipal health managers are responsible for the
implementation of the actions resulting from National and State policies, and at its specific
sphere, for the capacity building of its personnel to operationalize the specific Food and
Nutrition activities at community, family and individual levels, within this new framework.
Planning the capacity building initiative
The planning of the national capacity building initiative – in accordance with its stated goals -
was carried out in a broad intersectoral and consultative fashion, including partners from
different sectors of the Ministry of Health, of the federal Government, of civil society and from
the different regions of the country, under the coordination of the General Coordination of the
NFNP (GC). In a first stage it involved the GC, the Department of Basic Health Services
(DAB), and the Health Promotion Project, all part of the Health Policy Department of the
Ministry of Health. The first draft proposal was submitted to a National meeting of the Ministry’s
Regional Food and Nutrition Collaborative Centers, Family Health Capacity Building Centers,
State Food and Nutrition area Coordinations, with the participation of representatives of PAHO
and civil society.
The final proposal was named “Macro regional Food and Nutrition Capacity Building
Workshops for Primary Health Care Professionals” and included different stages. The first one
to be conducted under the coordination of the Ministry of Health, and the following ones under
the responsibility of the trainees of the national process, at state level.
The problematization pedagogy was adopted in the macro regional workshops and suggested for
the subsequent stages. It is based on the understanding that the learning process takes place
through the observation of reality, or aspects of it, by the student, and it aims at increasing the
student´s capacity as an agent of transformation to detect problems and to find solutions for
them in his/her own cultural setting.
From december 2001 through June 2002, eight Macro Regional Workshops were carried out in
the different geographical regions of the country, covering all States. Two hundred and eighty
professionals were trained including: state coordinators and professionals of the Family Health
and Community Health Agents Programme; Health Family Capacity Building Centers
professionals, Alvorada Project coordinators2, state Food and Nutrition Area coordinations,
State Maternal and Child Health coordinations, Schools of Nutrition professors, Regional Food
and Nutrition Collaborative Centers, civil society organizations and State Health Councils
The evaluation of the Workshops by the participants shows that 74% of them were totally
satisfied with the results while 22% were partially satisfied. The macroregional workshops had as
its proposed final product the elaboration of draft State Capacity Building plans, to be finalized
upon the return of the trainees to their states of origin By September 2002, 21 of the 27 final
Alvorada Project is a federal government initiative aimed at coordinating different federal government
programmes in the social and economic areas linked to the promotion of social and economic inclusion.
state capacity building plans had been received by the national coordination and at least three of
them were already carrying them out.
The initiative can be considered extremely successful up to now, both in terms of process and
results. The 280 trained professional have acquired capacities that will be useful tools in the
facilitation and conduction of the capacity building processes in their states, aimed at training the
health teams working directly with the population in food and nutrition issues, within the
framework of human rights and food and nutritional security. In case the state plans are fulfilled
a significant part of the 120,000 family health team member will receive that training.
Some of the main reasons for the success can be attributed to: the strong partnership built
among different sectors of the Ministry, other levels of the government and civil society; the
renewed value attributed to the primary health sector, as an effective sentinel, promoter and
monitoring device of the population quality of life; the innovative pedagogical approach; the
identification of the participants with the adopted intersectoral, transdisciplinary approach that
facilitates the identification of the causes and solutions for the diagnosed nutritional problems;
the incorporation of the human rights approach that breaks down barriers built by the
fragmentation of knowledge and institutional practices; the strengthening of a human rights
culture in the country and the unacceptability of hunger. Malnutrition, subnutrition and ill
As a next phase the monitoring of the implementation of the State Capacity Building Plans is
already being planned in parallel to the publication of resource material for the Family Health
Teams. The publication will be centered on the promotion of health through a life cycle
approach to healthy food practices and livelihoods, within the framework of the promotion of
Human Rights, and food and nutritional security intersectoral strategies.
The right to food is a fundamental human right, as without food there is no right to life. People
need food in a quantitative sense, however, this is not sufficient. The right to food also
encompasses the right to eat according to one's cultural and social values, the right to safe food,
and to correct information about food contents, healthy food habits and life styles. Also, food
and nutritional security rests on two other pillars: health security, and adequate care practices.
The multiple causality of food insecurity, and the indivisibility of human rights makes their
governance the responsibility of all sectors of society: government, organised civil society and the