The fight against hunger by Vera Cordeiro

The fight against hunger by Vera Cordeiro, Founder and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Dara Institute.

Read. (Portuguese)

The fight against hunger


The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.  

(Chinese philosopher, Lao Tse)

Brazil is living in a vicious circle of dissatisfaction with its governing bodies, malaise in large swathes of society and, particularly, a loss of faith in its institutions, a cultural broth that has led to massive inequality in the country. There are 315 billionaires at the top of the pyramid, 116.8 million in the middle, more than half the population, suffering from mild, moderate, or serious food insecurity, and almost 20 million at the base who are starving.

“The hungry are in a hurry, in urgency and cannot wait until the coldness and indifference with which the world’s elites see the problem today are gone,” was said by sociologist Herbert de Souza, Betinho (1935-1997). His words testify to the incompetence shown in the implementation of public policies to fight poverty seen in recent decades and may explain why we have experienced the worst recession in our history. We see this daily with the deterioration in the quality of life of the families we work with at the Dara Institute.

If they – the Union, States and Municipalities – insist on not dealing with this, it is time to find another way, to think differently. We can no longer remain passive knowing that a third of the world’s daily deaths are from diseases linked to poverty, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). At the start of the COVID pandemic, it was social organizations such as Dara, CUFA and G10 Favelas, from Paraisópolis, São Paulo, among others, that distributed food, masks, and cleaning materials, given the criminal inaction shown by the state. We know how to fight effectively against structural poverty.

Now only a coalition of serious organizations, working transparently with different companies, will be capable of tackling the enormous social inequality. It is like a necklace: each institution, each company is a pearl, and must be strung together.

To succeed, we first need to work together: entrepreneurs, universities and recognized social entrepreneurs – and we have several of them in Brazil. We must then set up a pilot project using tried and tested technology, such as the Family Action Plan (FAP), which Dara has perfected over the last 30 years. Once this has been adopted and approved, the project can be implemented throughout the country.

This embryonic approach will encourage entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs to seek support, to recruit ethical people who want to get involved. Another obstacle is the low adherence of the Brazilian entrepreneur to philanthropy, as it appears they do not understand that “there is no successful business in a failed society”, as Stephan Schmidheiny, founder of the Avina Foundation, put it.

Despite the recurring feeling that the world is getting worse, increasingly more people are taking action and having a significant impact, restoring peoples’ dignity, and helping to move families out of dire poverty and destitution. The next generation of entrepreneurs is gearing up, as Ashoka founder Bill Drayton puts it, “not to give away fish, or teach how to fish, but revolutionize the fishing industry.”

Vera Cordeiro, MD, is the founder and current President of the Board of Directors of the Dara Institute (formely “Saúde Criança Renascer”).