Last week I was in Rio de Janeiro at a gathering on food and agriculture. An astonishing city alongside 610 favela ­ immensely dense shanty towns with dwellings ranging from hardboard construction to brick built. I visited one in the city's north. It was a former rubbish dump. A swathe of dwellings had just burned down. People died. Three pigs rooted where people had lived under powerlines. A fetid river/sewer flowing into the romanticised sea nearby. But there was also a small football pitch and there was water. I believe we have a lot to learn from Brazil and its favela. I was a guest of a community group which over 15 years has begun to tackle its food retailing crisis. Low or no income means people are either trapped by their local shops or go without. But here there was no hypermarket saviour. Instead, the community group organised its own small shop. It set up supplies from two rural areas, one not far from Rio and one 1,000km away. This was mostly organic produce. The scheme had grown. It now had a bakery and the food shop had spawned a transport business. The shop's prices were 60% lower than comparable shops. Everyone was happy. Farmers had regular sales. Food security' was improved. Feedback from consumers to growers was speedy. In Belo Horizonte, further south, such farmer-consumer links are now huge. A municipal system of mobile shops and new simple covered markets has dramatically improved food supply in just six years. Child malnutrition is dropping to such an extent that Unicef is excited. The lessons are clear. A virtuous circle can be kickstarted. This requires imagination, teamwork, political will, and patience. In Britain, where local authorities have been reduced to ciphers of central government, this would be unthinkable. Yet many of our towns and cities were in fact made by civic action. Time to recall municipal localism? {{NEWS }}