POPE FRAN­CIS UN­DER­SCORES IM­POR­TANCE OF AGRI­CUL­TURAL DE­VEL­OP­MENT

Agriculture - - Papal View -

VAT­I­CAN CITY (VIS) – The pri­macy of agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment, right to food, the prob­lem of waste, the im­pact of the mar­ket on hunger, wa­ter is­sues, land grab­bing, and de­pen­dence on ex­ter­nal aid was the theme of the ad­dress of Pope Fran­cis to the 450 par­tic­i­pants dur­ing the 39th Con­fer­ence of the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO), whom he re­ceived in au­di­ence at the Cle­men­tine Hall of the Apos­tolic Palace here re­cently.

“Faced with the poverty of many of our broth­ers and sis­ters, some­times I think that the is­sue of hunger and agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment has now be­come one of the many prob­lems in this time of cri­sis,” the Pope said.

Pope Fran­cis also cited the prices of wheat, rice, corn, soy, which are some­times linked to per­for­mance funds and there­fore, the higher the price the more the fund earns.

“Here as well, we must take another path, con­vinc­ing our­selves that the prod­ucts of the land have a value that we can all ‘sa­cred’ be­cause they are the fruit of the daily la­bor of per­sons, fam­i­lies, and com­mu­ni­ties of farm­ers,” the Pope said.

It can be noted that the pur­pose of the FAO in­cludes work­ing of the land, fish­eries, live­stock, and forests.

“This de­vel­op­ment must be at the cen­ter of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. This means sup­port­ing ef­fec­tive re­silience, specif­i­cally re­in­forc­ing com­mu­ni­ties’ ca­pac­i­ties to cope with crises, nat­u­ral ones or those caused by hu­man ac­tion, and pay­ing at­ten­tion to the dif­fer­ent needs. Thus it will be pos­si­ble to pur­sue a de­cent stan­dard of liv­ing,” Pope Fran­cis ex­plained.

The Pon­tiff added that this com­mit­ment in­cludes other crit­i­cal points.

“First, it seems dif­fi­cult to ac­cept the gen­eral res­ig­na­tion, dis­in­ter­est, and even ab­sence of so many, even of states. At times, there is the sense that hunger is an un­pop­u­lar topic, an in­sol­u­ble prob­lem that can’t be dealt with in a leg­isla­tive or pres­i­den­tial term and there­fore can’t guar­an­tee con­sen­sus,” he said.

“The rea­sons that lead to lim­it­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of ideas, tech­nol­ogy, ex­per­tise, and fund­ing lie in the un­will­ing­ness to make bind­ing com­mit­ments, see­ing that we hide be­hind the ques­tion of the world eco­nomic cri­sis and the idea that there is hunger in all coun­tries,” he added.

The Pope went on to ex­plain that our ten­dency to “de­fect” when faced with dif­fi­cult is­sues is hu­man, but, we must re­spond to the im­per­a­tive na­ture of ac­cess to nec­es­sary food—which is a right for all.

He said that hu­man rights per­mit no ex­clu­sions. “Cer­tainly, we can take com­fort know­ing that the num­ber of hun­gry per­sons in 1992, 1.2 mil­lion, has been re­duced even though the world pop­u­la­tion has grown.”

“How­ever, there is lit­tle point to not­ing the num­bers or even pro­ject­ing a se­ries of con­crete com­mit­ments and rec­om­men­da­tions to be im­ple­mented in poli­cies and in­vest­ments if we ne­glect the obli­ga­tion to ‘erad­i­cate hunger and pre­vent all forms of malnutrition in the world,’” he noted.

“Many are wor­ried about sta­tis­tics re­gard­ing waste – a third of food pro­duced is in­cluded un­der this point,” ob­served the Pon­tiff.

“Re­duc­ing waste is es­sen­tial, as is re­flec­tion on the non-al­i­men­tary use of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, which go in large amounts to an­i­mal feed or to pro­duce bio­fu­els. Cer­tainly we must en­sure in­creas­ingly healthy en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, but can we keep ex­clud­ing some?” he asked.

It is nec­es­sary to raise the aware­ness of all coun­tries re­gard­ing the type of nutri­tion adopted, and this varies depend­ing on the lat­i­tudes… But, both in qual­ity and quan­tity, the sit­u­a­tion of un­cer­tainty is de­ter­mined by the weather, by in­creased de­mand, and price un­cer­tainty weigh down the sit­u­a­tion.

“We must also ask our­selves: How much does the mar­ket, with its rules, im­pact world hunger? Of the stud­ies you have made, it has been shown that, since 2008, the price of food has changed trends. It dou­bled, then sta­bi­lized, but with higher val­ues than the pre­vi­ous pe­riod. Such volatile prices im­pede the poor­est from mak­ing plans or keep­ing a min­i­mum nutri­tion. The causes are many. We are rightly con­cerned with cli­mate change but we can­not for­get fi­nan­cial spec­u­la­tion,” he pointed out.

“But then it is for­got­ten that, if poverty in one coun­try is a so­cial prob­lem that can find so­lu­tions, in other con­texts, it is a so­cial prob­lem and so­cial poli­cies are not enough to ad­dress it. This at­ti­tude may change if we put sol­i­dar­ity at the heart of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, trans­pos­ing the vo­cab­u­lary of pol­icy op­tions to a pol­icy of the other,” he said.

The Pope also noted the need for ed­u­cat­ing per­sons re­gard­ing proper nutri­tion.

“We know that in the west, the prob­lem is high con­sump­tion and waste. In the south, how­ever, it is nec­es­sary to en­cour­age lo­cal pro­duc­tion to en­sure nutri­tion. In many coun­tries with ‘chronic hunger,’ (lo­cal pro­duce) is re­placed by for­eign food, per­haps ini­tially through as­sis­tance. But emer­gency aid is not enough and does not al­ways reach the right hands. It cre­ates a de­pen­dence on large pro­duc­ers and, if the coun­try lacks the fi­nan­cial means, then the pop­u­la­tion winds up not eat­ing and hunger grows,” the Pope ex­plained.

Cli­mate change also makes the peo­ple think of the forced dis­place­ment of pop­u­la­tions and the many hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedies caused by lack of re­sources, par­tic­u­larly wa­ter, which is al­ready a source of con­flict that is ex­pected to in­crease, the Pope said.

“It isn’t enough to as­sert that there is a right to wa­ter with­out mak­ing the ef­fort to achieve sus­tain­able con­sump­tion of this good and to elim­i­nate any waste. Be­sides wa­ter, land use also re­mains a se­ri­ous prob­lem,” the Pope added. “Ever more trou­bling is the seizure of arable land by transna­tional com­pa­nies and states, which not only de­prives farm­ers of an es­sen­tial com­mod­ity, it also di­rectly af­fects coun­tries’ sovereignty.”

There are too many ar­eas where the foods pro­duced go to for­eign coun­tries and the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion is im­pov­er­ished twice, since they have nei­ther food nor land.

“We know that the world’s food pro­duc­tion is largely the work of fam­ily farms. There­fore it is im­por­tant,” the Pope em­pha­sized.

Pope Fran­cis said that the dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the FAO, strengthen their part­ner­ships and projects in fa­vor of fam­ily busi­nesses, and en­cour­age states to eq­ui­tably reg­u­late land use and own­er­ship.

“This may help elim­i­nate the in­equal­i­ties that are now at the cen­ter of in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion,” the Pope con­cluded.

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