06/11/2015, 00.00
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Pope to FAO, food and water are "a right for all", without exclusions

Changing lifestyles to make them more sober, combating waste and financial speculation of food, promoting the "primacy of agricultural development". "Intervening without" ulterior motives. " Emergency aid is not enough and does not always end up in the right hands. "Growing concern over arable land being grabbed by transnational companies and States."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Changing lifestyles making them more sober, combating waste and financial speculation on food, promoting the "primacy of agricultural development" and the "right to water".

These are the goals we must set ourselves in order to "respond to the imperative that access to food is a right for all", "without exception", a commitment that everyone must take up, asking ourselves "what can I do?" instead of waiting for "others" to intervene.

These are also Pope Francis suggestions to participants at the 39th FAO Conference, whom he received this morning in the Vatican, in a speech centered on the "responsibility to concretely respond to the hungry and all those waiting for a solution to their condition in agricultural development”.

"Faced with the poverty of so many of our brothers and sisters, I think sometimes that the topic of hunger and agricultural development has today become one of the many problems in this time of crisis. Yet everywhere we see the growing number of those who have difficulty in accessing regular and healthy meals. However, instead of acting we prefer to delegate, at all levels. And we think there will be someone else who will take care of the problem, maybe another country, or that government, that International Organization. Our tendency to 'defect' in the face of difficult issues is human. Indeed, it is an attitude that we often prefer even though we never miss a meeting, a conference, or our input in the preparation of a document. Instead, we must respond to the imperative that access to food is a right for all. And this rights does not allow exclusions".

Although, he added, we could take comfort in knowing that the number of people suffering from hunger has decreased, despite the increase in population, "the statistics on waste are worrying: a third of all food produced is wasted. It is also worrying to learn that a notable amount of agricultural products is used for other purposes, maybe good purposes, but not the immediate needs of the hungry. Let us ask ourselves, then, what we can do. Indeed, what am I doing. It is essential to reduce waste, as well as reflect on the use of agriculture for non-food products, used in large quantities to feed the animal or to produce biofuels. Of course, we must always strive to ensure a healthier environment, but can we continue to do so by excluding some people? We need to sensitize all countries on the type of nutrition adopted, and this varies depending on the latitudes. In the South the focus is placed on enough food to ensure a growing population, in the North the central point is the quality of nutrition and food. But the situation determined by the climate of insecurity, due to increased demand and price uncertainty weighs on both quality and quantity".

"This we must make a more decisive commitment to changing lifestyles, and perhaps we will need fewer resources. Sobriety is not opposed to development, indeed, it is now clear that it has become a pre-condition. For the FAO this also means continuing decentralization, to be ion the ground in the rural world and understand the needs of the people that the organization is called to serve. We must also ask ourselves: how much do market rules effect world hunger? Your studies show that since 2008 the price of food has changed its trend: it doubled, then stabilized, but always at a higher value than previous periods. Volatile prices prevent the poorest from making programs or counting on a minimum nutritional standard. And there are many causes. We are concerned by climate change, and rightly so, but we cannot forget financial speculation: for example the prices of wheat, rice, corn, soybeans which rise and fall on the stock exchange, maybe they are tied to the performance of funds and, therefore, the higher their price the more the funds earn. Even here, let us try another path, convincing ourselves that the products of the earth have a value that we can call 'sacred', because they are the result of the daily work of people, families, communities of farmers. A work that is often dominated by uncertainty, concerns about climatic conditions, anxieties about the possible destruction of the crop".

"For FAO, agricultural development covers the work of the land, fisheries, livestock, forests. This development must be at the center of economic activity, distinguishing the different needs that farmers, breeders, fishermen or those who work in the forests. The primacy of agricultural development here is the second goal. For FAO’s objectives this means supporting effective resilience, specifically strengthening the capacity of people to cope with crises - natural or man-made - paying attention to the different needs. In order to aim for a decent standard of living. "

"There are other critical points in this effort. First of all it seems difficult to accept a general resignation, disinterest or even the absence of so many, even States. Sometimes the feeling is that hunger is an unpopular topic, an unsolvable problem, that cannot find solutions within a legislative or presidential mandate and therefore does not ensure consensus. The reasons that lead to limitations being put on ideas, technology, expertise and funding lie in the unwillingness to make binding commitments, and the tendency to hide behind the issue of global economic crisis and the idea that there is hunger in all countries: 'If I have hungry people in my country, how can I think of setting aside money for international cooperation?'. But it is forgotten that if poverty is a social problem in a country that can give solutions, in other contexts it is a structural issue and there are not enough just social policies to tackle it. This attitude may change if we refocus solidarity in the heart of international relations, transporting it from dictionaries to political decisions: the politics of the other. If all Member States were to operate for the other, consents for the actions of FAO will soon follow up and they will even rediscover their original purpose, that "Fiat panis" which is included in its emblem. "

I am also thinking of the education of persons for a correct alimentary diet. In my daily meetings with Bishops from so many parts of the world, with political personalities, economic directors, academics, I perceive increasingly that today nutritional education also has different variables. We know that in the West the problem is high consumption and residuals. In the South, however, to ensure food, it is necessary to foment the local production that, in many countries with “chronic hunger,” is substituted by remittances from outside and perhaps initially through aid. However, emergency aid is not enough and does not always reach the appropriate hands. Created thus is dependence on large producers and, if the country lacks the necessary economic means, then the population ends by not being fed and hunger grows.

Climate change makes us think also of the forced displacement of populations and the many humanitarian tragedies because of lack of resources, beginning with water, which is already the object of conflicts, which will foreseeably increase. It is not enough to affirm that there is a right to water without making an effort to obtain a sustainable consumption of this good and eliminate any waste. Water continues to be a symbol of the rites that many religions and cultures use to indicate membership, purification and interior conversion. Beginning from this symbolic value, FAO can contribute to revise the models of behavior to ensure, now and in the future, that all can have access to water indispensable for their needs and for agricultural activities. There comes to mind that passage of the Scripture that invites not to forsake “the fountain of living waters, to hew out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13): a warning to say that technical solutions are useless if they forget the centrality of the human person, who is the measure of every right.

In addition to water, the use of terrains continues to be a serious problem. Increasingly worrying is the monopolizing of lands of cultivation by trans-national enterprises and States, which not only deprives farmers of an essential good, but which directly affects the sovereignty of countries. There are already many regions in which the foods produced go to foreign countries and the local population is doubly impoverished, because it does not have food or land. And what to say of the women that in many areas cannot possess the land they work, with an inequality of rights that impedes the serenity of family life, because the danger is run of losing the field from one moment to the other? However, we know that the world production of foods is in the main the work of family properties. Therefore, it is important that FAO reinforce the association and the projects in favor of family enterprises and that it stimulate States to regulate equitably the use and property of the land. This can contribute to eliminate the inequalities, now at the center of international attention.

4. Food security will be achieved even if peoples are different by geographic localization, economic conditions or food cultures. Let us work to harmonize the differences and unite efforts and thus, we will no longer read that food security for the North means to eliminate fats and foster the movement that, for the South, consists in obtaining at least one meal a day.

We must begin from our daily life if we want to change lifestyles, conscious that our little gestures can ensure sustainability and the future of the human family. And then let us continue the struggle against hunger without second intentions. FAO’s projections state that for the year 2050, with <nine billion> people in the planet, production must increase and even double. Instead of letting oneself be impressed by the data, let us modify our relation with the natural resources, the use of the soil, let us modify our consumption, without falling into the slavery of consumerism; let us eliminate waste and thus we will overcome hunger.

The Church walks with you with her institutions and initiatives, conscious that the resources of the planet are limited and that their sustainable use is absolutely urgent for agricultural and food development. Therefore, she commits herself to foster this change of attitude necessary for the good of future generations. May the Almighty bless your work.


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