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Caritas Internationalis: “Industrial agriculture is not the only pathway to food justice”

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On the occasion of the UN food systems pre-summit in Rome, Caritas Internationalis urges decision makers to include the rights of the poor in all discussions and to ensure meaningful participation of local producers and consumers, especially women, in policymaking and implementation at the local levels.

Both the food system pre-summit and summit – to be held in September in New York – must not be missed opportunities to engage in a durable transformation of food systems, which is all the more necessary now that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and aggravated pre-existing inequalities in access to food. Several millions of people are expected to experience food insecurity and malnutrition in the months and years to come.

Stemming from the conviction that access to food is a basic human right, Caritas Internationalis is convinced that food security cannot be ensured, and food systems cannot be transformed, by just promoting industrial agriculture, which on the long run will only contribute to excluding more people from the supply chain. Moreover, it will also generate more injustice in the access to food.

Based on its decades of experience with the poorest communities, Caritas Internationalis advocates for the promotion of community-based traditional agriculture, agroecology, a review of the supply chain in favour of local markets and promoting responsible food consumption. There is an urgent need to promote agriculture and food production that scale up ecological and sustainable farming and encourage rural agricultural activities through incentives for the farmers. “This was also the cry of the poorest Latin-American farmers during the Synod on Amazon in 2019. This will ensure “food justice” and enable the poor farmers to live in dignity,” says Aloysius John, the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis.

The prime role that women have in traditional agriculture in their own lands must also be recognised. They must be helped to put in place cooperatives and local supply chains that would enable them to sell their products. “Women are part of the agricultural sector, and they are responsible for 60 to 80% of food production in the developing countries. But at the same time, they are also the ones who encounter untold challenges due to lack of access to land rights, credit, production resources and seeds capital,” adds Aloysius John.

In line with the teachings of Laudato Sì’, Caritas organisations question technocratic solutions to problems such as climate change, environmental degradation and food waste. “The world food crisis needs to be addressed differently, overcoming the assumption whereby science and technology will offer solutions to every problem and embracing policy choices, lifestyles and spirituality that challenges the predominant technocratic paradigm. At the heart of the problems of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition are human beings with dignity, relations and hopes,” says John.