Food Notes & Tousim 01/11/2010

Every nation on Earth has the right to its own rural development

Hunger is not an ineluctable fatality, but an unacceptable reality, as stated by the Italian Minister for Agricultural Policies Giancarlo Galan during his speech at the 36th session of Fao food security committee

Hunger is not an ineluctable fatality, but an unacceptable reality, although the number of people suffering from starvation decreased below the billion, which is anyway 15 times the population of my country.

What strikes me most in this moment is that I listen to my own voice and this does not make enough sense in terms of sadness, sorrow, and distress in front of the drama of poverty and hunger, which is not a drama, a unique and collective drama. It is not because it is a inhuman tragedy that ties the broken life of an individual to an infinite chain which ties millions and millions of single human beings, each of those should be granted a dignity, and the recognition of the sufferings he or she goes through, which is part of an “universal judgment”, in which the evil and sin should be destined against all those who safely remain free from the chains of poverty and hunger.

Back to the numbers, if they can encourage us, they tell that an unbalance development of the planet entails a two-speed growth and turns the “non growth” of the underdeveloped areas of the globe into a human drama.

The intensity of the current economic crisis, still under way, does not help the dedication and perseverance of those who daily fight to contrast the problem of hunger. I am talking about the several NGOs and non profit organizations which, thanks to their volunteers and the donations they receive, are active in all the poorest regions of the planet. I also want to remember the “philanthropic capital” of those corporations which choose to divert part of their profits to the international cooperation and the development of poor regions. Although not large enough to solve the problem at once, these capitals are often remarkable.

The dark side of the issue is given by the resistance and insensitive egoistic reactions aggravated by the crisis. This explains the necessity for a stronger strategy of the international organizations, under the guidance of UN, in order to achieve an actual synergy between public and private organisms, and to identify the whole package of the available financial, human and structural resources. Italy has been strongly committed to the reform of the system of international food security, as demonstrated during the last Presidency of the G8 last year, with the “L’Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI)”. We therefore declare our support to FAO for its role as consultant to the countries participating in the promotion of initiatives for food security and for regional and global agricultural development, as well as to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), to the World Food Programme (WFP), to Biodiversity and to the high level Task Force for the world food security. One of the priorities is definitely the enhancement of the effectiveness, efficiency and operativeness of FAO, since this is the time in history when the maximum effort is required from all institutions involved in the fight against hunger and against the causes of the economic crisis and of the food security.

The poverty map emerged from the SOFI Report is a good starting point to define the actions and priorities of the next interventions. What we can do is contributing with plans of assistance on the know how to develop the typicalness of the traditional productions, helping the small farmers with investments to improve productions which respond to the standards of food security and to ease their access to the market with an adequate pricing. We can also act on the diversification and multi functionality to guarantee sources of income that allow to improve the state of family businesses, especially those managed by women, to enable the purchase of food and goods otherwise not available.

As to the financing sources, the Italian proposal aimed at cutting by half the cost of money transfers by emigrants. At present, the taxation reaches up to 10%. The Italian proposal would allow to transfer to developing countries up to 15 more billion $ per year. I also believe that financial markets, where the speculation risks to generate new tensions on the price of agricultural commodities such as corn, rice, soy and other cereals at the base of food production, as it has already happened in the past, should contribute to financing the policies and interventions to contrast hunger.
Since we are talking of a global drama, all governments are called to a transparent responsibility, and agriculture should therefore be at the center of the political agenda, to rediscover its value in a sustainability perspective, both in the developed and developing country. A sustainable agriculture therefore able to reconcile financial demands with the quality of life and environment, in balance and with mutual respect. Sustainable does not have to mean that agriculture should be ideologically manipulated.

All this entails to rethink the policies for agriculture, the methods for the utilization of lands, and the preservation and recovery of natural resources in the poorer regions, with no a priori refusal to apply the benefits and advantages coming from new technologies, new practices and new advancements which can overcome the hardship of agriculture in developing countries. The newly conceived policies should encourage farmers and help them in the management of natural resources in a productive and environmentally sustainable way, and at the same time promote a social and cultural innovation. Believing in individuals is a good thing, as well as taking advantage of science, away from the obscurantist and dogmatic prejudices, because the hungry have been waiting for the hand of the good Samaritan to eat something and not for conference papers to study. In this perspective, Italy also supports the International Treaty on the Phytogenetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which promotes the organization of a High Level round table on the challenges of climate change and food security, which will be held in Rome the next December 7th. As I already said, the research and scientific progress and the innovation can greatly contribute to this advancements.

In conclusion, each country and people on Earth has a right to the rural development, to the right quantity and to the transparent quality of the food resources, obtained on their own territory as much as possible.

A goal which calls to the duty of responsibility all of us, a responsibility which becomes a real value only if shared with those who have political and economical responsibilities. Poverty and hunger can be defeated by policies which can be effective only if enforced through an undisputable ethical commitment. This is not authentic if it is not oriented to the future and to project for the future.

My land, Veneto, the region of Venice in Northern Italy, was used to starvation, poverty, and emigration only until a few generations ago. A great novelist came from my region, Mario Rigoni Stern. He was able to tell with universal style and language the upsetting tragedies and the astounding beauties of a land he knew, lived and narrated by him for almost one century, a century of memories and imagination which went beyond the limits of the past century.

Over the last years of his life, the great writer wrote: “I will go for a hike in the wood to make plans, where I will not meet anybody else but my thoughts. If the youth, as I read in the last days, do not plan their future anymore, we the elderly will. I hope to live long enough to see the world get healthy again, stop wasting and forgetting about useless things, noise, and artificial lights which do not let us see the stars”.

What do I mean by this quote? If we want to see the stars in the new sky of mankind, it is urgent now to give birth to thoughts and plans which will put an end to wasting our resources for useless things.

di Giancarlo Galan