Letter of the Day | Honour and respect the small farmers
THE EDITOR, Madam:
World Food Day is celebrated annually on October 16 to mark the 1945 establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s theme, ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together’, we must acknowledge the value of all the agents of food security. In times of tragedy and disaster, the readiness and attention of first responders are indispensable to rescue and prevent avoidable fallouts. The first responders of food production are the providers of agricultural produce and livestock and those who venture to reap the seas. They are crucial under normal circumstances but more especially so in the face of the crisis occasioned by the current pandemic.
In celebration of World Food Day, those with the highest returns in the line of food security must ensure practical acknowledgement of the indispensable role and dignity of the small farmers and operators of fishing villages. Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All, FT), points out that the current pandemic has demonstrated that human dignity must be the centre and pillar for building the structures needed for social and economic advancement.
This is an invitation to foster solidarity by removing disparities such as the wide gap of favourable returns between our small-scale producers and vendors and those who do the value-added production and distribution. By extrapolation from Fratelli Tutti, the marketplace cannot resolve this problem. Therefore, Christians and persons of goodwill, having regard for the dignity of small stakeholders in food security, must promote an economic model that enhances favourable returns for those at the start of food production and include them in the formal market economy.
Our policymakers must protect small, informal producers from economic stagnation by preventing the kind of unregulated development that leads to uncompetitive environments. The hustle mentality, driven by the need to ‘eat a food’, frequently creates overcrowding, which diminishes the financial viability of potentially profitable enterprises.
The challenge is for big businesses, which rely on and benefit from the agents of initial production, to establish a scheme that redirects a determined percentage of profits from end products and trade to enhance the status and operation of those who provide the means of their business operations and success. This is the time to foster solidarity, to allow small farmers and fisherfolk to benefit more from the fruit of their labour.
Archbishop of Kingston
Roman Catholic Archdiocese