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Pope Francis warns of global food insecurity, calls for support for small producers

Pope Francis assured the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization of Church support in fighting hunger and its causes

Pope Francis called for support for small farmers in his message to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on Monday, June 14.

The pontiff said the global health crisis should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.

“It could be of great benefit to draw on the potential of innovation to support small producers and help them improve their capacities and resilience,” said Pope Francis.

The FAO Conference is holding its 42nd Session in Rome from June 14 to 18. The organization was established in 1945 and has more than 194 member states.

In his message, Pope Francis noted that in 2020 the number of people at risk of acute food insecurity and in need of immediate subsistence support reached its highest level in five years.

“This situation could worsen in the future,” he warned.

“Conflicts, extreme weather events, economic crises, together with the current health crisis, are a source of famine and hunger for millions of people,” said the pope.

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“Therefore, in order to address these growing vulnerabilities, it is essential to adopt policies capable of tackling the structural causes that give rise to them.”

“To provide a solution to these needs, it is important, above all, to ensure that food systems are resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and able to provide healthy and affordable diets for all,” he said.

He stressed the need to develop “a circular economy, which guarantees resources for all, including future generations, and promotes the use of renewable energies, is beneficial.”

“The fundamental factor for recovering from the crisis that is striking us is an economy tailored to man, not subject only to profit, but anchored in the common good, friendly to ethics and respectful of the environment,” said the pope.

Rohingya refugees waiting for food aid in Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Sept. 25, 2017. (shutterstock.com photo)

The FAO’s 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report predicted that the pandemic would cause 130 million more people worldwide to suffer chronic hunger by the end of last year.

“The reconstruction of post-pandemic economies offers us the opportunity to reverse the course followed so far and invest in a global food system capable of withstanding future crises,” said Pope Francis.

“This includes the promotion of sustainable and diversified agriculture that takes into account the valuable role of family farming and rural communities,” he added.

“Indeed, it is paradoxical to note that it is precisely those who produce food that suffer from the lack or scarcity of food,” he said, noting that most of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“Due to lack of access to markets, land ownership, financial resources, infrastructure and technologies, these brothers and sisters of ours are the most vulnerable to food insecurity,” said Pope Francis.

He said it was not enough merely to outline programs, saying that “tangible gestures are needed that have as their point of reference the common belonging to the human family and the fostering of fraternity.”

He assured the UN body of the Catholic Church’s support and lauded the work of FAO as “of particular importance in the current time of crisis.”

“I appreciate and encourage the efforts of the international community to enable each country to implement the necessary mechanisms to achieve food autonomy,” said the pope.

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