By Fran Araújo
The collapse of commodity prices, the agrarian policies of rich countries and the unfair rules of international trade have caused an unprecedented crisis in the agricultural sector, trapping hundreds of millions of peasants who cannot escape poverty.
The situation of poor communities is aggravated by the neglect to which the rural sector is subjected by their own governments. This means that they have to face problems such as lack of access to land, water or credit; the absence of roads and other infrastructure; weak and negligent market regulation; corruption and bureaucracy or absence of educational and health services.
Added to all this is the lack of commitment of the rich countries to eradicating poverty, as shown by the progressive decline in development aid for the rural sector, the failure to resolve the problem of external debt or the conditions imposed by the International Financial Organizations for the granting of new credits.
Without forgetting the importance of all these factors, agricultural trade is key to ending rural poverty. Without fair trade rules, no effort to reduce world levels of hunger and misery will be successful.
Agriculture has the possibility of lifting a large part of humanity out of poverty and hunger, however there is the sad paradox that those who produce food are those who suffer the most hunger.
As trade has been liberalized and the world has moved toward a global economy, the results have become clear: the richest countries continue to prosper, but most of the poorest are worse off than 20 years ago.
Since the late 1980s, most developing countries have been forced, under the terms of loans from international financial institutions, to open their markets to imports and to focus their development efforts on products that they can sell locally. the outside. The reduction or elimination of tariffs and the subsidization of western agricultural production have exacerbated inequalities and hunger.
Trade agreements such as the Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic threaten the livelihoods of thousands of small Latin American producers. They open the door to massive exports, since it eliminates tariffs, and facilitates the entry of products subsidized by the US at a price below the cost of production. This sinks the Latin American agricultural economies that cannot compete equally.
Hunger, letting a person starve, is a crime, and behind every crime there is a culprit. The liberal measures adopted by Latin American governments advised by the IMF and the WTO have caused this unfair situation. Not knowing the consequences of a measure does not exempt you from liability. Now there is the obligation to repair it.
If Latin America can supply three times its current inhabitants with food, it means that eradicating hunger is possible. If it is not done it is because there is no real will for it. Another issue is the demographic explosion in some areas that requires imaginative, intelligent actions and full of respect for the responsibility of each person. It is vitally important to change existing trade rules, cancel an external debt that is already paid in full, eradicate corruption and control the unfair subsidization of agricultural products. Latin American governments must develop real policies that favor small farmers: provide them with land, infrastructure, protect them from the free market, defend their labor rights, and ensure education and health. Continuing to maintain an unjust system is a crime from which only a few benefit.