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To Mr. Jose Graziano da Silva
Director General of FAO
This year the World Food Day is being observed while the effects of the economic crisis increasingly affect primary needs, including the fundamental right of every person to sufficient and healthy nutrition, aggravating especially the situation of those who live in conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. It is a context that is similar to that which inspired the institution of FAO, and which calls national and international institutions to the commitment to free humanity from hunger through agricultural development and the growth of rural communities. Weighing on malnutrition, in fact, is a gradual disengagement and an excessive competitiveness which risk forgetting that common and shared solutions are able to give adequate answers to persons’ and peoples’ expectations.
Hence I greet with particular satisfaction the choice to dedicate this Day to reflection on the topic “Agricultural Cooperatives Feed the World.” It is not only about giving support to cooperatives as expression of a different way of economic and social organization, but of considering them a real instrument of international action. The experience realized in many countries shows, in fact, that cooperatives, in addition to giving impulse to agricultural work, are a way of enabling farmers and rural populations to intervene in decisive moments as well as being an effective instrument to carry out the integral development of which the person is the foundation and end.
To guarantee freedom from hunger means, in fact, to be aware that the activity of institutions and the contribution of committed men and women can attain adequate results only through actions and structures inspired by solidarity and geared to participation. In this sense, agricultural cooperatives are a concrete example because they are called to carry out not only adequate levels of production and distribution, but also a more general growth of the rural areas and of the communities that live in them.
Cooperation in its most profound meaning indicates the person’s need to be associated to achieve, together with others, new aims in the social, economic, cultural and religious ambit. It is a dynamic and varied reality, called not only to give answers to immediate and material needs, but to contribute with the prospects of every community.
Giving due priority to the human dimension, the cooperatives can surmount the exclusively technical profile of agricultural work, re-evaluating its centrality in economic activity and thus fostering adequate answers to the real local necessities. It is an alternative vision to that determined by internal and international measures which seems to have as their sole objective profit, the defense of markets, the use of agricultural products for ends other than food, and the introduction of new techniques of production without the necessary precaution as.
In face of an ever wider demand for food, which necessarily unites the quality and quantity of foods, the work of agricultural cooperatives could represent something more than a simple aspiration, showing concretely a possible way to satisfy the demand of an ever growing world population. Their increasingly consolidated presence can then put an end to the speculative tendencies which now touch even
As is known, the Catholic Church also considers cooperative work and enterprise as ways of living an experience of unity and solidarity capable of surmounting differences and even social conflicts between persons and different groups. Because of this , with her teaching and her action
In fact, cooperatives are a concrete expression not of a sterile complementarity, but of true subsidiarity, a principle that the Social Doctrine of the Church puts as the foundation of a correct relation between the person, the society and the institutions. Subsidiarity, in fact, guarantees the capacity and original contribution of the person, preserving his aspirations in the spiritual and material dimension, having in just consideration the promotion of the common good and the protection of the rights of the person.
Looking at situations where conflicts or natural disasters limit agricultural work, a particular thought goes to the irreplaceable role of women often called to direct the activity of cooperatives, to maintain family bonds and to safeguard those precious elements of knowledge and technique proper to the rural world.
In a world seeking appropriate intervention to overcome the difficulties stemming from the economic crisis and to give globalization a genuinely human meaning, the experience of cooperatives well represents that new type of economy at the service of the persons, that is, capable of fostering ways of sharing and gratuitousness which are the fruit, respectively, of solidarity and fraternity (Caritas in veritate, 39). Indispensable, because of this, is that public powers operating at the national and international level predispose the necessary legislative and financial instruments so that in rural areas cooperatives can be effective instruments of agricultural production, food security, social change and a wider improvement of conditions of life. It is to be hoped that in this new context the young generations will be able to look to their future with renewed confidence, maintaining the links with the work of fields, the rural world and their traditional values.
In renewing the Church’s attention and the commitment of her institutions so that humanity can really be free of hunger, I invoke the most abundant blessings of God Almighty on you, Mr. Director General, on the representatives of the nations accredited to FAO, and on all those who work in the Organization and contribute to the attainment of its ends.
From the Vatican, October 16, 2012
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]