Mexico urges farmers to grow more food, sign up for government assistance

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Corn has begun to grow in the hills south of the Mexican capital, although it is unclear whether the twigs will have enough water to grow or whether farmers will be able to afford the increasingly expensive fertilizer. Will

What is known is that the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants Mexicans to prepare their own food to move towards self-sufficiency in key products and to control the prices of basic food items.

The president’s idea, which includes giving cash and technical advice to rural families to grow crops, is nothing new, but the war-borne epidemic in Ukraine, climate change and market turmoil have given it new impetus. Is. The government wants to address food insecurity in a country where 44% of the population lives in poverty and produces 27.5 million tonnes of maize, but according to government figures, more than 40 million tonnes are used.

Some farmers expect additional state funding and subsidized fertilizer. Others are skeptical of government plans. But everyone hopes that this year’s crop will produce enough to feed their families and fortunately there is more to sell in their communities.

As G-7 countries seek global solutions and the United States and development banks draw up billions of dollars to reduce food insecurity, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has called on Mexico to become self-sufficient in basic food. Efforts are welcomed, but do not expect immediate results.

“We are not seeing a drop in food prices, at least this year,” said Lena Pohl, the organisation’s representative in Mexico.

The government said it hopes participants in the program will increase corn and bean production by about two-thirds.

Brothers Arturo, Benjamin and Victor Corella, three teachers who have been cultivating family plots in Malpa Alta, south of Mexico City since their retirement, know that everyone is going through a difficult time, but they are optimistic because only one Years later, “Boy Life” or “Sembrando Vida” – one of Lopez Obrador’s signature programs – harvested 10 tons of corn from where he had previously received only one.

Brothers Arturo, Benjamin and Victor Corella work on their land in Malpa, South Mexico, Monday, May 30, 2022. Three brothers who used to work as teachers, and who are now in their retirement farming family plot. Beneficiaries of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government as it provides cash and technical advice to rural families to grow crops, to help produce more food. (AP Photo / Eduardo Verdogo)

“The most important reason for planting is that (the whole family) is self-sufficient in corn, it doesn’t have to go to buy turtles, it has to try to do it itself,” Benjamin said. Now, he said, a government technician trains them through planting strategies, which improves their productivity.

“Dwarf Life” was advertised as a passionate forest program aimed at planting fruit and timber trees on one million hectares. It was also hoped that most of the rural families would stay on their land instead of migrating north with a sustainable source of income and monthly cash payments.

But the program also includes an unknown option that Lopez Obrador is now hoping to expand. Some registrants may choose to receive a monthly payment known as “malpa” in Mexico, where corn, beans and squash are grown together, as has been the case for centuries.

The “Sowing Life” program counts with an investment of about ً 4 billion and about 450,000 participating farmers, each receiving a monthly payment of $ 225 from the government. Although the actual number of people involved is much higher, as each farmer needs to cultivate 2.5 hectares – which is what many farmers have – and often the whole family or even communities cultivate their land like Corella. Collect

Despite the government’s use of the program, its low environmental record, and its scientifically sound skepticism, few have questioned its social impact.

Mexico’s Ministry of Social Welfare – not Agriculture – produces work and food by helping farmers with this technical advice and supervision.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations sees it as a “core program” that helps small farmers improve their living standards and produce in healthier ways.

The aim is to expand the program and provide new assistance to those already enrolled so that they can cultivate more land, cultivate new crops or start producing and using organic fertilizers, Welfare Ministry Secretary Ariadna Montiel said. ۔

Anna Martinez works on her family’s land in Malpa Alta, south of Mexico City, Mexico City on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Martinez is an accounting assistant who decided to start cultivating his grandfather’s land during the epidemic. (AP Photo / Eduardo Verdogo)

This is exactly what the Korela brothers have in mind.

Montel said the results of this effort will be seen in four or five months when the corn is harvested, but only the farming community can see a reduction in the prices of these basic foods. “If we think of the poorest families, who are guaranteed this (food self-sufficiency), we remove a concern,” he said.

If they have more than they can eat themselves, they can sell it locally or at a reasonable price to the government to provide their own food programs for the most disadvantaged.

Strong economies, including the United States, Japan, and European countries, have opted for self-sufficiency, subsidizing certain products, although buying them from producers is more expensive than importing them.

In the late 1990’s, with the North American Free Trade Agreement, many Mexicans began buying cheap American corn and stopped cultivating their land.

While the FAO defends self-sufficiency efforts in food production, it emphasizes that international trade is important for all economies.

Some Mexicans have returned to the country without government support for personal or ideological reasons.

In the face of Mexico City’s growing urban sprawl, “planting is a process of resistance,” said Anna Martinez, an accounting assistant and single mother, who started farming on her grandfather’s land in Malpa Ulta during the epidemic. decided.

“It’s about creating awareness in the community and not about leaving the land,” he said. Martinez belongs to the Ground Defense Gathering and spends part of her weekend mowing the lawn in preparation for her first harvest. She said the government’s program could help some people, but she sees it as charity. “We can live with the earth.”

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