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Although our planet does actually produce sufficient food, hunger continues to be a sad reality. There are still 800 million people worldwide who are undernourished. Because more than 160 million children under five do not have enough food, they are too small for their age. Half of them live in Asia, one third in Africa.
The livelihood of more than a third of the world's population – about 2.7 billion people – depends on agriculture, largely on small farms of less than two hectares. In developing countries, small farmers produce the bulk of the food. If hunger and poverty are to be effectively combated, they must be made the focal point of action.
Humanitarian crises such as conflicts and natural hazards, inadequate access to arable land, unfair trade relations and dearth of market services such as lack of access to water, transport networks, agricultural advice and/or veterinary services make it difficult for farmers to ensure food security. Another threat is climate change: rising temperatures, the increasing intensity of disasters, and fluctuations in rainfall have already had a profound impact on production.
For over three decades now, Caritas Switzerland has made a commitment to rural development. It supports the sustainable use of natural resources such as soil, water or flora, and promotes the protection of biological diversity and also diversified, ecological cultivation. Specifically, Caritas programmes contribute to better soil fertility and to ensuring suitability of the necessary sowing seeds, supporting education and training through rural counselling services, or representing the interests of the poorest at political level by, for example, preserving the availability of village pastures as land for communal use. Thanks to such measures, farmers can not only increase their food production, but also render it more nutritious, which also benefits the local markets and thus the non-farming members of the population.
Caritas also promotes the development of fair agricultural market systems. The aim is to strengthen consumer and farmer interest groups in order to create markets which also meet their needs. After all, it is important for the most vulnerable and marginalized people to have fair link-ups to the markets, so that they can earn a sustained income and live under conditions worthy of human beings.