There are many challenges that we have to face here in Venezuela. We believe that we must first understand the problems that then give us the will to change things. Here is a little insight about the main problems in Venezuela.
1. Food insecurity
Following a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization from 2019 Venezuela is one of the countries with the greatest food insecurity. The report also says that the situation in the country will probably worsen in the coming months – and so it happened.
The director of FEDEAGRO (Confederation of Associations of Agricultural Producers of Venezuela) confirms the diagnosis and explains that the situation bears the risk not to be improving.
In the Venezuelan countryside, we only produce to meet 10% of national consumption needs, in addition, there is not enough money to buy the treated seeds and pesticides.”Director of FEDEAGRO
With a drop in domestic production of more than 60% and a decrease in imports of more than 70%, according to the Venezuelan Health Observatory (OVS), the Venezuelan population faces low food availability since 2015. The result is that 94% of the Venezuelan population does not have enough income to pay the price of the basic food basket. This is in particular due to the hyperinflation generated by the shortage.
Keep in mind that the minimum wage represents less than $ 7 while the basic food basket reaches approximately $ 270. Under these conditions, food security cannot be assured. According to polls, 64% of Venezuelans lost 11 kg between 2016 and 2017 and many Venezuelans eat only two meals a day or less. This food instability is partly due to the fact that farmers cannot buy seeds and pesticides for cultivation, which reduces production and increases prices for food. It’s a vicious cycle that won’t be easily broken.
2. The energy crisis
In addition the situation worsens for energy reasons. The economic and agricultural model of Venezuela is based on non-sustainable fossil energies. This model depends entirely on oil for production and distribution in the national territory. However refined oil is barely available in Venezuela which weakens the entire system. Recently agricultural workers in Mérida explained in the newspaper “Pico Bolívar” that they have to queue endlessly – at times several days – to fill the tank, days during which they go hungry. Often they only have one arepa – venezuelan bread – for whole 3 days. In addition, due to lack of fuel, they cannot distribute harvested products so that they are often wasted.
Venezuelans have been struggling with power cuts, poor water supply and shortages of petrol, cooking gas and basic hygiene and food items for years.BBC in 2020
As we noted, with the shortage of gasoline the food insecurity in the country worsens. It is seen in different parts of Venezuela: When there is enough harvest – which is not always the case – it can’t even be transported to the cities due to that lack of gasoline.
According to the calculations made by FEDEAGRO, the distribution of food from the field to the centers of consumption has decreased to 50%, precisely due to the shortage of fuel. We can add that the lack of regularity in the government’s social programs is also linked to the energy crisis. The food basket (CLAP) is not actually distributed every month for the same reason, which affects all those who need and depend on the public network to survive. In its report, the Baké Baké Foundation associates energy problems with food insecurity too.
In the case of the state of Amazonas, the shortage of gasoline prevents indigenous populations from mobilizing between communities for water or land to carry out their traditional economic activities. Consequently, they cannot get their livelihood.
Food insecurity due to the reduction in production and imports, or difficulties in accessing food due to lack of fuel and hyperinflation translate into higher levels of malnutrition in the country and is increasing child mortality.
According to the FAO report on the state of food security and nutrition of 2017, Venezuela is the country with the largest increase in malnourished people. The number of undernourished people increased from 2.8 million in 2015 to 4.1 million in 2016. According to the latest FAO report, the figures went from 3.1% in 2009 to more than 21% in 2018. This situation has various effects In the elderly, it causes pulmonary, cardiac, anemic and muscular weakness. According to a survey conducted by Maritza Landaeta of the BENGOA Foundation, in addition to hunger:
There are more than 2 million women suffering from anemia in Venezuela. This situation extends to their children. This number is exceeded by few countries.Maritza Landaeta, BENGOA Foundation
In children, malnutrition leads to high morbidity rates. Malnourished children are extremely susceptible to fatal diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. And it is important to keep in mind that 56% of child deaths could be prevented if children were not malnourished. According to the latest official government publications, infant mortality increased by 30% between 2015 and 2016.
4. Social inequality
We are not all the same in the face of this situation. If food insecurity affects the majority, it is not the same when talking about malnutrition that affects certain social classes more than others, certain geographical areas more than others. In its report, the Baké Baké Foundation reveals that:
The majority, 57.3% of indigenous people under one year old, die from exogenous and preventable causes such as malnutrition, infections, diarrhea, parasitosis and pneumonia, against only 16.2% of the non-natives.
This clearly indicates that indigenous people are the most affected by malnutrition. After indigenous populations, the poor: 33% of babies between 0 and 2 years of age in poor sectors are stunted according to age and weight rates, which increases the risk of future diseases.
We notice that children “inherit” their parents’ nutritional deficiencies. Malnourished women are underweight and may have babies with the same problem if they manage to give birth (maternal mortality increased by 66% between 2015 and 2016). There is then a vicious circle of malnutrition that reinforces these inequalities over time. As Maritza Landaeta explains, “malnutrition is happening to the youngest. They are born with this pathology. There is a lot of intrauterine malnutrition.” The result is that the physical and intellectual abilities of children are diminished, which has a negative impact on school learning. The vicious circle is repeated again. Of course, the life of present and future generations is conditioned by the nutritional status we have, here and now. More malnutrition is maintained, more fragility, disease and death are installed and perpetuated.
5. Soil degradation
Although it is not what seems to be the main cause, we have to take into account soil degradation because it is related to food insecurity. In the State of Guárico it compromises agricultural yields.
Food insecurity in Venezuela is also due to soil degradation that is a reality worldwide.
Many UN or IPCC reports on land speak about the destruction of soils, and we know that 24,000 million fertile lands are lost every year. This has an impact on agricultural production, and a fortiori, on the economy. Developed countries would lose 8% of their national wealth due to the destruction of soils, and things could get complicated later due to global warming that would worsen the destructive cycle: less soil fertility, less agricultural yields and instability at all levels (agricultural, economic, political). Venezuela has its own concerns, but it must be borne in mind that soil degradation and food instability could become more violent if nothing is done to stop the spiral of climate change. Keep in mind that three degrees of temperature rise would cause food insecurity in all countries of the world.
Everyone’s right to food
Food is a right enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. Article 11 of the Covenant “recognizes the right of all to a level of adequate life, including adequate food”.
It is a fundamental right of all to be protected from hunger.
In addition, the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic guarantees the right of Venezuelans to eat properly. According to FAO, food security is achieved “when all people have access to sufficient healthy and nutritious food, at all times, to meet their food needs and preferences in order to lead an active and healthy life.”
There is no harmony between what is the duty of the State and the rights of citizens. Today, in Venezuela, the right to adequate food is not guaranteed. We have seen that most do not have access to all three meals a day, that cases of malnutrition are increasing, and food does not arrive regularly at state institutions. For example, there is not always food in the school dinning halls, and when there is, it is usually limited to pasta, rice and lentils.
Our proposal to reach food security: organic agriculture & team work
To act against malnutrition and in favor of food security, we must go to the root of the problem. Faced with the failure of conventional agriculture, subject to oil and the law of value, we must take the importance of soil quality and organic agriculture into account to move towards healthy and sustainable food security.
Food sovereignty and good food (which has to do with good agriculture) are the basis for guaranteeing people’s health and well-being; and the way to achieve this food sovereignty and this collective well-being is through organic, urban and local agriculture, to reduce dependence on imports, chemical inputs and fossil fuels.
To reach food security we must act collectively, cooperate, establish organic gardens, compost, support local producers.
We must also reject the value of change as the purpose of agriculture, rather, guarantee the primacy of the right to food that should be our central axis. This right must be done in harmony with the environment, taking into account the limits of the planet. This right to food goes hand in hand with the right to a healthy environment. That is also the only way to guarantee the sustainability of food sovereignty. For the planet, for us, let’s take sides in favor of food sovereignty and justice. To reduce the impact of climate change, for a future without malnutrition, without glyphosate: let’s organize, let’s cooperate, let’s fight!