WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Sara Farid, animator for Development and Peace, holds a microphone while a participant speaks during a Share Lent workshop Feb. 22.
One billion people in the world go hungry on a daily basis, including farmers and peasants who produce the food we eat.
That's why this year the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) is joining Caritas Internationalis' global anti-hunger campaign One Human Family: Food for All, launched by Pope Francis in December.
Speaking at the annual Share Lent workshop Feb. 22, D&P's regional animator Sara Farid said this international effort to end to world hunger is the theme of D&P's 2014 Share Lent campaign.
Each year thousands of members and volunteers from hundreds of parishes across Canada take part in Share Lent by organizing educational activities to help raise awareness among Canadians and to raise money for the work of Development and Peace.
The Caritas anti-hunger campaign is both a fundraising and an education campaign. It will continue in the fall, becoming the focus of D&P's Fall Action campaign on food sovereignty.
The purpose of Share Lent is three-fold: to educate Canadians about international development, to raise funds and to renew the spirit of Lent.
This year, however, D&P won't be raising money in the parishes, explained Farid. The Edmonton Archdiocese, which recently set up a unified collection system called Together We Serve, will provide D&P the funds that the organization normally collected on Solidarity Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Lent.
Of the goal of $1.6 million for Together We Serve, 17 per cent, or $275,000, is earmarked for D&P. This amount is based on the average Solidarity Sunday collections in the past five years.
Other D&P fundraising efforts in parishes and schools, including Think Fasts and hunger lunches, won't be affected.
At the workshop, Farid encouraged region delegates to make gestures of solidarity by becoming monthly D&P donors and supporting the organization's partners in the Global South to build a more just and equitable world.
Farid said D&P, a member of Caritas Internationalis, joined the anti-hunger campaign because hunger is the world's number one health risk. It affects one in eight people, mostly the rural poor. "The issue is not is not availability of food but access to it."
At the centre of world hunger is poverty, which is being exacerbated by climate change, armed conflict and unfair control of the land, seeds and water by a few multinational corporations, she said.
One way in which D&P is addressing hunger in the developing world is by encouraging food sovereignty – the right of people both to healthy food and to define their own food and agricultural systems. Food sovereignty gives priority to local markets, producers and consumers.
During the workshop Farid showed a 20-minute documentary, On the Road to Food Sovereignty, which shows how Haiti is struggling to feed its people.
Not long ago the Caribbean nation was self-sufficient in food. The country's most successful farmers produced enough to feed everyone. That changed when international corporations put local farmers at a disadvantage. Today half of Haiti's food is imported, and farmers struggle to make a living.
When international tariffs on rice imports were lowered it had devastating effects. Foreign rice was dumped on the Haitian market at a cheaper price. Now 80 per cent of rice, one of the country's main crops, is imported.
Community groups saw small-scale farmers being ejected and that this was making the country poorer. The groups organized to start the food sovereignty movement. They put local food first and are urging the government to protect and encourage local sustainable agriculture.
D&P supports the right of people to define their own food and agricultural systems, Farid said.
"Part of our mandate is to raise awareness about the root causes of poverty and secondly to support community organizations in contributing alternative models of development."