Mexican government encourages farmers to produce more food

MEXICO CITY -- Corn has started to sprout on the hillsides south Mexico's capital.

Mexican government encourages farmers to produce more food

MEXICO CITY -- Corn has started to sprout on the hillsides south Mexico's capital. However, it is not clear if these shoots will have enough water or if the farmer can afford the more expensive fertilizer.

It is well-known that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants Mexicans produce more food to increase their self-sufficiency in key foods and lower prices for basic foods.

Although the president's proposal, which includes cash payments for rural families to plant crops and technical advice, doesn't seem new, the ravages caused by the pandemic, climate changes, and turmoil in the market due to the war in Ukraine are making it more urgent. According to government data, 44% of the country's population is in poverty. 27.5 million tons of corn is produced. But, more than 40,000,000 tons are consumed.

Farmers hope to receive additional state financial assistance and subsidized fertilizer. Some farmers are skeptical of government plans. All hope this year's harvest will provide enough food for their families, and with a little luck, a little more to sell in their local communities.

G-7 countries are looking for global solutions, while the United States and its development banks create a multibillion dollar plan to alleviate food insecurity. However, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) has welcomed Mexico’s efforts towards self-sufficiency in basic food, but is not expecting quick results.

Lina Pohl (representative of the organization in Mexico) stated that "we don't see food prices falling, at least not this year."

According to the government, it is hoped that participants in the program will double their corn and bean production.

Three brothers, Benjamin, and Victor Corella, are retired teachers who are now farming family plots in Milpa Alta, southermost Mexico City. They know that everyone is having a hard time. But they're optimistic because they have harvested 1 1/2 tons of corn after just one year in "Sowing Life" or "Sembrando Vida," Lopez Obrador’s signature program.

Benjamin stated that planting corn is important because it allows the whole family to grow their own corn. They don't have to buy tortillas or go to a store to get them, but they can do it themselves. He said that a government technician now coaches them through their planting strategies and improves their yield.

"Sowing Life" was a bold reforestation program, which aimed to plant one million hectares of trees that produce fruit and lumber. Rural families would be able to have a stable source of income and receive a monthly cash payment, which could help them stay on their land instead of migrating north.

Lopez Obrador hopes to expand on a lesser-known program that was part of the program. A few enrollees might be able to choose to receive monthly payments for the "milpa", corn, beans, and squash that are grown together in Mexico.

The "Sowing Life” program has a total investment of almost $4 billion. There are approximately 450,000 growers who participate in the program, and each receives a $225 monthly payment from government. However, the real number of participants is much larger because each grower must farm 2.5 hectares to be eligible. This is more than most farmers have. Sometimes entire families and communities pool their land to become Corellas.

Although the government used the program to combat its less-than-stellar environment record and questions about its scientific foundations, few people have doubted its social impact.

It is located in Mexico's Social Welfare Ministry, not Agriculture. It generates work and food through technical assistance and monitoring of farmers.

It is a fundamental program that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization considers to be helping small farmers improve their quality life and produce healthier food.

Ariadna Montiel is the secretary of the welfare ministry. She stated that the goal was to expand the program, offer new support to existing enrolled people, and allow them to farm more land, grow new crops, or produce organic fertilizers.

This is exactly what the Corella brothers intend to do.

Montiel stated that the effort's effects will be visible in four to five months after corn is harvested. However, only the communities of growers are likely to see a drop in the price of basic food items. She said, "If we consider these families, which include the poorest, having this food self-sufficiency guaranteed, then we remove a concern."

They can sell excess food to the government if they don't have enough to eat.

The United States, Japan, and European countries have strong economies. They are willing to self-sufficiency, as well as subsidizing certain products. However, buying directly from the producers can be more expensive than imports.

Many Mexicans stopped farming their land in the 1990s and began to buy corn from the United States during the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The FAO supports self-sufficiency in food production but emphasizes the importance of international trade for all economies.

For personal or ideological reasons, some Mexicans have returned home to their homeland without government assistance.

Ana Martinez, an accountant assistant and single mother said that planting is an act to resist the growing urban sprawl in Mexico City. She decided during the pandemic to start farming on her grandfather's land in Milpa Alta.

She said, "It's all about creating consciousness in the community and avoiding abandoning" the land. Martinez is part of a land defense group and spends her weekends weeding in preparation to harvest her first harvest. Although she acknowledged that the government's program could help some people, Martinez viewed it as charity. "With land, we can survive."

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