Soaring food prices are making life hard for people everywhere. Now in Mexico many families are taking the fight against the global food crisis into their own hands. Here's our story.
Chaos in Haiti. Protests in Senegal. Turmoil in Somalia. Everywhere, people have been hit by spiraling oil and food prices -- and those most affected are the poor. With high prices and severe drought, a major crisis is brewing in Mexico. Fears are that it will lead to a famine. There are approximately six million people who can barely afford to eat regular meals. Here in the Mixteca region of Mexico, people earn about USD$3 a day. The price of corn, their staple food for thousands of years, has more than doubled, making it now beyond most people's reach.
It used to be USD$6 for 50 kilos six years ago. Then it went up by one dollar each year. For the past two years, it has been at USD$18.
Angela Lopez and her husband Miguel, live in Tulapa. Their daughter, her husband, and their two children live here too. Since Miguel no longer works, Angela is the only breadwinner. She works part time as a midwife in a nearby hospital and barely makes enough money to buy food for the family. Now the Lopezes are planting a small garden to help feed their family. That too is proving to be a struggle. Water has always been difficult to come by around here. But now the ongoing drought has left the land barren making it more difficult to farm.
It doesn't rain a lot. Some years, there is nothing to harvest, nothing to produce. Last year, we reaped 50 kilos of corn for the entire harvest.
Fifty kilos will only feed Angela's family for eight days. When it gets tough, she must sell one of her precious goats to buy more corn. The water crisis has prompted the government to step in. With help from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, cisterns have been installed to help farmers secure enough water to grow the food that they need. Assisting with the project is Jonathan Martinez.
The government has a crucial role to play, and that is to work with the poor in order to eliminate poverty.
Called rain harvesting, it's an efficient way to store water for later use. Another traditional method is being revived. Luis is dowsing. As his ancestors did, he takes a branch and then meticulously checks for ground water.
Water! Bring the machine right here.
He and his group managed to dig deep beneath the earth's surface to tap the water table. The water is channeled to a well by electric pumps. Now, they have enough water to harvest corn all year round. Despite a better harvest, farmers are still hampered by rising prices, forcing many to migrate. Half a million people from this region have left for the United States looking for work.
I was so poor; I had nothing in my country. I had no house, no land, nothing.
Javier Flores left when he was 13 years old.
There were days we didn't eat nothing.
Now he is back, he has formed a cooperative with his brother and 20 other men to farm the land. But it isn't easy.
The fuel is so expensive and everything goes up. Prices are almost unreachable, in a way. It affects us a lot. Most blame rising costs on oil prices and the use of corn for bio-fuels.
Food is for consumption and not for fuel production. The world produces enough provisions for everybody. Let's give people access to the food.
The worldwide dilemma between producing biofuels to save the environment or the production of food to feed people continues. Meanwhile, back at Angela's home, the children entertain the grown-ups. Despite their troubles, she and her family are coping with rising food prices as best they can. Mexicans, like many other people around the world, are faced with serious challenges. Food security is essential for global stability and economic development.
Recently, the Mexican government decided to freeze food prices and subsidize the cost of petrol for several months. It blames the rising cost of food on fuel prices and the use of corn for biofuels. That is it for this edition of 21st Century. I'm Daljit Dhaliwal. We will see you next time. Until then, goodbye.
21st Century a production of United Nations Television Department of Public Information