Venezuela’s new farming initiative, Mission Agro Venezuela, got off and running last weekend as thousands of small agricultural producers from around the country registered with the Land and Agriculture Ministry in order to participate in the government’s latest food sovereignty program.
President Hugo Chavez suspended his weekly television broadcast “Alo Presidente” as to not interfere with a nation-wide census being carried out for the measure, which he announced last Thursday.
Over 400 centers have been established throughout the national territory to receive enrollment in the farming program, which seeks to increase Venezuela’s agricultural production and lessen its dependence on foreign food imports.
According to Viceminister for Rural Development, Danicxe Aponte, the centers will be open until February 15th and are accepting registration from anyone interested in boosting agricultural production in the country.
“All producers who wish to plant and join the mission will receive support from the national government. This includes support for urban agriculture which is fundamental for the food needs of those Venezuelans who live in the urban centers of major cities”, Aponte said during an interview with the state television channel on Sunday.
FROM AGRICULTURE TO OIL
Venezuela, a heavily urbanized country, has been afﬂicted by low agricultural production since the burgeoning of its oil economy in the early 1900s.
For decades, the country has been dependent on food imports from neighboring countries as vast tracts of fertile land have gone unused by large, wealthy landowners.
Although previous government measures have helped to increase production in staples such as corn, beans and rice over the past few years, major ﬂooding brought about by torrential rains in late 2010 created a set back for food security measures.
The government reports that, due to the downpours, over 65 thousand hectares (160 thousand acres) of productive farmland were affected by the downpours in the coastal and western regions of the country.
Mission Agro Venezuela, announced by President Hugo Chavez to deal with the crisis, will be the government’s most recent attempt to stimulate greater agricultural production by providing low-interest loans, machinery, and technical assistance to farmers in the country.
A fund with one billion bolivars ($232 million) will be established for the completion of the ﬁrst phase of mission’s census, which will update the agricultural information gathered by the government in 2007.
“We’re calling upon all small farmers, ﬁshermen and producers from the state to leave the countryside by mule, bicycle, motorcycle or car in order to register”, said Faustive Gonzalez, activist from the state of Cojedes.
Participation in the census until now has been described by activists and ofﬁcials as “massive”.
According to the Land and Agriculture Ministry, during its ﬁrst day of operations last Saturday, more than 50 thousand farmers singed up for the government’s new mission while, as the Correo del Orinoco International goes to press, more than 100,000 additional thousand farmers have registered.
Apart from reaching out to solely small producers, President Chavez has also made it a point to appeal to landowners with larger holdings to participate in the mission’s efforts.
“The small, medium and large landowners who want to work with us should register in order to receive ﬁnancing and deepen our agricultural production. We need to be free and sovereign with respect to food”, he said.
Chavez has also not ruled out the possibility of using the decree powers granted to him by the National Assembly last year to create a constitutional law to further the agricultural program.
“If it a special law is needed to sustain and support Agro Venezuela, to create associate businesses, to provide loans and ensure our harvests, we will be obliged to have a law”, he announced during a cabinet meeting on Friday.