In January 2011, President Hugo Chavez launched Mission Agro Venezuela to manage the transition from a profit driven, exploitative food production system to one based on solidarity among producers, sustainable cultivation of a variety of regional crops and participatory decision-making.
According to Jose Guerrero, regional coordinator for Mission Agro Venezuela, the mission’s strategy is to purchase idle lands from large estate owners and transfer these lands to collectively organized farmers.
Then it coordinates training and low-interest financing for networks of farmers – not individuals – and provides these groups with low-cost fertilizers, irrigation materials, and other supplies through Agropatria, the state’s agricultural supplies organisation, which will assist in developing distribution networks with the aim of creating “Venezuela’s own model of production”
“We are in the tropics. We have to move away from the Anglo-Saxon food system that was established in South America, a model based on four seasons that do not occur here. That model is totally contrary to our own. We also need to substitute agro-toxins for sustainable agricultural inputs, Guerrero told Correo del Orinoco International.
The ultimate goal is food sovereignty
The ultimate goal, Guerrero said, is food sovereignty – the country’s ability to autonomously satisfy 100% of its food needs. One of the main challenges to achieving this goal is the arduous process of “constructing new social relations of production . . .What will be the relationship between those who produce and those who consume? What will be the relationship between the industry and the producers, and in whose hands will the means of production lie – in a few hands or in the collective, with all the people?”
To spur this process of transformation, the government has designated particular areas where the farmers are especially well-organized to be “motor districts”, providing an example and helping to promote the new model of production in other parts of the country.
Mission Agro Venezuela released a public record of its achievements since its inception eight months ago
Finance plans include 105,000 credits granted by the Agricultural Development Fund FONDAS and the state-owned Agrarian Bank of Venezuela; 14,000 credits for machinery, tractors, and other harvesting tools; and the free provision of services such as immunizations for cattle, irrigation systems, and assistance in pest control.
Approximately 775,000 hectares (1.9 million acres) of land have been put into cultivation of corn, rice, soy, sunflower, green leafy vegetables, sugar cane, coffee, cacao, chicken, eggs, pork, milk, lamb, beef, fish, tuna, and shrimp, Sanchez said. Juan Carlos Jimenez, president of the state-run Venezuelan Food Corporation (CVAL), reported that the government has purchased one million tons of food from small and medium sized farms in the states of Lara, Zulia, Tachira, and Trujillo, helping to spur local production.
Small-scale, low-tech farming shown in a picture taken from a widely read and comprehensive article by Australian Alan Broughton following a visit to Venezuela.
Venezuela has signed 55 international cooperation agreements that include the transfer of technological expertise, intellectual property, and machinery in order to empower Venezuelan producers and reduce dependency.
A new campaign to promote urban agriculture
Meanwhile, another government institution called the Foundation for Training and Innovation to Support the Agrarian Revolution (CIARA), announced it would launch a new campaign to promote urban agriculture. Below: growing food by the Caracas Hilton.
“Urban agriculture is an alternative in the cities, to take advantage of those under-utilized spaces in order to produce foods that are free of agrotoxins”, said CIARA President Martha Bolivar. “Let’s plant seeds in our own spaces, produce our own foods, get information in the Agriculture and Land Ministry… and make the urban agriculture explosion”. Bolivar said food produced in urban areas could be consumed by its producers or commercialized in urban communities in Venezuela’s largest cities, including Caracas, Maracay, Valencia, Maracaibo, San Cristobal, Puerto la Cruz, La Guaira, and Barcelona.