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Agriculture Remains Central to the World Economy. 60% of the Population Depends on Agriculture for Survival

Economy / -

Fao

In a situation of economic crisis that has lasted for more than six years, the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) in its 2013 "Statistical Yearbook” shows that agriculture remains central to economic development.

In fact, according to World Bank data, a growth of 1% in GDP from the agricultural sector, results in an increase of expenditures of the three poorest deciles, by at least 2.5 times that of the rest of the economy.
 
More than 60% of the world's population depends on agriculture
Also, according to FAO, more than 60 percent of the world’s population depends on agriculture for survival. So if the population is about 7 billion now and grows to 9 billion in 2015, 12 percent of the total available land, or about 1.5 billion hectares, would be used for agricultural crops.

Ninety percent of this land is found in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa with half of the 90 percent concentrated in seven countries: Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sudan, Argentina, Colombia and Bolivia. Agricultural production, globally, has been growing at a rate of between two and four percent annually over the past 50 years, while arable land has increased by only one percent per year. Farmland, in the broadest sense, i.e. land used for crops, grazing, livestock and arable land, takes up 37.6 percent of the total land available compared to forestland at 31.1 percent. In this scenario, FAO stresses, climate change poses a major challenge to the future of agriculture, an unprecedented, in that it must cope with rising temperatures, humidity and lack or scarcity of water resources; all in a context where the population continues to grow.
 
There’s another interesting aspect of the agricultural sector which is indicated in the "Statistical Yearbook" of the United Nations is connected to labor. Agriculture has the highest incidence of unpaid child labor, starting from the ages of between five and seven years old, and the sector with the youngest minimum work entry age.  One example illustrates the issue: about 60 percent of workers under the age of 18, of which 129 million children, are in found in the agricultural sector.
 
Despite the dependency and non-substitutability of agriculture within the world economy, between 2009 and 2011, this sector has counted for only 2.9 percent of increase in growth of the   global GDP (while the industrial sector accounted for about 25.3 percent growth and the services sector accounted for a 71.8 percent increase). The differences at the continental level, however, are more evident with a growth of 14 percent in Africa, 5.9 percent in Latin America, 5 percent in Asia, 10 percent in China, and just 1.6 percent in Europe, 1.2 percent in the U.S. and 3.3 percent in Oceania. 
 
 
 

Google Awards 104 scholarships to young digitizers of made in Italy

Innovation / -

104 borse di studio Google ai giovani digitalizzatori del made in Italy
© Christian Riekoff/Science Photo Library/Corbis

The 104 young people who were awarded scholarships in July from Google and the Unioncamere are already at work. Their objective: help digitize the Made in Italy companies who produce wine, food, agricultural, organic, DOP and IGP products.

The Mountain View giant announced in July the young winners of the 104 scholarships awarded to undergraduates and graduates students. The objective for this project  is to increase exports and reach new markets. The Google  project  "Made in Italy: Excellence in Digital" is sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Development and is included within the campaign of  e-Skills for jobs of the European Commission.
 
Those selected will work through February 2015, in the offices of  52 Italian cities’ Chambers of Commerce. Their task is to facilitate the digitization of SMEs in those territories. After the training developed by Google and Unioncamere,  the 104 students have begun to carry out awareness-raising activities and support businesses in the territory assigned to them to help them set up or develop their online presence and social media and to  understand  how to leverage the opportunities offered by the Internet to make known all over the world the excellence of Made in Italy.
 
The "Made In Italy: excellence in digital"
A key role for the development of exports is also at play in  the virtual storefront  of Google "Made in Italy", created by the Google Cultural Institute, which has been expanded to include    48 new exhibits to reach a total of 150 in total.  The apples of  Val di Non and lemons  of Sorrento as well as other excellent food and crafts from Italy are described through stories, pictures and historical documents.
Made in Italy: excellence in digital is a major project to enhance the excellence of Italian products and help companies that produce them to seize the business opportunities offered by the Internet. "We have invested in young people because we are convinced that they can play a key role in the transition to the digital economy - said Giorgia Abeltino, Head of Public Policy and Government Relations at Google in Italy - to help small and medium-sized enterprises to increase their ability to export and to promote made ​​in Italy products  beyond the borders. With this aim we have added  48 new digital exhibits and also the platform dedicated to the excellent food and craft of our country in the world to promote exceptional products, often relegated to niche markets."
 
"Our country is full of young talent, who can provide a fundamental contribution to the development of innovative ideas for the food industry - said Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina  during the announcement of the winners - and the work presented today is part of a wider strategic plan to help improve the web presence in the world of Italian wine & food and seize the best opportunities in e-commerce and protect our excellence. We have digital talent at work in rural areas and new virtual exhibitions on DOP and LGP products from our country. These tools can make an important contribution to reaching  the goal of  Made in Italy for  food exports of  50 billion Euros in the next five years. "
 
It is conceivable that there are many small business owners, especially those in agribusiness, of typical food  and the more regional types of  preparation  that  want to make the most of their products  via exports, but without the added value of knowledge of digital know-how (especially if the company is small), it is difficult to compete in global markets. With the initiative studied along with Google, even the Italian Chambers of Commerce show their willingness to help bridge the gap between the potential of our quality products and their effective dissemination on world markets. "The lesson learned, even more so in recent years, coming from  “made ​​in Italy” - said Claudio Gagliardi  of  the Unioncamere - if our companies are betting on the quality and productive culture rooted in the territories, then they can successfully intercept the large and growing demand for Italian products  that comes from every corner of the world. "
 
 

Luca Bressan. The globalization of indifference needs to be replaced with the globalization of love

Culture / -

CF Bressan imm cover
© Andrea Nuzzi

Food can become a powerful tool for sharing and respect among people and, today more than ever, for the survival of the planet: we need to go back to talking about ecology and protecting food products. This was the message from Luca Bressan, the Episcopal Vicar for Culture, Charity, Mission and Social Action of the Archdiocese of Milan, who is the coordinator of "Food for the spirit", the discussion table on inter-religious dialogue at the recent drafting session for the Charter of Milan.

What is the definition of happiness for Catholicism, and what is the diet that helps to nurture it?
The definition of happiness we steal, so to speak, from the Jews, because we take it from the Old Testament, that is, from the Hebrew Scriptures. We steal it from the prophet Isaiah whom Jesus quoted at the Last Supper in the great communion banquet that was ordained by God, and where all peoples gathered together.Happiness is the great communion that sees people come together without fear and that recognizes diversity as difference. Joy is linked to this sense of fulfilment of being able to feed one another.
 
So is the metaphorical diet for happiness sharing with one another?
In the sense that the technical concept of Catholicism means "all are gathered together". In addition, with regard to diet, we have to say that Christianity no longer forbids any foods, unlike many other religions. Our problem with diet is more about quantity rather than quality.
 
What significance does fasting have within the Catholic faith?
First, all of us Catholics need to apply self-criticism. In the last 40 or 50 years, and especially following the cultural crisis of 1968 and the secularization process as a whole, we have lost what was a fundamental process, that of writing our faith on our bodies, that is, fasting and abstinence.
The idea of giving up meat, or all foods at certain times, during Lent, served to reinforce the idea that there is something more important than food. Fasting allows us to focus our thoughts on the memory of Jesus’ death and on his resurrection.
 
How is food represented in your religion, and what are its main characteristics?
It is represented on various levels. First of all, the bread and wine symbolize God's presence among us. Jesus surrendered himself saying, "This is my body, this is my blood", so our everyday foods remind us of our religion. At the same time, food permits us to make the pilgrimage to the kingdom of God, thus it is also a great travel device. Food is about sharing, if we think about the manna in the desert, but it is also a way of showing that God loves us. Jesus multiplied the loaves, but also reassured his starving disciples, telling them not to fear hunger, but the leaven of the Pharisees. By this, Jesus was referring to the mounting anger of the Pharisees. Food, from this point of view, also becomes a great way of expressing emotions, through imagery.

Do you have any interesting facts to relate on a specific tradition, or an anecdote about a particular food?
During Expo Milano 2015, we would like to remind people anew of the experience, skills, and wisdom possessed by the monks with regard to their relationship with nature and agriculture. Well before the canals that Leonardo da Vinci designed, areas of the Po valley to the south of Milan had been reclaimed by waterways built by monks. The Benedictines created a rule that brought together contemplation, knowledge, community, work and love for food, all in a balanced fashion.

Food, in the Catholic faith, represents important topics such as the bonds of family, joy, and sharing. Have I forgotten any others?
Food definitely represents our relationship with God, so much so, that the devil tempted Jesus after his fast, telling him, "Turn these stones into loaves of bread". He reminds us that man does not live by bread alone, which is also the theme with which the Holy See is presenting itself at Expo Milano 2015. The relationship with food, which is important, reminds us that our relationship with God is even more important.
 
The agricultural system we currently use to produce our food is ruining the planet. How important is the way food is produced to the Catholic religion?
Christianity has grown alongside the development of the western world. We didn’t address this problem before, because no one saw it. But gradually, the Christian faith has started to reflect on ecology. Popes Benedict XVI and Francis continue to speak of an ecology of humankind as a whole that needs to be at the heart of the entire production process. Looked at from this perspective, the Catholic Church would like Expo Milano 2015 to be a place to reflect on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and to generate a serious debate that goes beyond the tensions and the many examples of politically-motivated unilateralism that have been adopted on this issue.
 
Our faith teaches us that creation was given to us so we would cultivate it and nurture it. If there are certain discoveries that can help us, it’s right that we use them, but they must be used to help the people and creation, and not just to serve the interests of the few. We must become aware of the paradox that we are now experiencing: that we are able to produce food for all, while at the same time we are living in a world where many are still dying of hunger.
 
In your book (Alla tavola di dio con gli uomini. Idee e domande di fede intorno a Expo 2015), you condemn consumerism and food waste.
From the very beginning, the Church has always condemned consumerism. We must learn to use that which we have as if it were a gift; everything has to be seen as a means for reaching God.
We have production capacity that could feed everyone on earth, yet there is still so much hunger, and this tells us that we have not yet matured as human beings.
 
As the Pope says, the issue of world hunger is not only a moral or ethical issue, nor is it about unfair distribution, but it is an anthropological problem. He tells us: if we thought of those people who are dying from hunger as human beings just like us, we would not be so indifferent. How can we look into the eyes of someone who is starving and not react? To that which Pope Francis calls ‘the globalization of indifference', we must replace with the globalization of love.
 

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