NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 16, 2015) Salesian Missions joins the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other organizations around the globe in honoring World Food Day.
Celebrated each year on October 16, the day was established to bring attention to the plight of the world’s hungry and undernourished while providing an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the complex solutions for ending hunger. This year’s theme “Social protection and Agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty” aims to underline the role social protection plays in reducing chronic food insecurity and poverty by ensuring direct access to food or the means to buy food.
More than 793 million people around the world go hungry every day, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Over 70 percent of food insecure people live in rural areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Near East. And according to the World Food Program and the United Nations, 2 billion people lack the vitamins and minerals needed to live healthy lives.
Of those who go hungry daily, 98 percent reside in developing countries where there is not only a shortage of food but major challenges for aid to reach its destination. Salesian Missions’ programs are dedicated to developing sustainable food systems and providing agricultural education in more than 130 countries around the globe. Operating primary schools, technical training centers, agricultural schools, youth centers, orphanages and programs for street children, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines of the battle against hunger.
Working and living in the communities they serve, Salesian missionaries are perfectly positioned to ensure that the distribution of food aid reaches those who need it most while offering programs that teach agricultural techniques to increase local food production. Through ongoing partnerships with organizations like Stop Hunger Now and Feed My Starving Children, Salesian missionaries are able to deliver life-saving food aid and other supplies to those in need in their communities.
“Salesian missionaries are an integral part of the existing infrastructure in many countries and Salesian Missions plays an important role in making sure aid from the United States reaches its destination country and gets into the hands of those who need it most,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Salesian food programs provide meals to students during the school day and serve as an incentive for families to send their children to school. As a result of the feeding programs, students are thriving. Many have gained weight, suffered fewer illnesses and become more focused on their studies. Teachers are seeing better student performance in class, a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in program enrollment rates.
“Feeding programs are a necessity to meet the needs of the massive number of children around the globe who are hungry today,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Meals children receive at Salesian schools may be their only meals. This food not only encourages them to attend school, it allows them to focus on getting the education they need without worrying about where their next meal will come from. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach.”
Many Salesian programs are also dedicated to developing sustainable food systems and providing agricultural education. This World Food Day, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian agricultural programs which include those offered at more than 90 agricultural schools around the globe.
Salesian-run Don Bosco Kep, located in Kep Province, Cambodia, has developed a small farm to better serve the needs of poor and disadvantaged youth in the region. The new farm will help to support the work of the agricultural department which serves to train Cambodian youth in mechanical agriculture while producing food for the technical school to aid its sustainability. Since 2011, the agricultural department has worked with limited resources on a small piece of land inside the school’s campus. Over the past several years, the department has been growing with the addition of more teachers and students and has been making a broader social impact in the regions of Kep, Kampot and Takeo.
Salesian-led International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS) volunteers hosted a special workshop for farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The goal of the workshop was to empower farmers to envision a viable and stable agricultural framework and boost their confidence to bring it to fruition. The farmers’ ideas will provide the foundation for a new agricultural service center in the country. The new center will provide resources and expertise to help improve crop yields, profitability and the overall quality of life for farmers and their families. The input of local farmers will help direct the center’s resources and training curriculum.
The Don Bosco Agro-Educational Complex, located in the town of Sulcorna in the state of Goa in western India, has developed the area’s first agriculture college. The new college will utilize 110 acres of fertile land for hands-on farm training and emphasize organic cultivation in its four-year degree program. The mission of the college is to train undergraduates and postgraduates in the latest agricultural practices and modern technologies while moving towards efficiency in farming within Goa by exploring and testing new techniques in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry. Salesian missionaries in the area are working towards marketing agricultural products and services to local farmers by utilizing the college and its staff as a resource for everything related to farming and off-farm activities. They are also working with local women’s groups helping them to plant specific crops that have greater viability in the marketplace. Salesian missionaries hope the agriculture degree program will entice more local youth to choose agriculture as their long-term livelihood.
The Austrian Salesian Youth of the World program has planned its second agricultural project in the town of Moatize, located in the Tete province in northern Mozambique. The project, which will be carried out in seven different rural communities, aims to educate farmers in the latest innovations in agriculture and livestock techniques in order to improve food security and increase income potential. Educators will help farmers introduce or intensify the production of vegetables, experiment with new methods of production and processing of products and assist with raising livestock. Farmers will learn new skills in agriculture and animal husbandry, horticulture and fruit growing and breeding cattle and sheep. They will also be provided with irrigation pumps which will help to support local schools and healthcare centers. In addition, Salesian staff will work with local residents to establish community associations for product sharing and sales. The project will train close to 1,000 families, or about 5,000 people. With increased food production in the small rural communities participating in the program, about 8,000 residents will be positively impacted.