How Caritas works on Food

Caritas has always helped people feed themselves rather than relying on handouts.

With the more extreme weather brought by climate change, this is more important than ever. If people are stripped of their assets and pushed deeper into poverty it becomes a vicious cycle where putting food on their family’s plates becomes even harder.

Caritas believes in looking forward by building communities’ preparedness, resilience and adaptation skills. If they are given the skills, tools, seeds and finance to escape subsistence agriculture, hunger can be banished.

Caritas also advocates for the universal right to food. It is working to put this at the heart of all policy decisions, particularly those on climate change, and for global food governance to be reformed. It wants investment in ecological family farming which supports the poor, increases productivity and enables less wealthy consumers to benefit from lower food prices.

Our key areas on food are:

Most people in developing countries depend on agriculture for their very survival. Training them – especially in small-scale farming – is at the heart of Caritas’ work to ensure that they can feed their families properly and stay healthy.

Caritas distributes drought resistant seeds, provides wells to support sustainable irrigation systems and builds granaries and flood defenses. Caritas also sets up community gardens, where women farmers are particularly encouraged to plant new and more varied crops. This helps them to adapt to our changing climate and to have a surplus to sell. Caritas gives them help with equipment and credit.

Access to markets is a key Caritas concern. This means helping farmers with transport, financial capital and the skills and knowledge to know where and when to sell their goods for the best price. It sounds easy. But it’s not for the very poorest farmers who may live in remote areas. So Caritas helps them work in cooperatives to share their skills and knowledge and also to improve their yields.

Moving people beyond the uncertainty and poverty of subsistence agriculture – which in turn leaves them more vulnerable to extreme weather – is a major Caritas goal.

Climate change
The poorest countries of the world are being hit disproportionately hard by the extreme weather brought by climate change. Their people end up even poorer. It’s a very unjust situation.

Caritas works at the local level to help people to be prepared and to adapt to what is happening. It means increasing their defenses against heavy rains and floods, distributing drought resistant seeds and training farmers in the best agricultural techniques. Caritas also gives farmers energy efficient stoves to save on firewood and to reduce carbon emissions. It helps them build up and diversify their assets and to protect them in the face of more frequent crises.

Caritas also advocates on behalf of those most affected by climate change, calling for poor countries to be given financial and technical help. Caritas lobbies at high-level international meetings for more investment in disaster preparedness and for proper protection to people forced to migrate because of climate change.

Food waste
Enormous quantities of food are thrown away every day. Over the course of a year, about one third of global food production is lost or wasted.

The problem is the worst in rich countries. In Europe and North America, the average person wastes between 95 and 115 kilograms of food every year. In sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, this falls to 6 to 11 kilograms. But that’s still too much in this age of scarcity and high prices.

Caritas raises awareness about the growing seriousness of food waste as prices rise and food insecurity increases. Some national Caritas organisations redistribute good quality, untouched food through their soup kitchens. It would otherwise be thrown out.

Caritas also campaigns for sensible food production and usage policies and for action to be taken to protect and share global food production.

Inadequate nutrition has a huge impact on poor and vulnerable people. It damages their health and their chances to succeed in life.

Malnutrition – the lack of enough of the right vitamins, minerals and proteins in the right balance – is devastating on the lives of young children. Their physical and mental capacities are reduced or damaged, particularly if they do not have proper nutrition in the first 1000 days of life.

Caritas teaches communities about the importance of eating well and of growing the right foodstuffs. It helps them access nutritious food by changing what they grow and training them to prepare for when disaster strikes. In times of emergency, Caritas programmes provide food distributions and supplementary feeding for the most vulnerable, especially mothers and children.