Nito makes his June 10 announcement to farm groups. Photo by the Presidencia.
Plan Panama Agro Solidario:
a start on a crisis food policy
by Eric Jackson
As these words began to be written a government flatbed truck pulled up near my house with food bag aid for families in the neighborhood. Not for me, although it could be. Nor all that adequate for those families receiving assistance. But then, some of their roosters wake me up in the morning and sometimes people ask to borrow my wheelbarrow or coa. Almost all of us are subsistence farmers here in El Bajito.
He didn’t lower himself to consult with us, but actually, President Cortizo promised us more than an extra $20 a month in food aid starting in July when he announced his agricultural policy. The Plan Panama Agro Solidario is, as one might have expected, an agribusiness jump-start program. But it also includes a part that’s aimed at subsistence food production. On June 10 the president unveiled some basic guideline. We shall see how extensive the program will get.
The lesser-mentioned “Agro Vida” family production program promises toola, seeds for basic grains and supplies, “so that families can plant and guarantee their food security.”
Pots? Potting soil? Peat moss? A replacement for my broken hoe? A roto-tiller? Things that people can grow on rooftops or balconies in the city? Advice on how to grow, how to prepare, how to put up food for non-farmers that really do need to start victory gardens in this crisis? What about people, rural or urban, who want to get into raising fowl? All things to be seen.
The biggest part of the program is interest-free loans for people to plant basic food staple crops, get fruit orchards back into market production, grow fodder to feed animals, and increase meat production. Loans will be of up to $100,000 per farmer, with no interest if repaid within two years. The program is to get land into production right now.
And those artisanal fishers that developers and local officials have been relentlessly driving away to make room for money laundering towers? They are officially wanted again, and will be able to get loans to go back into business. Will there be money to replant mangrove forests and create new coral reefs? To be seen, but those are key elements of a sustainable coastal fishery and putting a lot of people back to work in a short time.
Eat your otoe roots, or eat the greens, but in either case cook them first.
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