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The dignity of farming according to John Paul II

The job of farmers in the encyclical Laborem exercens. The voice of the great Pontiff in the famous encyclical published in 1981

(… ) All that was written on the dignity of work, on the objective and subjective dimension of the work of the man, has a direct application to the problems of farming and the situation of the man who cultivates the earth in the fields. It is actually a very relevant working environment on our planet, not limited to a specific continent, or to the societies that already reached a certain level of development and progress.

The agricultural word, which provides the society with the necessary goods for the daily maintenance, plays a fundamental role. The conditions of the rural world and of the agricultural work are not the same everywhere, and the social positions of farmers are different in different countries. This does not only depend on the level of development of the agricultural technique, but also and maybe more, on the recognition of the rights of farmers, and finally on the acknowledgment of the importance of the social work ethic.

The work of fields knows significant difficulties, such as the continuous and sometimes exhausting physical effort, the little appreciation and social recognition, to the point that farmers develop the feeling of being emarginated. This has accelerated the mass movement to the cities, unfortunately in even more inhuman living conditions. In addition, the lack of an adequate professional formation and of good instruments for the job, of a certain individualism, and objectively unjust situations do not help improving this view of the agricultural work.

In certain developing countries, millions of human being are forced to cultivate terrains owned by others, exploited by land owners with no hope to own not even the smallest part of those lands. There are no forms of legal protection for the farmers and their family when they grow too old to work, when they are ill, or when the work is just not there. Long days of hard physical effort are miserably paid. Cultivable lands are abandoned by the owners. Legal titles granting the possession of small chunks of lands, autonomously cultivated for years, are neglected or remain defenseless in front of the greed for new lands by individuals or more powerful groups.

In more developed countries too, where the scientific research, the technological advancements or the policies of the governments have allowed a significant improvement of the agricultural techniques, the right to work can be disrespected when the farmer is denied to participate in decisional processes inherent to his work, or when he is denied to freely associate with the perspective of a just social, cultural and economical growth.

In several situations, radical and urgent changes are therefore necessary to give the right value to the agricultural work and to the workers of the fields, as a basis for healthy economics, together with a development of the social community. So, it is necessary to proclaim and promote the dignity of the work, of any work, especially of the farming work, in which man eloquently dispose of the land received in gift from God, and affirms his domination over the visible world.(...)

John Paul II

by T N
07 september 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea