GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

The revolutionary advance in technology for the past century brought us to an age where it is possible in laboratories to print human organs using 3D printers, to connect a human head to a different but compatible human body, or even to shoot a luxury car to outer space.
Yet we failed to address, fundamental need for mankind-food. According to an infographic made by Misereor in 2015, citing the International Assessment of Agricultural knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, IAASTD (2008): Agriculture at a Crossroads; FAO (2015) 795 million people were hungry, 2 billion people were malnourished in a population of 7.7 billion people. Malthusian theorists will attribute this reality to population. However, the food produced are actually enough to feed 12 billion people.

Also on the same resource, only 43% of the total grains produced worldwide were consumed by humans while 57% are used in animal feeds, agro-fuel, and manufacturing plastic. About 1/3 of the food worldwide are put into waste annually. Indeed, the problem is not about production, but rather to the equitable distribution of resources, in other words people’s access to food.

In the Philippines, the 2015 World Food Programme (WFP) survey among 1,600 households in 16 poorest provinces that Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) identified covers the provinces of Apayao, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar, Zamboange del Norte, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sulu.

Here are the reasons cited which caused food insecurity: 1. inadequate income (37%), 2. Lack of Regular Job (18%), 3. Drought in their area (12%), 4. Household Head has no job (11%), 5. Strong Rains (10%) and other reasons (2%).

Among these communities, it was evident that food insecurity was a result of lack of income and regular jobs. For example in the provinces of Sulu with 58%, North Cotabato with 50% and in Bukidnon with 47% noted that hunger was caused by lack of income.

If we are going to look closer, in these provinces, big agribusiness plantations thrives. You have palm-oil plantations in Sulu, you have pineapple in Bukidnon and Rubber and Palm-Oil in North Cotabato. This trend in agriculture which focuses on industrial production system does not capacitate people to access food since meager wages are provided by agribusiness plantations.

Moreover, impact of climate change and people’s vulnerability are actually increased by mono-cropping of big business plantations. In times of drought, water moisture can easily escape, while during strong rains flood and erosion is higher in plantations.

Let us now agree that food shortages is just a myth. Food insecurity among our people is not about the question on the amount of food to be produce but rather the lack of equitable access. Thus, industrial agriculture is unnecessary in the Philippines, also it is one of the reasons that placed our people in dire poverty and subsequently to hunger.

The sincerity of government to curb hunger can be reflected on its food and agriculture program, the present Duterte administration’s policy in food and agriculture did not depart much from his predecessors. New policies like Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law furthers incapacity of Filipinos to access food. Thus, food security under Duterte will remain elusive to majority of Filipinos. (davaotoday.com)

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