GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

Our journey towards a sustainable agriculture remains to be a long and winding road as we are still confronted with landlessness and capitalist opportunism in the agriculture sector. Don’t get me wrong; despite  its inadequacies and tendencies to favor the rich farmers and landlords, the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 is a milestone in our quest for a sustainable agriculture.

A good friend back during the college days and a fellow advocate in organic agriculture recently invited me to the Agro-Trade fair in Ecoland during Davao City’s Kadayawan festival.

I was  excited to visit the fair for the following reasons: to purchase culinary herbs for our shop, to have a chit chat with my friend and of course to listen and observe with the advocacy on the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for organic farmers.

Before going in details about PGS, allow me to give a brief overview on the current condition of Philippine agriculture. At present, with the growing consciousness for a healthier lifestyle, the demand for organic vegetables is increasing. Given the chance and resources, people prefer pesticides-free veggies on their tables. With this trend, it can be considered as an opportunity for our farmers.

Despite this opportunity, we are confronted with the glaring social reality that majority of Filipino farmers are living in dire poverty:  7 out of 10 farmers remain landless, thus proving the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its succeeding extension and reform program known as CARPER.

This, not to mention the lacking support services provided by the government, not to mention the corrupt-ridden system of scams (fertilizer scam, pork-barrel and DAP scams) and of course the skyrocketing prices of farm inputs, thus forcing our farmers to engage in exploitative agreements with landlords. From being magsasaka, they have become magsasako (from being a farmer to a mere farmworker).

The agriculture sector is confronted by complex problems. But good thing about it is that organic agriculture is not diametrically opposed to the cause of uplifting the lives of our people, especially those of farmers and farm-workers in the countryside. In fact, organic agriculture is genuinely a pro-farmer and pro-people system of farming. For one, it is not dependent on pesticides and other chemicals from multinational corporations and transnational corporations. The essence of organic agriculture is to improve the lives of the marginalized sectors of society.

However, the current system of organic accreditation as mandated by Republic Act 10068, or   popularly known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 is problematic and very costly.  In particular, the requirement for having a third party-certification costs as much as P50,000 per crop per hectare per year.

Though third-party certification is voluntary until April 1, 2016, it will eventually become a primary requirement in organic accreditation. Instead of uplifting the conditions of poor farmers through organic agriculture, the third-party certification burdens our farmers.

The growing movement for organic in both local and global, enriches people’s experience both in theory and praxis to make organic agriculture accessible to the vast majority. It is on this premise that Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) was conceived.

PGS is an internationally recognized system in accreditation for organic produce.  As a system, PGS serves as an alternative or complementary to third-party certification.

In the context of the Philippines, farmer-scientist group MASIPAG is practicing PGS through their MASIPAG Farmers Guarantee System since 2004. Currently, Quezon and Nueva Vizcaya provinces are practicing PGS; Davao City too  practices PGS, along with 15 other municipalities.

Our journey towards a sustainable agriculture remains to be a long and winding road as we are still confronted with landlessness and capitalist opportunism in the agriculture sector.

Don’t get me wrong; despite  its inadequacies and tendencies to favor the rich farmers and landlords, the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 is a milestone in our quest for a sustainable agriculture.

With the present predicament in organic accreditation, I believe that Participatory Guarantee System is a potent alternative and genuinely organic.

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