Feature: Farmers eager to dish out agenda for change
By Jean Duron-Abangan
Tagum City (27 October) -- It's a season for change.
While the youth sector expects to see a change of the country's political landscape, small farmers want to dish out food agenda instead of they be given rice, noodles and sardines during election season.
About 10 people's organizations and non-government organizations espousing agricultural development, recently gathered at the Bulwagan ng Lalawigan in a food caucus that tackled "Confronting the Food Question Amid the Crisis."
Among them were the Davao Provinces Rural Development Institutes, Inc. (DPRDI), Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes (Philnet-RDI), Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Social Action Ministry Diocese of Tagum, Builders for Empowerment and Human Rights Advocates Network, Development Round Table Series and the Kilusan ng mga Samahan ng Maralitang Mamamayan sa Kanayunan (KASAMAKA).
Among others, the group aimed to come up with a policy agenda on food and agriculture that politicians can adopt as their platform of governance as small farmers are starting to realize that political candidates should present concrete agenda rather than "empty promises."
In analyzing the food and agriculture situation in Mindanao, Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes (Phil-Net RDI) Vice Chairperson Salvador Feranil said Mindanao has yet to reach food sufficiency level because much of its produce are export-oriented products.
He revealed that hunger has remained a problem in the country thought it has been banking on agriculture.
The December 2008 survey of the Social Weather Station found out that 4.3 million Filipinos were in a state of involuntary hunger and that 1.43 million of those were in Mindanao.
As typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng which hit the country late September and early October this year, left an estimated P30 billion damage to agriculture, infrastructure and properties, he expected more Filipinos would go hungry.
Mindanao is expected to supply the country's consumption needs being the country's food basket, but Feranil said most of Mindanao's produce are export crops and not for local consumption.
Mindanao is contributing only 23 percent to 25 percent rice production to the overall national production. "We have low average production of rice in Mindanao," Feranil said.
"We need to have (higher) rice production. What we have are crops going out of Mindanao," he said in his talk during the event.
Agricultural productivity of Mindanao has also been affected by armed encounters between government forces and rebel groups, displacing an estimated 250,000 individuals in affected areas.
"We can just imagine its impact on food and agricultural production," he said referring to armed conflict occurrences.
Meanwhile, Mindanao agriculture so does with the rest of the country, has yet to reach its optimal of production because investment on food and agriculture has been low.
Feranil pointed out the need for more government funding to be spent for irrigation system and for fertilization to boost the country's agricultural production.
In summing up his presentation, Feranil suggested politicians to consider adopting policies on agriculture, and that farmers dish out what they want politicians can do for them.
"It's about time that our dealings (with politicians) should be like that," he said. (PIA XI/JMDA) [top]