13 Oct We need a sustainable and ecological food system now!
About 3.1 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger in the third quarter of 2018, according to the Social Weather Stations.
The very same families are dealing with exorbitant prices of rice, vegetables, meat, and fish, with inflation at 6.4 percent in August – a nine-year high.
They are also reeling from the effects of Typhoon Ompong. As of October, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council estimates that over P26-billion worth of agriculture was damaged, and over 170,000 farmers were affected in the Cordillera Administrative Region alone.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration also warns against a possible El Niño at the end of the year, threatening farmers and their crops further.
These are just some of the reasons why the Peoples Food Movement (PFM) wants a sustainable and ecological food system established; and in fact has drafted city, municipal, and provincial versions of a proposed Sustainable and Ecological Food System Act.
“Wala pa akong nakikitang isang comprehensive, integrated, and evidence-based na agriculture plan. Kasi kahit na ‘yung midterm development plan, parang schizophrenic, at the same time, patsi-patsi, at the same time, reactive,” PFM member Ramon Padilla said at a recent roundtable on inflation.
He also lamented the lack of convergence among government agencies in responding to the food system’s basic needs. These include human resources, land use, and financial management.
The state must also support and prioritize the vulnerable and disadvantaged, he added.
Farmers from the vegetable sector, for example, have to deal with poor linkages to the market.
“Nagte-training nga kami sa farmers to produce vegetables, to diversify,” said Shen Maglinte of Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT). “Minsan pinapagalitan nila kami kasi alangan namang araw-araw pakakainin [sila] ng okra, pakakainin [sila] ng talong. [Sabi nila,] ‘Sobra-sobra, kaya lang wala kaming palengke. Ganung kahirap ilabas galing sa aming mga lugar papunta sa nearest road market’.”
And if there is a road market within reach, the farmers still have to find a truck, bus, or jeep to haul the produce there.
“Pagdating ng hapon kung ibaba mo siya, kung wala kang market outlet, babaratin ka. Minsan nagba-barter naman sa ‘yo, ‘Pagpapalitan ko lang ng galunggong ‘yung isang sakong kamote mo.’ Or minsan ang taas ng transport costs. Sa habal-habal for example, isang sakong kamote, otsenta pesos, plus ikaw pang tao, another otsenta… Magkano binibili sa palengke ‘yung kilo? …Five pesos, ten pesos a kilo. Papano niya mare-recover ‘yun?” Maglinte asked.
Traders also have an unfair advantage over the farmers.
“Wala akong kapital pam-produce ng mga vegetables ko, bibili ako ng mga sangkap, ‘yung mga seeds, ‘yung aking mga fertilizer sa trader, who will dictate the price [and] subcontract you for your produce. ‘Pag produce mo dun, may pipilian pa ‘yan. ‘Pag hindi maganda, losses mo na ‘yun. Pipili lang siya ng maganda,” Maglinte explains.
He illustrates: “Katulad ng sibuyas sa Nueva Ecija… Ang kanilang information is not about market pricing… ang kanilang information is who would be the traders who will be coming to them. Kasi ‘pag nag-harvest sila ng sibuyas ngayon, ‘pag hindi nabili ng traders o biglang nag-back out ‘yung traders na kakontak mo, bulok ang sibuyas mo.”
Unfortunately, climate change multiplies the challenges that both farmers and fisherfolk face.
“A third of our fisherfolk and farmers are below the poverty line, and every time we face typhoons, they are the ones at the forefront of the impacts,” said Desiree Llanos-Dee of Greenpeace Philippines.
“We also have to talk about human rights,” she added. “Climate justice is really about reclaiming the rights of those who contributed the least to the problem, yet suffer the greatest consequences. And so in this context, we look at the Philippines. We are battered by 20 typhoons a year, we’re more than 7,000 islands, we’re always in the top three to ten in the climate vulnerability indices. And we’re around 100 million people. And every time a typhoon comes, we know that millions are affected. Kailangan ba nating pagpilian which rights should be top of each other? Our right to food, our right to safety, our right to education?”
She asked, “What are the solutions being presented to us, to the Filipino people, and are these sustainable? And do these solutions truly protect the most vulnerable?”
Read the proposed Sustainable and Ecological Food System Act here: http://bit.ly/2Ig99jB