• Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro
  • 25 Feb 2020

FOOD comes from their farms, yet their dining tables fall short of it. Everyone is profiting from farming, i.e., the fertilizer and seed dealers, the compradors, the financiers and the usurers, but not those who are doing the back breaking work of farming and are exposed to the excruciating heat of the sun and the outpourings of rains – the poor farmers.

Farming is not anymore ecologically or economically viable. Thus, based on studies, four out of five farmers are now leaving farming and are migrating to the urban centers to work as janitors, drivers, waiters, vendors or what have you.

It has been said that the Philippines is an agricultural country where 75% of the people are in the rural areas and are directly or indirectly involved in farming. Any long or short term development there can be won or lost through agriculture. But the war is lost, so to speak. WhY?? Well, in many agricultural convergences that I attended, it is the contention of the farmers that this is primarily because agriculture in this country has been tied up to conventional agriculture. They simply were asking three questions: in agriculture, Who controls? Who decides? Who profits?

Where are our traditional varieties of rice, i.e., Azucena, Denorado or Tunawon which are not dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers? Well, these traditional varieties, the best in the world as these are grown organically, are not anymore with us but were replaced by so called high yielding varieties that are totally dependent on the use of toxic chemicals. In New York, the Tunawon rice variety from the Rice Terraces in Banawe, Mountain Province, commands a high price as it is known to be heathy organic food but the profit goes to the capitalists of the USA who had robbed us of such a variety.

In a globalized set-up, the global corporations are in control of agriculture, massively profitting from it at the expense of the poor farmers. Don’t you know that right after the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) was signed in Cebu City in 1997, no less than the King of Thailand did work with the Thai farmers and told them never to use chemicals as such kills the integrity of the soil and the ecosystem. He even advised them that if possible, never to use tractors as the carbon emissions contribute to climate change. Use carabaos as their wastes will fertilize the soil. Thus, they were able to lower down the production cost of rice to just P5 per kilo. In the Philiipines, the farmers are still tied up to inorganic farming producing rice at P12 per kilo. Thus, when we allowed Rice Tarriffication, the Philiipines became the dumping ground of low cost rice from different countries of South East Asia at the expense of the poor farmers. Thus, they are now leaving farming.

Indeed in Phillipine agriculture, WHO CONTROLS? WHO DECIDES? WHO PROFITS? To whom are our land made productive? Not for the Filipino people but for the people in advanced countries. Don’t you know that while we cannot even produce enough rice or milk for our people, the Phillipines is the one feeding the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries? Look at Mindanao with some 200,000 hectares of the choicest of land planted with high value crops, i.e., pineapple, banana, papaya, palm oil, etc. yet according to the data of the Food and Nutrition Institute, 85% of the Filipino children are malnourished and the highest degree of malnutrion is in Mindanao. Yes, hunger is more glaring in Mindanao, the so-called “Food Basket”of the country. These global corporations are in control in connivanace with LGUs. What a tragedy!! When the economic dictatorship of the oligarchs is grafted in the democratic government, the consequence is the growth of violent extremism and at the expense of the ecoystems that is now beleaguered by climate change.

Yes, hungry people are very much vulnerable to being recruits of the insurgents. What is even worse is the use of massive toxic chemicals in the 200,000-hectare plantations. Based on Studies, these plantations are using heavily 14 toxic herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers that as if they are dumping to our watersheds some 2,000 dumptrucks of toxic everyday. What is worse is that, of the 14 chemicals, 8 are already banned in other countries. In fact, two corporations have already been charged in Puerto Rico for causing cancer, that’s why they have expanded here in Mindanao. Well, I guess, there is truth in the contention that the Philippines is a nation of cowards, so buried in materialism and externalities that we allowed a few capitalists to pollute our ecosystems, erased our megadiversity in allowing them to massively log the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest. Of the 13 major bays, 10 are already biologically dead; of the 25 major rivers, 15 are already drained or dead.

While the mainstream madia has captured the mind of the Filipinos transforming them into “self-gratification machines,” so enmored in external looks and trivialities, the countervailing force against poverty and oppression is the 11 million members of the cooperatives nation-wide, especially the cooperatives of the peasantry and Indigenous Filipinos who are now harnessing their collective power to liberate themselves from poverty and oppression.

Yes, they are now advocating for shift in paradigms especially in agriculture – from conventional to sustainable agriculture. Indeed, it is a great social injustice to see farmers, tilling their lands not their own or if they own the land, they do not control the mode of production and marketing. Liberation day has come. Some 2,000 cooperatives of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiares with some 2 million members are now owning their respective lands. Some 5 million coopeative members from the ecological people, the farmers, fisherfolks and the Indigenous People are now in control of the mode of production and marketing and are now into value-chain activities as they do not just sell raw but processed products.

For a country that has become a dumping ground of finished products sold in our malls, please listen to the battle cry of the cooperatives: That a country that is consuming what it is not producing will always be penalized by slow growth. Let us buy the products of the cooperatives and in doing so, support the livelihood of the poor and the vulnerable and generate jobs in a country where 6,000 Filipinos are going abroad every day just to find jobs leaving their families and loves ones. Presently the 18,700 cooperatives are directly employing some 580,000 personnel and have created some 2.3 mllion jobs through their respective programs, projects and livelihood activities. Please DO NOT TAX the cooperatives as cooperativism has become the peaceful liberating force against poverty, social injusice and oppression. Indded, cooperatives are the great equalizer in a highly skewed societal order.