• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

As the countervailing force against poverty and ecological degradations, power must be put to where it rightfully belongs- with the people. This has become imperative in a Republican State which brandishes that sovereignty lies with the people and all powers emanate from them. The consequences of putting it somewhere else, such as to a dictator during Martial years or to a few elite- has become fatal.

Such is very glaring in the life of the Philippine natural forest which for many years has been exploited and massacred with impunity by a few loggers. These “berdugos” of the forest ecosystem have raked billions of dollars in connivance with cabal of vested political interest.

They have decimated the 17 million hectares of forest that our country had a century ago down now to half a million hectares. By so doing, they were able to amass so much wealth that catapulted them to wield political power. That these loggers were issued Timber License Agreement as political patronage in exchange for gargantuan amounts that flowed to buy votes on elections (as exposed by Ms. Marites Vitug in her book, “Power from the Forest”) manifested that contention of drawing their wealth and powers from the forests.

Such has become possible because our indigenous people who have been living sustainably in the forest ecosystem for thousands of years have been rendered powerless. Today, with the advent of Community-based Forest Management Agreement where the Lumads and the forest dwellers are organized into cooperatives to nurture, conserve and protect the remaining forest, power to have access and control over the remaining forest is now being placed where it rightfully belongs- with the Indigenous Peoples.

Another scenario where stripping local communities of their “power” has become tragic, is shown in the life of our poor farmers. The Philippines is an agricultural country and any long term development can be won or lost through agriculture. Yet, poverty in our country is primarily a rural phenomenon. Two out of three poor persons are located in the rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for income. But farming has become economically-non viable as farming is anchored on conventional agriculture. Would you believe that during the height of the harvest season of rice and corn, there are massive entry of cheaply grown rice and corn substitutes from other countries, at the expense of our farmers. In fact, 4 of 5 farmers especially the young ones are leaving the countryside to work in the urban centers as drivers, janitors or waiters, that now congest the cities.

The poor farmers are rendered powerless by market-driven conventional agriculture. Where in the world can you find farmers tilling the land not their own and using seeds beyond their capacity to sustain? Such is a great social injustice as farmers do not control the mode of production and marketing. Because of this, everyone is profiting from farming especially the seed growers, chemical companies, landlords, compradors, etc. but never those who do the back-breaking job of land tilling- the poor farmers!

Where does power in agriculture lie? Some contend that it lies with the rich agri-business sector that pursues the dominant market-oriented industrial agriculture. Its drive is to promote conventional agriculture which is anchored on promoting cash crops to satisfy the market, increase production through chemical farming using HYVs (high yield varieties) including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Their objective is to produce food not self-sufficiency or to meet the needs of local communities but to produce crops with market value to sell in the world market. This is the reason why until now, despite our vast agricultural resources, the Philippines must still import more than two million metric tons of rice every year just to feed its hungry people.

When power in agriculture shifts to the farming communities, cooperativism will be the empowering path to put the farmers in control. By this set-up, agriculture will be re-claimed back by the farming communities. They will have access and control over their lands and resources including appropriate technologies which must restore the land degraded by the agriculture industry.

Through their respective cooperatives, the people are now reclaiming back the future for their children. History tells us that structural wrongs and social injustices can only be rectified by the people themselves when they take responsibilities for their communities and take the future into their own hands. But first, they must be empowered to do so.  It is only by harnessing their collective potentials, skills and energies can they effect social transformation, for after-all, that is what cooperativism is for!

Indeed, cooperativism will bring about the much needed paradigm shift of empowering the farmers to make farming viable to achieve food security and to generate jobs so that those who left farming will go back to the rural communities – thus, decongesting the highly congested cities at the time of the pandemic.  This is the very essence of the Balik Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-asa Program. ITO PO TALAGA ANG TUNAY NA DIWA ANG KOOPERABISMO KUNG SAAN ANG TUNAY NA KAPANGYARIHAN AY NASA MAMAMAYANG PILIPINO. Let not global corporations take this away from us as they are now entering Mindanao, transforming the island into massive plantations to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the North! GUMISING NA PO TAYO!!!