examines government’s neglect of farmers and agriculture

CHEERS TO for a report that discusses the plight of farmers and fisherfolk. Journalist Kurt Dela Peña wrote the article, pointing to the irony in the country where producers of food are among the poorest of the population. 

The examines the issue of farmers’ poverty through various lenses; chiefly, the proverbial neglect of agriculture that has prevented its growth in the national economy. It also discusses the dubious policy that has favored land use of farmland by corporations, displacing farmers from the land and their livelihood. 

Dela Peña starts by referring to poverty statistics, citing the recent press release of the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) which confirmed the high rate of poverty incidence among farmers and fisherfolk. 

The report cited Rafael Mariano, a former secretary of agrarian reform and now chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), who decried the growing power of large corporations to acquire land, transforming farmland into mining sites and industrial complexes. A former agrarian reform secretary, Mariano saw how farmers’ complaints have often been ignored. 

Advocacy group Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region (FFTC-AP) said the lack of government attention is “one of the greatest blunders any developing country such as the Philippines could do.”

Agriculture’s participation in the national economy has declined dramatically. The report presented data showing agriculture’s contribution at 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. It received only 4 percent of investment and 1 percent of research and development (R&D) allocations. 

The paltry amount given to research and development explains the cyclical failure of crop sufficiency. Government must step in to provide this much needed resource in order to raise productivity.  This would benefit not just the farmers but will ensure and sustain food security for all. 

Unfortunately, government has not made it a priority to develop the natural assets of agricultural land and the abundant coastal waters of the archipelago. Thus, the paucity of reports on the state of neglect experienced by both farmers and fishers in the country.  

Ironically, even with President Marcos as head of the Department of Agriculture, the media have not pursued these questions. And only with the slightest success have reports clarified the controversies hounding food products such as sugar and onions. 

Dela Peña followed up the piece on farmers with a related article on fisherfolk. The lead should encourage more journalists to work together to present the troubled terrain of farming and fishing in the country. The problems of these communities, whether we like or not, become ours as well; their poverty a burden we all Filipinos must share.