Yes to family farming, farmers’ land rights
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chose “family farming” as its “focal point” in its World Food Day celebration this year. Indeed, in the Philippines, farming is a family affair because at a young age, children are expected to help in the farm that their family works on, and they are supposed to pursue the same livelihood with their own families.
However, certain conditions have proven to be obstacles for Filipinos in the practice of family farming. These include the prevalent cases of agricultural landgrab by foreign entities and destructive large-scale mining activities that damage fertile soil.
In the Caraga Region, for instance, agriculture remains the main source of income for its people, with 452,600 hectares planted to rice, corn, coconut, bananas, mango and root crops for local consumption. However, in 2007, then President Gloria Arroyo declared it the mining capital of Asia, and up to now, under the Aquino administration, it remains as the main target of mining companies. Its rich, abundant and irrigated rice lands are being converted into oil palm and banana plantations. Thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural lands are being opened up for exploitation by foreign businesses.
According to Caraga Watch, the environmental destruction brought about by mining deprives the peasants of their once fertile land and has displaced thousands from their homes and farmlands. Landslides and flash floods in the region have resulted in the decrease of rice and corn production.
We at PNFSP also advocate family farming in rural communities to ensure food security for every household. But we recognize the fact that family farming can only be achieved through genuine agrarian reform, wherein each peasant family is given enough land to till and make productive.
Knowing that traditional petrochemical farming is more expensive and harmful to the environment and people’s health, we teach and train farmers organic farming practices through our Saclat (Sustainable Agriculture Community-Level Appropriate Technology) program. We encourage each household to grow their own backyard gardens so that they are food secure throughout the year.
It is indeed appropriate for the FAO and the United Nations to highlight the importance of family farming in contributing to a country’s food production. However, these institutions must also recognize the vulnerability of small-scale farmers in the face of mining and landgrab. We thus call on the FAO and the UN to advance their campaign to promote peasants’ rights, instead of accommodating investments that deprive farmers of their lands.
Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, [email protected]
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