Liberate peasantry from quagmire of poverty; From conventional to sustainable agriculture

By : Mindanao Today/05:51:59am 01/11/2022


By Orlando Ravanera

THE Philippines is a very rich agricultural country where 75% of the people are living in the rural areas, working as farmers or engaged in agriculturally related activities.

Any short or long-term development therefore can be won or lost through agriculture.

But all these years, the peasantry is buried in the quagmire of poverty, either tilling the land not their own or if they own the land, they do not control the mode of production and marketing.

Who profits? Who controls? Who decides? Indeed, everyone is profiting from farming, i.e., the seed and fertilizer dealers, the landlords, the trans-national corporations, the usurers, the compradors, the bankers, but not those who are working so hard under the excruciating heat of the sun – the poor farmers.

Such contention is concretely supported by a recent Study of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) and I quote: “In the last decade, Philippine agriculture has contributed only .02% to the Gross Domestic Product and the rural people are the poorest of the poor being the primary victims of protracted war and climate change.”

Is it not a great paradox that an abundant agricultural country whose choicest of lands are teeming with plantations of high value crops, i.e., pine-apple, banana, palm-oil, etc. supplying the consumerist needs of the people in advanced countries, cannot even produce basic staples for its hungry people like rice and milk?

Last year, the Philippines is the biggest rice importer in the world, even bigger than what China had imported with its population of some 1.5 billion Chinese.

Our country is importing ninety-nine per cent of its milk needs.

With such insufficiency of basic needs, 85% of the Filipino children are malnourished, based on the data of the Food and Nutrition Institute.

Why this great paradox? Well, the glaring root cause of the problem is the truism that all these years, our farmers have been tied-up to chemical-based farming technologies called Conventional Agriculture and to oppressive marketing system controlled by the oligarchs.

No less than the Department of Agriculture has been advancing productivity through so-called modern farming technologies being controlled by corporate globalization that is promoting agriculture primarily for profit.

Our indigenous culture which is based on nature and sustenance economy has been replaced by modern technologies that have been rammed down the throats of the famers.

Even indigenous seed rice varieties that have been grown organically, i.e. Denorado, Azucena, Tunawon, etc. have been replaced by so-called high yield varieties (HYVs) which can be grown only through massive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Our food security which has been there for hundreds if not thousands of years following nature’s economy has been replaced by corporate control for profiteering.

Having worked as Chief Information Officer of the Department of Agriculture in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) for ten years in the ‘80’s, I was responsible in disseminating these modern farming technologies called Masagan Programs, i.e., Masagana-99 for rice, Masagana-55 for corn, Masaganang Gulayan, and what have you.

Such paradigm shift in agriculture from following the culture of nature and sustenance economy aptly called sustainable agriculture has been replaced by corporate-controlled conventional agriculture.

Where in the world can you find farmers who have no control of seeds as all of the native varieties that can be grown organically, had been replaced by so-called high yielding varieties (HIVs) that can only be grown using chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

Don’t you know that our native varieties are now under the control of these corporations because they command high price in the USA for being healthy and organically grown, devoid of chemicals.

Through colonialization then becoming a neo-colony, our country has been deprived of the culture of food self-sufficiency that had even created the 8th wonder of the world, the Rice Terraces in the Mountain Province.

Through corporate globalization, food production has just been treated as BUSINESS for money-making by these corporations.

In fact, when I visited my PhD-holder sister in the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, I read a book in the library that every time there is an over-supply of wheat, corporations will burn the excess production so as not to reduce the price through over-production; every time there is an over-production of milk, the excess is thrown to the sea.

When I discovered this so-called modern agriculture whose raison d’etre is just for profit that is being followed by the office that I was working for and whose then Secretary (the late Arturo Tangco) was the former Chairman of Planters’ Products, I tendered my resignation and formed a non-government organization to promote sustainable agriculture.

Philippine agriculture has been subservient to the interest of global corporations then and until now at the expense of the peasanty, the so-called “unsung heroes.”

Let notice be served to one and all that food and ecological security is our most basic security.

Having no more food and ecological security, let us reclaim our basic rights and exercise our common responsibilities to protect our food security.

During these contemporaneous challenging times of climate change when our country has already lost it ecological integrity shown by the latest Typhoon Odette that has rendered more than 300,000 families homeless and hungry, we fear that our food insecurity has worsened.

In fact, farming has become economically non-viable anymore as three of four young farmers have left farming already, going to the cities to work as janitors, drivers or waiters, or if beautiful, as dancers.

One of the main reasons why farming has become non-viable anymore is because of the so-called Rice Tariffication Law that was passed two years ago by Senator Villar.

Because of Rice Tariffication Law that has allowed the entry of cheaply produced rice from Thailand and Vietnam, many Filipino rice farmers have committed suicide dahil “baon na sa utang.”

Why? Let’s go back to history.

When the Asian Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) was signed in 1997, Asian countries prepared for the would-be economic competition that would happen in 2015 because of free-flowing of products.

No less than the King of Thailand then took off his kingly robe and crown and worked with the Thai farmers, telling them not to use chemicals as such kill the integrity of the soil and not to use tractors, as the carbon emissions contribute to climate change, adding to use carabaos as the wastes of the carabaos would fertilizer the soil.

Thus, the Thai farmers were able to reduce the production cost of rice to only P5 per kilo.

In the Philippines, the five million rice farmers who have been tied up by the Department of Agriculture to chemical-based farming are producing rice to about P15 to P20 per kilo.

Thus, when rice tariffication allowed the entry of rice sold only at P10 per kilo, no way can our rice farmers compete.

Senator Villar and Sec. William Dar, please pity our poor farmers!

Most recently, during the height of the corn harvest, you allowed the entry of cheaply sold corn substitutes, to the detriment of the three million corn farmers.

In fact, a farmer leader in Kibawe, Bukidnon committed suicide “dahil baon na sa utang.”

Through conventional agriculture that is controlled by the oligarchs buying fertilizer (i.e., Ammonium Sulfate) in Ukraine at only P50 per bag but sold in Mindanao at P1,000 per bag because everything sold in this country passes at least five layers, no way can we liberate the farmers from the quagmire of poverty.


Please take note of this truism that corporate globalization is the problem, worse than the pandemic.

Such is the death of democracy as it gives rise to corporate control and economic dictatorship.

The world-renowned environmentalist activist and physicist Dr. Vandana Shiva and a friend has said that, “when economic dictatorship of the oligarchs is grafted onto representative electoral democracy, a toxic growth of religious fundamentalism and right-wing extremism is the result.

Thus, corporate globalization leads not just to the death of democracy, but to the democracy of death, in which exclusion, hate and fear becomes the political means to mobilize votes and power.”

If we will not exercise our right of suffrage for social transformation, elections will just be an exercise in futility – PANLOLOKO LAMANG! HOY GISING!

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