Debunk Conventional Agriculture! An Urgent Call For Sustainable Agriculture

By : Orlan Ravanera Mindanao Today/10:26:09am 07/27/2021


(Note: This news article was published in the print edition of Mindanao Today on July 24, 2021)

As the 2022 Election is fast approaching, there is already so much
outpourings of talks by politicians on why they are the ones to be elected to combat
the number one enemy of the country which is worsening poverty especially at a
time when COVID-19 is putting the economy at a stand-still.

But these outpourings of
gospel of self-promotion must be the subject of analysis of why a country that is so
rich agriculturally and oozing with ecological wealth cannot even produce enough
food an basic staples for its hungry people. In fact, based on the Study conducted by
the United Nations as reported by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), “the
agricultural growth in the Philippines in the last two decades is only .02 per cent and
the peasantry are the number one victims of climate change and the on-going
protracted war.” Who controls? Who profits? Who decides? Well, very glaring is the
control of the oligarchs in agriculture in connivance with elected officials. What is my
basis in alleging that!?
Prior to my joining a non-government organization whose raizon d’ etre is to
promote sustainable agriculture and to stop the continuing plunder of our natural
resources in 1991, I had been the Regional Information Officer of the Department of
Agriculture in Region 10 for 7 years and its City Agricultural Officer in Cagayan de
Oro for 4 years. I realized then that the gospels of Green Revolution I was
disseminating as the DA’s Chief of Agricultural Communications using the broadcast
and print media were hardly improving the quality of life of the small farmers, in
whose name and in whose cause, I worked then for.

In fact, that kind of agricultural system aptly known as conventional agriculture
has benefited everyone, i.e., the fertilizer and chemical dealers, the rich agri-
business sector, the local compradors, but never those who have worked under the
excruciating heat of the sun and who have looked much older than their age – the
poor farmers.
I wondered then why Philippine agriculture has taken that path of erasing
indigenous technologies and replacing our native seeds with so-called high yielding
varieties (HYVs) which are solely dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers and
toxic pesticides. Those agricultural loaning schemes called Masagana Programs
would not even allow our farmers to use other farming technologies other than the
prescribed chemical farming techniques. The borrowing farmers were not given
cash as loans by the lending banks but chits to be presented to accredited dealers of
chemical fertilizers.
Such became a massive farming debacle that was only successful in tying our
farmers to heavy debts, to wallow until now inside the vicious cycle of poverty.
Worse, we have not achieved food security, a great paradox in an agricultural
country that is teeming with rich agricultural resources. While our vast tracts of lands
boost of cash crops controlled by TNCs, i.e., pineapple, banana, papaya, palm oil
and what have you which are not actually ours to eat but to satisfy the consumerist
lifestyle of Northern People, we have to import some two million metric tons of rice
every year to feed our hungry people.

My decision then to leave the agriculture department was reinforced by a
book written by an Indian Physicist, Dr. Vandanna Shiva on the fallacy of Green
Revolution which is more grim than green. She narrated in that book that right after
World War II, First World Countries found themselves having so much bombs in their
arsenals. So, they commissioned a group of scientists what to do with them as such
bombs had become obsolete as they were going nuclear. The scientists found that
that the tons and tons of powder of the bombs could be used as chemical fertilizers
and pesticides which were good for exports. But the Third World Countries, the
Philippine included, had no use for these chemicals as they had then varieties
needing no such inputs. So, the reason why HYVs came about.
Thus, it came to pass that for so many years until now, we have been
bombarding our soils with these toxic chemicals which have killed the micro-
organisms that are making the land fertile. We have massacred our beneficial
insects. We have even put the health of the people at risk every time they eat leafy
vegetables sprayed with synthetic carcinogenic pesticides. On top of that, we have
contaminated our watersheds, our rivers, our bays, with these non-biodegradable
toxic elements. Now, we have more Filipinos dying of cancer of all kinds, as these
poisons have entered the food chain because our country has anchored its
agriculture heavily on a kind of agricultural system that is amoral in its nature,
oppressive in its form and approaches and destructive in its essence.
The urgent call therefore is to debunk conventional agriculture and to now
effect a paradigm shift following an agricultural system that is environmentally sound,
socially equitable, economically viable, culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and
one that promotes the well-being of the communities aptly known as SUSTAINABLE
AGRICULTURE. This call is now very urgent in the light of the report by the Food
and Nutrition Institute that 85% of the Filipino children are malnourished. Of this,
“28% are underweight, 27% sickly and 30% heavily malnourished.” If these issues
on environmental degradation, the control of a few oligarchs on agriculture and the
glaring malnutrition of the children are not given attention by our would-be leaders,

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