Words by Samantha Evangelista
Edited by Neill Padlan
Art by Bea Tronco
The ownership of land has caused a great divide between the rich who control it and the poor who are tasked to work and make the land productive.
For many of us, land has been nothing more than the “ground beneath our feet.”
From an economic viewpoint, land is the resource that encompasses the natural resources used in production. In this sense, land is viewed as everything that exists within its boundaries, not just the ground itself. However, for our farmers, land means so much more.
Land is their haven. From the moment they were born, they have already developed this deep connection with the land. They are all too familiar with the hardships that come with cultivating it. To them land is so important because it gives them a hope for a better future by giving them the opportunity to provide for their families. This just goes to show how “powerful” land truly is as the common denominator of man; it serves as the birthplace of rich and poor and equalizes those in power with the people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
Despite this, the ownership of land has caused a great divide between the rich who control it and the poor who are tasked to work and make the land productive.
The Philippines as an Agricultural Country
Undoubtedly, the Philippines has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources and a vast environment. Our country is known for having a great supply of oil and minerals as well as rich biodiversity. This abundance in resources is part and partial of what makes the Philippines an agricultural country. Decades ago, the country was actually in the lead in terms of agricultural production, especially when it came to certain crops such as rice. It also continues to provide livelihood for thousands of people, especially those living in rural areas. In 2019 alone, agricultural employment accounted for 23.4% of the total employment in the Philippines (). In that sense, agriculture continues to “provide livelihood and remains the backbone of may low – income countries. (FAO )”
Despite our abundance in natural resources, many of the farmers in our country face countless challenges everyday. Challenges that have existed way before the pandemic even started several months ago.
One of these is the many negative effects brought about by the climate crisis. The damage wrought by already deadly natural disasters, such as typhoons and floods, is only exacerbated by the steady rising of temperatures.
Another challenge is the country’s aging population of farmers. Less of the youth want to enter the agricultural sector due to the negative reputation it has garnered over the past few years. This type of mindset has hindered even the children of farmers to pursue agriculture, seeing as many of them would rather pursue different careers in the city.
Lastly, numerous small-holder farmers have been fighting for fair land distribution for decades. A majority of the agricultural land in the Philippines is actually owned by wealthy landownders. The farmers living on these farms act as tenants whose main purpose is to do a majority of the labour. However, the money they earn from doing so, is often not enough to sustain them and their families.
Our farmers have already been leading very difficult lives even before this pandemic started.
Worsening Situation Brought by Covid-19
Suddenly, over the span of just a few weeks, the pandemic managed to pull the agricultural sector deeper into an abyss as it exacerbates socio-economic consequences.
For one, due to strict quarantine guidelines, farmers’ movements have become more controlled. Bobot Capati, a retired doctor and aloe vera farmer living in Laguna, mentioned that many of his fellow farmers in the mountain provinces can no longer travel to the markets to sell their produce. This leaves them no choice but to throw away their hard grown food, leaving them to rot back at home.
Sir Orfelino Panotes, a teacher with a passion for farming, also mentioned how difficult it was to travel to the barangay where his farm was located, having to acquire several passes and go through numerous security checks.
Farming does not fall under the “work from home” category(. Our farmers risk contracting the virus every single time they leave the safety of their homes in order to earn enough money to get food on the table. This is the sad reality many of them have to face in the midst of a global health crisis.
Farming is in and of itself very taxing and laborious work. The risks are also very high for our farmers due to numerous unpredictable factors such as the weather and public demands.
Undeniably, this pandemic has unearthed the many developmental challenges present in our current food system. However, we shouldn’t allow these challenges to discourage us from taking that first step towards the pursuit of sustainable and regenerative agriculture. If anything this pandemic gives us the opportunity to help our fellow farmers – all from the confines of our home.
Here are a few ways we can do just that!
⓵ Try urban gardening as your next new hobby! Planting our own vegetables at home actually comes with a lot of great benefits such as direct access to healthier and more nutritious food. This also acts as a great introduction to agriculture in general! Lastly, this practice gives ordinary people the opportunity to help combat our current food security crisis.
⓶ Another way we can help is through the practice of responsible consumerism. As consumers, we play a crucial role in the production of the products that we use. We can do research and ensure that the brands that we’re buying from don’t initiate in any inhumane practices and use sustainable means to attain and manufacture their products.
③ Third, let’s do our part and avoid wasting our food! So much hard work goes into producing the food were able to eat everyday. As such, let’s show our farmers that we respect and appreciate their hard work by doing something as mundane as finishing all the food on our plates.
④ Fourth, let’s support locally grown food! We can do so by opting to visit your resident farmers’ market instead of the grocery store. By doing so, we are helping our local communities.
⑤ Fifth, the youth are considered to be the future of our nation. The same can be said in terms of agriculture. As the youth, we can increase our involvement in this sector by first and foremost educating ourselves about the topic. With better understanding, we can help break previous stigmas and help encourage our fellow youth to participate.
⑥ Lastly, let’s band together and call for genuine agrarian reform in our country! Over the past few decades several land reform programs have been presented to the government. However, none of them have been executed efficiently, if not at all. This gives us all the more reason to utilize our human rights in order to fight for a brighter future for us and our farmers. Let’s continue to advocate for their fair distribution of land in our country!
Certain efforts have been made on the government’s part as well. The Department of Agriculture recently launched the Plant, Plant, Plant Program several months ago in order to help alleviate the growing food security crisis in our country during this pandemic. The government has also labeled farmers and fisherfolk as “Food Security Frontliners” This is great news as it shows that people are finally starting to recognize the importance of agriculture to our economy and overall food security.
Farming is in and of itself very taxing and laborious work. The risks are also very high for our farmers due to numerous unpredictable factors such as the weather and public demands. It’s easy to see how this could definitely be discouraging for them. With this being said, Let’s continue to root for them and help in as many ways as we can. I believe that finally giving our beloved farmers the help and recognition they deserve can help lead us towards a better normal in the future. So together as one community we can plant small seeds of encouragement that will later grow to help not only our farmers but our entire country as a whole.
Sammy is an incoming college freshman with a heart for service, ready to contribute to the betterment of society using her God given talents. She advocates mainly for the environment. When she’s not doing this you can normally find her watching another K-drama or gushing over BTS.
Bea is an Advertising Management student in Metro Manila, Philippines and is passionate about the intersection between creativity and business.