Angela, Haitha, Jacob and Greg are visiting farmers and NGO workers from Jiwaka and Madang, Papua New Guinea who, not only learned much about organic farming after immersing themselves with several farmer’s organizations across Mindanao for almost a month now, but also our resilience, thoughtfulness, good sense of humor, vibrant community life and warm hospitality.
Some interesting facts:
The people in Papua New Guinea are root crops eaters, they said, but they are amazed by the size of the root crops grown in Lupon, Davao Oriental and inspired by the stories of farmers whose lives have been improved by planting, processing and promoting root crops under the principles of #agroecology. This success has become a yearly celebration called ‘Duma’ or Root Crops Festival which started in 2013 through the collaboration of SUBANG Foundation, Agro-Eco Philippines and Benedictine Sisters.
Mindanao will soon be exporting our rice to Papua New Guinea to supply their lucrative market (the rice in Papua New Guinea are supplied by Australia and New Zealand), but Angela, Haitha, Jacob and Greg are envisioning that someday soon they will produce their own rice in an organic way from the technologies they’ve directly learned from the resilient Filipino farmers.
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has recently made a radical move to save our rice farmers by creating the Mindanao Organic Rice Council whose primary purpose, by the name itself, is to establish fair economic opportunities and programs for our organic rice farmers.
Convinced that the Rice Tariffication Law will only worsen the situation faced by our rice farmers especially those practicing conventional farming, the delegates of the Mindanao Rice Farmers’ Forum organized by MinDA have agreed that organic farming with social enterprise principles in it is the only way out.
You can read our statement on Rice Tariffication Law by clicking this link: http://www.agroecophilippines.org/our-rice-farmers-need-more-than-just-incentives-but-genuine-change-in-agriculture/
Agro-Eco Philippines appreciate MinDA Secretary Manny Pinol for letting us present our development approaches before the delegates, listen to the proposals of our farmer members, and for choosing our organization as Vice-Chair of the Mindanao Organic Rice Council which is compose of NGOs, farmer’s organizations and representatives from the private sector.
We will continue our critical collaboration with MinDA and our new found partners for the benefits of the small-scale farmers.
Official Statement of Agro-Eco Philippines on Rice Tariffication Law
6 September 2019
The Filipino rice farmers, one of the poorest sectors in the economy, have been expecting significant reforms from the government with its “tunay na pagbabago” mantra but what they are experiencing now is the opposite of what they are hoping for.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law on Valentine’s Day of 2019 with the intention of ending rice smuggling and solving the increasing price of rice, by flooding the local markets with imported rice. Rhetoric from his economic managers and cabinet secretaries filled the media outlets and mesmerized the people who hoped for positive changes. But we all know now that the opposite is happening, badly affecting the toiling farmers who works hard to produce our staple food.
The passage of the law may be in compliance to our country’s commitment to international trade agreements, but with a high incidence of poverty and hunger that majority of the farmers are facing now, which is further aggravated by the impacts of climate change on agriculture, passing the Rice Tariffication Law is counterproductive to the farmers.
Few months after its implementation, the farm gate price of unmilled rice has dropped to a record-low of 7.00 pesos per kilo from the previous 18-20 pesos while the price milled rice sold in the markets still remains at 38-50 pesos per kilo. Eloquent explanations no matter how convincing it is to the ears cannot hide the situation of the rice farmers who felt neglected, suffered a heavy blow, and extremely dismayed over the government’s move.
It’s absurd to think about that an agricultural country where rice is the staple food of its people is allowing this problem to prevail. It’s unacceptable to imagine that sooner or later we would be dependent from Thailand, Vietnam and China because RA 11203 is chocking our local rice farmers to death.
It can never be a sign of modernization either to see rice fields converted into subdivisions, displacing the farmers and their families, and allowing golden rice and other GMO crops to contaminate our diverse plant genetic resources.
Under this law, a 10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is allotted from tariff (tax from imported rice) to provide assistance and incentives to the affected farmers. But the sub-programs under RCEF are just recycled old programs like provision of commercial seeds, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and loan package of 15,000 pesos per hectare offers no significant remedies at all. Rice farmers are very aware that these kind of programs have all failed over and over again since the time of Masagana 99, not to mention issues of corruption and inefficient implementation. It also resulted to the increased of the production costs which made the farmers to be heavily indebted to the usurers, many of whom are rice traders.
If we go to the communities and talk to the farmers they will tell us straight to the face that this scheme is one of the major reasons why most farming families can’t move away from the chain of poverty even if they wanted to and prayed for. The measures under RCEF will only exacerbate genetic erosion, biodiversity loss, greenhouses gasses emission and climate change. Clearly, the farmers have more to lose than to gain from these.
Agroecolgy is the way
We join the rice farmers and the public in calling for the scrapping of Rice Tariffication Law while we are also working hard implementing agroecology with the farmers, CSOs and LGUs. But what agroecology actually means to the farmers? In a laymen’s term, agroecology is about diversification of crops, integrating livestock in it, harnessing local resources, processing and selling farmer’s produce directly to the consumers, policy reforms, and strengthening a circular economy at the local level – feeding, employing and creating more economic opportunities for the local people in a sustainable and just manner. It is an advanced state of organic agriculture.
This approach has already increased the income and improved the livelihood of about 200 organic farmer’s organizations in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon. The case of the rice-based farmer’s organizations like BUSAFO in Mlang, North Cotabato; MMM in Molave, Zamboanga Del Sur; BCSFAI in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental; MAFO in Banga, South Cotabato; TSAFO in Malitbog, Bukidnon; MUFASA in Alegria, Surigao Del Norte; and SOFA in Sta. Josefa, Agusan Del Sur and the increasing no. of organizations in Leyte, Samar, Bohol, Mindoro, Casiguran, Aurora and Infanta, Quezon are some of the concrete examples of its unquestionable success that government should look into.
The 140 member LGUs of the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities, Cities and Provinces (LOAMCP) are taking agroecology more seriously, extending their hands to collaborate with the Department of Agriculture. And no less than the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations are strongly recommending agroecology as the way forward. Development like this is a clear indicator that local governments, international organizations and increasing no. of countries are moving away from the conventional agriculture paradigm from which the central idea behind the Rice Tariffication and RCEF is built upon.
Embarking on a so-called solution that only gives more opportunities to the foreign traders and their local partners at the expense of the Filipino farmers is not a solution at all. And eliminating rice smuggling by legalizing the unrestricted entry of imported rice is like pouring gasoline to a fire.
There are more better, effective and sustainable solutions to our rice problems which won’t jeopardize our local rice farmers. Those farmers, CSOs and LGUs who are already engaged in these are more than willing to work with the government. But this would not be made possible without the acceptance, seriousness, strong support, policy reforms, and sustainability on the part of the government.
As Filipinos, we support the goal of the national government to eliminate hunger and poverty, and we urge its line agencies to strengthen the National Organic Agriculture Program under RA 10068, land reform, training and extension work. But we do not support the Rice Tariffication Law and we can’t be silent on this issue while 2 million rice farmers out there are on the brink of losing their livelihood when there are actually more effective solutions that remains disregarded and under-supported.
Geonathan T. Barro
Ateneo de Davao University has took a big step forward in supporting the small-scale organic farmers by providing them with a free, regular and conducive stall in the campus where they can sell their organic produce every Thursday.
“This ‘Thursday Market’ is really a big help for us farmers because it makes us independent from the control of the middlemen and product consolidators, increases our income and our pride being farmers,” says Ma. Consolacion Baylosis, a farmer from Panabo City who has been collaborating with Ateneo since 2016.
The university has already supported products display during World Food Day, Women’s Day, Earth Day and other significant events for the past three years.
In November 2017 a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between Agro-Eco Philippines; Dr. Jenner Chan, Chairperson of the School of Business and Governance (SBG); and Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, University President. The agreement aims to establish a support system between the organic farmers, students (particularly those who are taking up entrepreneurship) and faculties.
“The ‘Thursday Market’ is now the result of our continuing collaborations toward holistic development” added Baylosis.
Agro-Eco Philippines would like to acknowledge the efforts done by Joeffrey Gomez, MBA, of the Entrepreneurship Department for making this possible.
The ‘Thursday Market’ has opened last week and today is its second round of operations, and for sure there will be more fruitful Thursdays to come. Program like this is a good way to alleviate many farmers from poverty and to address the worsening impacts of Rice Tariffication Law.
Everyone is invited to visit the ‘Farmer’s Stall’ at the ground floor of CCFC Building (blue building) fronting Roxas Avenue. Looking forward to see you there.
Photo credits: Joeffrey Gomez
Cagayan de Oro City - The 5th Regional Organic Agriculture Congress (ROAC) in Region 10 adopted the 2 Resolutions sponsored by Agro-Eco Philippines, specifically, the recognizing and supporting of small farmers’ seed production system and the prohibiting of field trial, processing, and sale of Golden Rice and other GMO crops.
According to Eugenio Geraldo, farmer trainer of Agro-Eco Philippines from Bukidnon, “the small farmers’ seed production system has less recognition and support from the government, given that the focus of government’s programs in agriculture is on the production of certified seeds by the big transnational seed companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer”.
Geraldo’s daughter is considered to be the youngest rice breeder, where she already produced 30 varietal lines of rice at the young age of 9 years old.
“The resolution for the Golden Rice is timely, since Philrice is now on its way of field testing at Munoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela,” according to Greg Tacbas, Cluster Coordinator of Agro-Eco Philippines in Northern Mindanao.
Golden Rice is artificially developed by Sygenta and Monsanto in collaboration with IRRI and PhilRice to address Vitamin A deficiency among Filipino children.
But For Agro-Eco, Filipinos can simply rely on our natural sources of Vitamin A such as malunggay (Moringa), chili leaves and many other green leafy vegetables. “We do not need Golden Rice. What we need is a strong and serious program of the government to support our vegetable productions to address malnutrition” said Mr. Geraldo.
Eugenio Geraldo was one of the resource persons who discussed about Farmers’ Seed Production System while Greg Tacbas shared the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of Agro-Eco Philippines.
The 5th ROAC in 10 was held on August 15-16 at Chali Beach Hotel, Cagayan de Oro City. It’s an annual event attended by an increasing no. of farmers, CSOs, government officials and policy-makers.
Agro-Eco Philippines is hopeful that those resolutions will be brought by the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) to the House of Representatives and the Senate for actions.###
This is a story of Sonia Estrella, a very ‘down to earth’ small-scale farmer living in a remote but beautiful island of Bucas Grande, Surigao Del Norte who never thought that she would win an award for organic agriculture. Sonia is earning an average of Php 1,500.00 a day, three times higher than a salary of a regular employee in the city, by diversifying her farm and selling her own produce directly to their store. Such system creates regular income among the members of the family and provides the consumers with fresh and affordable products. Congratulations! Sonia for winning the 2019 Regional Award for Organic Agriculture under the Farming Family Category. You are an inspiration to the millions of Filipino farmers. Although Organic Agriculture was not mentioned during the recent SONA of the President, instead the Rice Tariffication Law and ‘modern’ agriculture were emphasized. But this does not deter the will of the increasing no. of organic farmers from moving forward and changing the playing field. The case of Sonia is definitely one of the best examples happening on the ground.#Agroecology#ProjectAFFIRMED#AgroEcoPhilippinesPosted by Agro-Eco Philippines, Inc. on Wednesday, July 31, 2019
This is a story of Sonia Estrella, a very ‘down to earth’ small-scale farmer living in a remote but beautiful island of Bucas Grande, Surigao Del Norte who never thought that she would win an award for organic agriculture.
Sonia is earning an average of Php 1,500.00 a day, three times higher than a salary of a regular employee in the city, by diversifying her farm and selling her own produce directly to their store. Such system creates regular income among the members of the family and provides the consumers with fresh and affordable products.
Congratulations! Sonia for winning the 2019 Regional Award for Organic Agriculture under the Farming Family Category. You are an inspiration to the millions of Filipino farmers.
Although Organic Agriculture was not mentioned during the recent SONA of the President, instead the Rice Tariffication Law and ‘modern’ agriculture were emphasized. But this does not deter the will of the increasing no. of organic farmers from moving forward and changing the playing field.
The case of Sonia is definitely one of the best examples happening on the ground.
With the increasing no. of illnesses and deaths associated with the use of chemicals in meat production, who wouldn’t want to eat organic pork and chicken?
In addressing this perennial concern, Agro-Eco Philippines is partnering with the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (https://rmn.ph/ngo-sa-mindanao-ug-ustp-nagpinirmahay-sa-moa/) to improve the livestock and poultry component of the organic farmers in Mindanao with the goal of increasing the regular sources of income of the farming families, increasing diversity in the farm, and providing the consumers with healthy meat products.
USTP has a state of the art Food Innovation Center (http://cdo.ustp.edu.ph/food-innovation-center/), Research and Extension services created and funded by the government to capacitate the farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs while Agro-Eco Philippines has hundreds of organized farmers transitioning to become #agroecology-based social entrepreneurs. The organization is establishing 6 marketing outlets in Mindanao, and these outlets would also sell organic pork, chicken, milk and eggs soon.
The training held in Bukidnon last week and the formation of the National Livestock and Poultry Committee chaired by Mr. Romulo Reyes, a farmer-scientist from Zamboanga Del Sur was a beginning of more engagements to come in all levels.
Agro-Eco Philippines won the 2019 Outstanding Practice in Agroecology
The award will be presented today in Berlin, Germany on the occasion of the International Green Week and the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/event-scaling-up-agroec…/).
Thank you so much World Future Council (https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/p/opa-2019/) for recognizing our efforts. This prestigious award which we did not expect would come has deeply inspire us to scale-up what we are doing in the pursuit of a better, fairer and sustainable world.
We dedicate this award to our member farmers, staff, officers, and institutional partners at the local, national and international who all worked together to improve the lives of the small-scale farmers, the most neglected sector in Philippine society.
In the words of Dr. Franz-Theo Gottwald (https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/p/prof-dr-franz-theo-go…/), Chairman of the Supervisory Board of World Future Council, he says “to address hunger, social inequality, climate change, and biodiversity loss, a transition to sustainable food and agriculture systems is inevitable. This recognition showcases smart solutions that really work for the local people and empower those on whom food security of the Global South relies on: small-scale food producers. The Outstanding Practices in Agroecology 2019 create immediate and real impact and if executed at scale, they can help to considerably transform our food systems.”
This award is a recognition of the tangible results of the innovations that we’ve done over the past few years that, if scaled-up, disseminated widely and given more policy and institutional support, would significantly reduce hunger, poverty and the adverse impacts of climate change in the farming communities.
Geonathan T. Barro
Chairman of the Board
For the first time, there is now a store situated at the heart of Davao City that sells organic products directly from the organized farmers, items derived from sustainable technologies, advocacy materials, and many more.
Buying from this store directly contributes to the improvement of the lives of many small-scale farmers who, at the moment, are put at the margins by conventional business practices.
The store is made possible thru the collaborative efforts of the partner development NGOs of DKA/kfb and IPDI South under the Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries Cluster. Fastenopfer (Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund) also supports the operations of the store.Enter your text here...
For your product orders and inquiries, you can contact Ma. Elena “Mai-Mai” Grade, the Store Manager (Social Enterprise Officer of Agro-Eco Philippines) at 09207899589/09275314735. You can visit us anytime at Stall No. 17, Dona Segunda Complex, Bangoy Street, Davao City. We are open from 10:00 in the morning to 7:00 in the evening, from Monday to Saturday.
The activity was in-line with the continuing call and advocacy of #Agro-eco Philippines, Inc. in protecting and restoring soil health and its quality to attain desired crop productivity.
Unlike other trainings, the learning approach used was farmer-to-farmer, wherein the resource persons are the farmers themselves. This became advantageous since they have common understanding of the language they used in the learning process.
Farmer-Developed Soil Quality Card was introduced as a tool to test the soil quality of the selected areas around the training venue.
Assessing the soil quality, farmers can develop the interventions needed to enhance soil health and quality.