BAGANGA, Davao Oriental – All his life, Edilberto Bohol lived off the sea. On good days, he catches just enough fish to provide for his family.
However, he and his colleagues struggle just to meet their basic needs. Edilberto catches fish in the traditional hook and line method, which can bring meager returns.
As a result, he, and many of the province’s 15,000 fishers, live below the poverty threshold. “I have been fishing since I was small. The same is true with my father. I only finished high school, and this is the only livelihood I know,” said Bohol.
Seeking to improve the plight of these fishing communities, government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) conducted agriculture and aquaculture training and distributed seedlings, fish fry and other production inputs to help improve livelihoods in the area.
Unfortunately, Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) struck the province before these programs could reap their intended results.
Profitable and Sustainable
And the very resources that these fisher folk relied on for their survival were wiped out. More than 400 fishing boats were damaged and almost all fish-rearing structures in Boston, Baganga, and Cateel—municipalities severely affected by Pablo—were decimated. Projects that were underway were likewise wiped out.
During the immediate aftermath of Pablo, local governments tried to focus on underlying poverty issues of their areas and resume daily fishing activities. There was an obvious need, however, to introduce alternative livelihood opportunities that could be more profitable and sustainable.
The U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, supports this idea.
Following a rapid assessment, USAID designed and implemented a multi-component disaster recovery program in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces, under the oversight of the Mindanao Development Authority.
USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria D. Steele said, “The recovery program is part of the U.S. Government’s Php768 million disaster assistance to help Typhoon Pablo victims recover from the catastrophe.
This consisted of education, infrastructure, climate adaptation strengthening, agriculture and aquaculture livelihood assistance for the most severely affected municipalities.”
The multi-component approach included the introduction of high-value aquaculture to typhoon-affected fisher folk in both provinces.
The provincial Government of Davao Oriental was also provided with a high-value aquaculture industry development plan, which presents the results of a study on the viability of grouper (or lapu-lapu) production to help drive sustainable economic growth in the province.
The plan was formally handed over to Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon in August 2013. It notes that grouper is expected to give better returns to growers compared traditional aquaculture commodities, like milkfish and tilapia.
This target commodity presents the most potential for promotion and development in the area, considering its high market price, local and export market demand, availability of suitable mariculture sites and advances in technology.
The short to long-term strategies presented in the plan may also take off from the activities implemented by USAID through GEM.
USAID, in collaboration with the provincial government and BFAR, conducted a series of workshops on grouper farming for select growers associations in coastal towns. To help strengthen their climate resilience, the skills expansion effort included the construction of weather-resistant fish cages using locally sourced materials.
Fisherfolk in landlocked towns were trained on inland freshwater aquaculture.
They were also taught climate adaptation and mitigation techniques to address flooding and unstable oxygen levels that occur in fishponds when water temperature rises.
Majority of these growers received hatchery-bred grouper juveniles, milkfish fingerlings, formulated feeds and other start up materials from USAID.
“The project reached about 2,000 fisherfolk. The technologies we introduced are cost-effective, highly replicable and will also avert potential losses due to adverse weather conditions,” said Lauro Tito Ilagan, USAID-GEM Aquaculture Team Leader.
“Lapu-lapu farming can be very profitable and sustainable. At two production cycles per year, a four-compartment fish cage will allow a net income of as much as Php200,000,” Ilagan explained.
Edilberto and members of the Kinablangan Fisherfolk Association, which he chairs, are about to enjoy their first harvest of grouper.
“We can sell these at about Php500 a kilo,” he said, thanking USAID for helping his hometown. “We will reinvest part of our income to buy fingerlings and other inputs so that we can continue to improve our lives.”
Other growers groups that participated in the project, such as the Mabini Fisherfolk Association, are also on their way to recovery.
Prior to their foray into grouper production, the members were engaged in traditional cage culture of low-value milkfish which they sold for about Php100 per kilo in local wet markets. On their first cycle of production, they stand to earn approximately Php260,000.
“The seeds of recovery that we planted a year ago through a strong partnership between the Philippine and United States governments are beginning to bear fruit.
The U.S. Government will continue to work with our Philippine Government partners to help Typhoon Pablo-affected provinces recover and achieve lasting peace and greater prosperity for all of its residents,” Director Steele said.
By Andrea Lim
The Philippines’ agricultural system of production and productivity will only improve through the implementation of genuine land reform.
This comes into focus as President Aquino appointed former Senator Francis Pangilinan as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
Evidently, this arrangement is only another political convenience for an Aquino ally out of power.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas secretary-general Antonio Flores said Pangilinan’s appointment only creates another bureaucratic layer in the government’s agricultural portfolio.
It also makes it a clear sign that the farmers can’t expect a major change in the current agricultural trade liberalization policy of the Aquino administration.
IBON Foundation Executive Director Jose Enriquez Africa says that while farmers and farm workers suffer from poverty, agricultural transnational corporations continue to rake in profits.
Sad to say, Aquino’s agricultural trade liberalization policy has resulted in the country’s productivity decline. Aquino allots only 5.9 percent of the national budget to agriculture annually.
Facts on Agrarian Reform in the Philippines
- 1.2 million hectares of agricultural land have not been distributed to farmers despite the implementation of former President Cory Aquino’s agrarian reform in 1988.
- Cory Aquino signed RA no. 6657 otherwise known as Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in her attempts to “equally distribute land among landless farmers.”
- CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) with Extension and Reforms is an extension of CARP that was passed in 2009 and still continues to deny farmers their rights to land.
- CARPER has proven to be anti-farmer, pro-landlord as reported by militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), especially in areas dominantly controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
- President Noynoy Aquino allots 6.9% of the national budget to the agriculture sector, which includes compensation for landlords for the land placed under CARPER.
- Land distribution under CARPER entails that land must be paid for by farmers under a given amount of time. Failure to do so will result in the confiscation of the said land and ineligibility of a farmer to acquire any more land.
- KMP details cases, particularly in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, where the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) distributes land by means of a ‘raffle.’ Land is often located in far-away barangays/towns, and occupied by another farmer, leading to dispute among them.
- Farmers in Hacienda Luisita have been continually assaulted by police and ‘goons’ under the private army of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, while the mainstream media continues to ignore their plight.
- KMP maintains their call for ‘genuine agrarian reform’ through the implementation of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
- GARB ensures swift and free land distribution to landless farmers, nationalization of lands operated by transnational corporations and expropriation of commercial farms, confiscation of landholdings acquired through reprehensible schemes, and a comprehensive program for the protection of lands of beneficiaries and the promotion of cooperatives and support services.
Source: Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
By Andrea Lim
In their opposition stand against genetically-modified (GM) food products, Greenpeace has shown their support towards multinational companies in the agriculture business.
The point of having GM crops, as in the case of Bt corn and Bt eggplant, is to reduce the use of pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture by making the plant resistant to pests through alterations in its genetic makeup.
The environment group maintains a pro-farmer, pro-environment stance and yet fuels false notions in the Philippines and elsewhere by labeling GM food, or genetically modified food, as a “threat to national security and nutrition.”
The majority of the their claim is based on perceived human health risks, despite that there already exists a broad scientific consensus stating that food derived from GM crops causes no greater risk than those of conventional food.
According to healthresearchfunding.org, the modifications in the crops allow them to become resistant to drought and infestations. GM food also has a better overall quality and taste compared to that of conventional food, and it contains more nutrition benefits.
GM technology has also proven to have drastically cut the use of pesticides and increased profits in the agriculture sector. Independent studies in North America have shown an almost 50% reduction of herbicide use on commercially grown herbicide-tolerant crops.
In the Philippines, Greenpeace has gone as far as convincing farmers to destroy GM crops, such as the ‘Golden Rice’ planted in Pili, Camarines Sur and the experimental eggplant farm in Bay, Laguna, in order to serve the interests of mega corporations that make pesticides.
GM crops are able to substantially cut pesticide use, cut production cost for farmers, reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals, and benefit consumers through lower prices while protecting their health and enhancing environmental protection.
Thus, the implication is clear – Greenpeace makes a show of rejecting government and corporate money, while maintaining a relationship with World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), that which is closely linked to global companies like Coca-Cola and has a history of receiving cheques from Shell Oil.
Even in decades back, Greenpeace made an arrangement with the WWF who agreed to finance their campaign to “save the whales” in exchange for Greenpeace’s procurement of the original Rainbow Warrior, a diesel-powered electric ship built in the UK.
Genetic modification is like any other new technology that should be viewed in light of development that has already gone on before. Man has been manipulating genetics for thousands of years.
Wheat, for example, is a hybrid of different species that is only maintained artificially. Traditional (that is, non-GM) wheat is unable to exist in the wild because it is incapable of seed dispersal.
Plant breeders have even influenced its genetics with chromosomes from several other species. GM technology allows genes to be added more precisely and effects to be studied more carefully.
Senator Loren Legarda today stressed on the importance of promoting green skills and green jobs, stating that it would provide employment opportunities and boost climate change adaptation efforts in the country.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Environment and Natural Resources and on Climate Change, noted that there are already 3.5 million green jobs worldwide and the Philippines has the potential to generate thousands of green jobs, especially if there are more renewable energy investments in the country.
“We take note of the government’s continuing efforts to generate more jobs for our growing population. But despite the various programs to address unemployment, we still need to do more. We can encourage our citizens to train in green skills such as management in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, environmental information technology and other careers that contribute to environmental preservation,” she explained.
“We should also strengthen efforts to encourage more renewable energy investments in the country because this industry can provide thousands of jobs for our people. According to Greenpeace, a geothermal company in the country was able to employ 2,582 individuals for a 1,189-MW plant and that a 10-megawatt solar power plant can provide jobs for 1,000 people for six months during the period of construction and 100 permanent positions for its operation and maintenance,” she added.
The Senator, citing additional data from Greenpeace, said that the availability of green jobs in other nations and regions is rapidly increasing. In Europe, there are already about 650,000 green jobs created; more than 175,000 are employed in the United States’ wind and solar industries; and China has an estimated one million green jobs.
“In generating green jobs, we also need to actively promote the importance of renewable energy projects and encourage Filipinos to consider employment in green industries which provide healthier working environment,” said Legarda.
“Our path should be towards sustainable and resilient development where progress is measured not only through material wealth, but also and more importantly, through the happiness, safety and well-being of our citizens,” Legarda concluded.
Small scale coconut farmers in the Philippines will soon receive assistance to restore their livelihoods severely affected by last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said today.
It is estimated that in Region VIII alone, some 33 million coconut trees were either damaged or destroyed, affecting the livelihoods of more than one million coconut farmers.
Given that coconut trees take six to eight years to reach productivity, small-scale coconut farmers need interim support to engage in livelihood diversification activities to ensure an income, as most relied solely on coconut trees as a source of livelihood.
Working with the Government of the Philippines, and supported by the Government of Canada, FAO will work to enable small-scale coconut farmers to begin the process of intercropping, crop-diversification and livelihood/poultry raising activities. This will help these communities secure their livelihoods while waiting for the newly planted coconut trees to become productive.
Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Neil Reeder, reaffirmed in Manila today the commitment made last week by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to early recovery and long-term reconstruction programmes including disaster risk reduction activities in the Philippines.
The CAD$ 6 million confirmed by Canada to FAO will help FAO and the Government of the Philippines support the rehabilitation efforts for small scale coconut farmers. Acting FAO Representative in the Philippines, Rajendra Aryal, highlighted the importance of the community and needs-based approach so as to ensure that what is being delivered meets the real needs of the typhoon affected small scale coconut farmers.
“I want to express my sincere thanks for this Canadian contribution, as it will enable FAO to support more than 11,000 coconut farming households. After having consulted local communities, in close collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Philippine Coconut Authority, Bureau of Animal Industries and other relevant Government institutions, we will be providing small-scale coconut farmers with vegetable seeds and also seeds for tubers such as cassava and sweet potatoes, which take only about three months to grow,” Aryal said. “Further, the farming communities will be provided with poultry and small livestock ruminants and post-harvest equipment.”
Crop diversification and intercropping will provide key access to income and restore self-sufficiency, building the resilience of communities to withstand future disasters.
“Our approach is very much demand based and very much community driven,” Aryal emphasized.
Making landfall four months ago, Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) claimed over 6,200 lives, displaced millions and devastated the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Striking between two planting seasons, the typhoon destroyed ready-to-harvest, harvested and newly planted rice crops, and severely affected the livelihoods of the coastal fisher communities.
FAO responded to an official Government request for support to affected rice farmers, providing 75 percent of the Government-requested rice seeds. Thanks to this coordinated response by FAO, the Government and other partners, farmers who would otherwise have been unable to plant in time for the December/January planting season were able to go back to their fields, and will soon be harvesting the first rice crop since the typhoon hit the country.
Despite strong typhoons that ravaged agricultural lands last year, Department of Agriculture Secretary Alcala told about 1,500 farmers that they had produced 18.44 million metric tons of rice, enlisting the Philippines as the fastest growing rice production country in Asia.
Alcala lauded the Central Luzon farmers for helping achieve the highest rice harvest in the Philippine history during the Farmers` Lakbay Palay hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, April 1-4.
The production also made the country 97-percent rice self-sufficient in 2013. Although three-percent short of the 100 percent target, the country, however, registered a 16-percent increase within three years. The country was only 81-percent rice self-sufficient in 2010.
With the rice sector`s performance last year, the agriculture secretary discouraged the public from focusing on the deficit in the 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.
“We have tried hard. Nawa`y [mapahalagan] natin, lalo na sa mga nasa Manila, ang pagpupunyagi nating mga magsasaka. Hindi ho tayo titigil sa 97 percent. Magpupursige pa din tayo para ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito itatanim, dito aanihin (May we, especially the city dwellers, value the efforts of the farmers. We’ll not stop at 97 percent. We’ll work harder so that the rice that we’ll serve on our table will be planted and harvested in the country),” Alcala said.
Alcala, who also unveiled the latest rice technologies, urged the farmers to be receptive of new farming practices as this may help them reduce production cost and make the price of rice more competitive in the market.
“We can`t solve problems such as rice smuggling in an instant. We still have a long way to go to stop rice smuggling. As long as our production cost is high, rice smuggling will always be around,” he said in Filipino.
He said that rice smuggling persists in the country because domestic rice prices are uncompetitive to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.“Production cost in the Philippines is [about P11 a kilo] while in Vietnam, it`s around P6,” he said.
Alcala said that if farmers can peg production cost even at P8, rice smuggling will be minimized.At present, PhilRice is on its second season of implementing Palayabangan: 10-5 challenge, a nationwide farming competition that aims to produce 10 tons/ha yield at only P5 input cost per kilogram of palay.
The Department of Agrarian Reform today expressed confidence that it will be able to meet its targets of monumenting the lots and installing the beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita estate in the next few weeks. Monumenting involves the physical delineation on the ground of the beneficiaries’ CARP-awarded land by placing boundary markers or mujons.DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Paruñgao said as of the April 7 report from the DAR provincial office 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have already been monumented. He added that out of these monumented lots, 4,478 or 65 percent have farmer beneficiaries already installed.
The DAR is confident that its self-imposed deadline for monumenting the lots and installing the farmer beneficiaries, which it has set for May, will be met unless outside forces obstruct its activities. Paruñgao also said that the DAR has been encouraging and assisting beneficiaries build organizations so that DAR would be more effective and efficient in channelling support service programs and resources of the department. “We are assisting the farmers beneficiaries in making their transition into owner-cultivators”, Paruñgao said, “We are helping them to organize themselves so that they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce.”
He added that these organizations will also make it easier for the farmer beneficiary to access credit because the financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations than to individual farmers The provincial office of the DAR has been able to assist farmer beneficiaries create organizations in 8 of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Paruñgao likewise said that in addition to helping the famer beneficiaries organize themselves, the DAR has encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so that scheduling of use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more rational.
Meantime, Paruñgao said that the monumenting of the lots would have gone faster and therefore would have resulted in more farmer beneficiaries being installed had there been no instances of harassment of survey teams and ‘mujons’ being destroyed. He said that 5 persons were apprehended last April 3 while harassing a survey team that was plotting out a lot in the area. These perpetrators, allegedly members of AMBALA, were subsequently released pending the filing of appropriate charges. Paruñgao added that their act of harassment could constitute obstruction of agrarian reform. DAR has speeded up the monumenting of the lots in Hacienda Luisita. They have added survey teams to so that they will be able to install all the beneficiaries before the deadline and in time for the rainy season when farmers usually plant crops. He said that the act of obstructing the implementation of agrarian reform prescribes a penalty of 6 to 12 years imprisonment.
The Department of Agriculture is ready to carry out cloud seeding operations to induce rain over areas that have not received a rainfall for at least one week as part of its proactive strategy against a feared protracted dry spell, even as the country’s weather bureau said it’s too early to tell the occurrence of El Niño phenomenon this year.
With the country now within the summer season, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he has instructed all the Department’s regional field offices nationwide to monitor and immediately coordinate with the Bureau of Soils and Management (BSWM) any lack of rainfall for seven to ten days in areas under their respective jurisdiction so the Bureau could mobilize its cloud seeding team in a timely manner.
In fact, as early as mid-March, BSWM has completed 15 sorties equivalent to 17 flying hours across the rain-deprived municipalities of Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan, as well as over Magat Watershed areas. The DA Regional Field Unit II reported said sorties helped induce rain showers and prevented damage on some 4,155 hectares of corn farms around the province, of which 3,490 hectares are in reproductive stage and 665 hectares in vegetative stage.
BSWM is an attached agency of DA tasked to undertake cloud seeding sorties to induce rain above drought-affected farming communities.
“We are taking a proactive stance against the threat of a long dry spell even as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is saying El Niño is not yet in sight,” said Secretary Alcala in an interview on a local television program in General Santos City on Friday.
Apart from cloud seeding operations, the Department also readies other interventions such as the provision of with shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers in any part of the country that will be affected by dry spell episodes.
As part of long-term measures, DA has likewise increased its investments in the repair, rehabilitation and construction of new irrigation systems, as well as in the establishment of small water impounding facilities, to help guarantee agricultural water even during dry months. From 2011 to end-December 2013, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said it has generated 128,242 hectares of new areas, restored 90,851 hectares and rehabilitated 453,636 hectares. NIA aims to expand total irrigated lands to 1.9 million hectares by 2016, from current 1.67 million hectares.
PAGASA has yet to issue a formal advisory on the occurrence of El Niño except for precautionary verbal warnings, as quoted in several media reports.
Global weather authorities are likewise cautious at this point in time to declare such a phenomenon happening this year. In its latest monthly advisory released in March, the National Prediction Service of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NPS-NOAA) said there is “50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall (July, August, and September).” NPS-NOAA is expected to issue its April update anytime soon. “ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall,” the agency said in its website.
ENSO-neutral refers to those periods when neither El Niño nor La Niña or the “cold” equivalent of El Niño is present. El Niño is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years.The worst El Niño episode the country ever experienced was in 1997-1998, when more than P8 billion worth of crops was destroyed.
The Department of Agriculture is fully supportive of the ongoing peace efforts for Mindanao, a major highlight of which is the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacañang, on March 27, 2014.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he is set to present to President Aquino the Department’s proposed initial interventions – including livelihood and infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads and small-scale irrigation – under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program.
Sajahatra Bangsamoro is President Aquino’s concrete, socio-economic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education, and livelihood conditions of MILF communities.
“May mga programa po kaming nakalaan para sa mga mangingisda at gayundin sa mga magsasaka,” said Secretary Alcala. “Sa pagsuko nila ng kanilang mga armas, kailangan po silang matulungan na isaayos ang kanilang kabuhayan.”
Amounting to P212.9 million, the initial support will cover four regions (Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN) and 10 provinces (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, South Cotabato, Maguindanao, Davao Oriental and North Cotabato).
The date of the presentation to President Aquino has yet to be finalized by the Office of the President, Secretary Alcala said.
The Secretary said he trusts that CAB will help put closure to one of Asia’s bloodiest and longest-running armed conflicts and bring enduring peace in Southern Philippines. In fact, he is encouraged more than ever by the strong commitment of support and cooperation from beneficiaries themselves whom he was able to meet in several engagements leading to today’s signing ceremony.
“Dati ay pinakaka-abalahan nila ay pakikipaglaban, ngayon ang sabi ng mga [nakapulong ko na dating mga MILF commanders]: “Kung gaano kami kasigla sa pakikipaglaban dati ay mas masigla kaming mag-araro ngayon sa aming mga bukirin,” Secretary Alcala said. (Mac Garcia, DA OSEC)