A COUNTRY with a hungry and malnourished citizenry can never attain progress. True. But there is a big irony in our midst. Our farmers, who feed the nation, are among the poorest of the poor who need government support and intervention. It is ironic, too, that millions of Filipinos go hungry even if our country is so rich in natural resources.
Rice, its production, supply and price, are matters related to our food security. There must be support for agriculture, especially for small farmers to address hunger and malnutrition and achieve food security.
The free irrigation for farmers, which was introduced in 2017, should boost the agriculture sector. Lowering of production costs of small farmers will help achieve food security, encourage more citizens to engage in or go back to farming, and improve the income of our small farmers.
In Congress there is the proposed Free Irrigation Reform and Restructuring Act. Under the said measure, fees being collected by the National Irrigation Administration from its irrigation beneficiaries will be discontinued and the management and maintenance of irrigation facilities will be turned over to the beneficiaries and will be provided with professional management support. Will it see the light of day?
Meanwhile, there’s a novel call – the establishment of vegetable gardens in backyards, schools and communities. These won’t only address the problem on hunger but malnutrition as well. The government has current programs that already promote community gardening. The Department of Education has Gulayan sa Paaralan program, while the household beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program are encouraged to engage in organic backyard and communal farming.
We want all Filipinos to be involved in food security measures because this is not only for food production, it also helps create and preserve healthy ecosystems, conserve the country’s crop genetic diversity and heirloom plants as a strategy for climate change adaptation, mitigation and resiliency, and promote public awareness on ecological and sustainable use of land resources for food production and other products.
To effectively reduce, and hopefully eliminate, hunger, as well as malnutrition and poverty, we have to provide our people the kind of support that will have long-term effects. We need to boost food self-sufficiency through stronger support for agriculture.