Yes to Family Farming but let us also protect Farmers’ land rights

PNFSP’s Statement on the occasion of World Foodless Day 2014

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chose Family Farming as its focal point in its World Food Day celebration for the year 2014. In the Philippines, farming is indeed a family affair, as the children are expected to help in the farm at a young age and are supposed to continue this livelihood with their own families.

However, certain conditions prove to be obstacles for Filipinos to practice family farming. These include the prevalent cases of foreign landgrabbing of agricultural lands and destructive large-scale mining activities that damage fertile soil.

In the CARAGA Region for instance, agriculture remains the main source of income of its people since 452,600 hectares are cultivated with rice, corn, coconut, bananas, mango and root crops for local consumption. However, in 2007, it was declared by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the mining capital of Asia, and up to now, it remains as the main target of mining companies under the Aquino administration. Its rich, abundant and irrigated agricultural lands are also being converted from rice lands into oil palm and banana plantations. Thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural lands are being opened for exploitation by foreign businesses.

According to Caraga Watch, the environmental destruction brought about by mining deprives the peasants of their once fertile land and has displaced thousands from their homes and farmlands. Landslides and flashfloods in their region resulted in the decrease of rice and corn production.

We, at PNFSP also advocate family farming in rural communities to ensure food security of each household. But, we recognize the fact that family farming can only be achieved through genuine agrarian reform, wherein each peasant family is given an ample size of land that they can till and make productive. Destructive large-scale mining projects and foreign ownership of agricultural land are also prohibited to give primacy on the agricultural sector.

Through our Sustainable Agriculture Community-Level Appropriate Technology (SACLAT) program, we teach and train farmers organic farming practices since traditional petrochemical farming is more expensive and harmful to the environment and people’s health. We encourage each household to grow their own backyard garden so that they are food secure throughout the year.

It is indeed appropriate for the FAO and the United Nations to highlight the importance of family farming in contributing to a country’s food production. However, these institutions must also recognize the vulnerability of small-scale farmers in the face of mining and landgrabbing. We thus call on FAO and the UN to advance their campaign on the promotion of peasants’ rights, instead of accommodating agricultural investments that deprive farmers of their lands.

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