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Consider diversification

The Department of Science and Technology pushed for diversification at a forum held this week, saying it will be key in efforts to ensure food security, bringing into balance cash crops with staples needed by the population.

Science Research Specialist II Charina Javier of the DOST’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute cited a 2020 study published by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research which noted an oversupply of protein sources in the Philippines.

Javier said the attention given to cash crops has reduced the focus on diversifying food and livelihood opportunities.  “There is a need for us to diversify food that is available in terms of production and distribution,” she added.

According to its estimates, meat imports and domestic production in 2019 were equivalent to 1.75 times the volume required for the Philippines’ nutrition model, known as the Pinggang Pinoy (the Filipino plate). Meanwhile, the available fruit and vegetable volume was well below the quantities require to hit model levels. The study further found the rice requirement to be “adequately” covered during the period.

In the forum, World Agroforestry Policy Specialist and Researcher Ayn Torres said diversification will allow farmers to increase their resilience against external shocks as well as contribute to improved nutrition, especially in the uplands.

Torres urged farming programs to revolve around how to sustainably use the land to ensure farmers will have durable livelihoods, pointing out that there are around 18 million people in the uplands who are getting their livelihoods from farming in deforested areas.

The need for diversification is easy to understand and advocate but can be tricky to implement, especially when farmers and producers are not given enough incentives, education, training and support. Managing only one crop so a plot of land is both productive and profitable is already difficult enough.

Diversification can work if government embarks on a comprehensive program that can change mindsets, and then provide training, equipment, financing, as well as market support and other incentives for farmers who are willing to add to their repertoire.*

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