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The challenges of Philippine agriculture

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“You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.” – Norman Borlaug

Close to one year into office of the presidency, everyone is inclined to ask: What is the future Philippine agriculture under the present dispensation of power?

Rehash or reworded, the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 inks that, “agriculture must be modernized and that the agriculture department the country food-secured and resilient with empowered and prosperous farmers”. Ironically, the more this framework document asserts the more the measures and actions become blurry in absence of a finite, systematic with realistic working timeline consistent to the prescription of the PDP.

MAJOR AGRICULTURAL PROBLEMS

As recognized, below are the problems the Philippine agriculture is currently beset with:

1. Small farm size; 78 percent farms are less than 3 hectares. – Farms have shrunk due to rapid population increase. More houses are built at the expense of agriculture. Arguably, the land reform program was seen to address this concern but with limited or no success.

2. Land Conversions. Almost the same as the first one. Additionally, urban landscape and land uses have been re-defined that even agricultural areas are now part of the so called Metropolis.

3. Lack or absence irrigation systems. Irrigation is one of the most if not, the most important factor in agriculture. The worsening climate change impact necessitates irrigation and its appropriate engineering and technology must be put in place in order to make agriculture productive.

4. Inadequate management programs on soil, pests and diseases. Impact of climate change invites infestations as studies have shown. Without adequate research and funding for this purpose famines might not be far at hand.

5. Reduced farm labor. Industrialization and modernization detached from agriculture alienates many of the Filipinos especially the rural youth. While this is a global phenomenon other countries cope to this major gap in their labor force but not the Philippines.

6. Expensive and inappropriate agricultural and farming equipment. The ARB’s and the Filipino farmers can only hope for the services and farm assistance from the government. Acquisition of advanced and modern farm tools and equipment remains a privilege.

7. Climate change and natural disasters. Philippines is officially identified as one of the top 20 countries prone to natural calamities notwithstanding the dramatic decrease of forest covers, dead water tributaries caused largely human activities.

8. Inadequate technology transfer mechanisms. Our technology regarding agriculture is not given enough attention. Our country lacks machinery and technology to improve our produce. We lag behind compared to South East Asian neighbors.

Among the problems enumerated climate change and natural disasters are inevitable. The enacted laws and policies related to this must be synergized and consider agriculture as the fulcrum of the entire web of plans. Crucial to this is the land use planning of local governments in relation to the national agricultural development plan. Advancement of technology and infrastructure development must not sacrifice agriculture rather it must compliment the pursuit of any form of development. The role of the local governments in this light is very important.

Moreover, natural parks must be protected at all times and all other natural state of farm lands to enhance biodiversity and sustain a balanced ecosystem. Encroachment to these lands must not be allowed. In Negros, NNNP and MKNP provides feed irrigation systems to our major crops and are big deterrents to natural calamities.

The major crops that provide considerable employment and significant contributors to our local and national economies must be approached as a complete cycle from production to marketing. For example, sugar production, processing and marketing in ARB communities must seriously considered by initiating appropriate modernization of the countryside. The same goes for rice where farmers produce their own rice production, mill it in their own rice mill and market the product through their leveraging powers.

Finally, science and technology for agriculture is an imperative. Re-inculcation of the values and importance of agriculture may now come in the form of different platforms especially social media. It is important that this is integrated in our education system as part of institutionalization.*

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