Oppressed but fighting-A A +A
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
APTLY called the “backbone” of the nation, yet, they have no strength as their daily life is characterized by so much inequity and social injustice. Yes, they do the back breaking job of farming and have aged beyond their years, yet, they have not profited from farming. They till the land not their own and if they do, they do not control the mode of production, more so, of marketing their products. They don’t even have seeds as these have to be bought from big agri-business corporations, and so are the fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers are bought in Urkraine at only P200 per bag yet when these reach the farmers in Mindanao, it is already sold to them at 1,500 to 2,000 pesos per bag.
While many countries in Asia are already industrialized, we remain a poor agricultural country where development can be won or lost through agriculture. It is indeed true that we are so rich pretending to be poor. Look at our vast lands oozing with ecological resources. But who controls? Who manages? Who profits? Apparently, not the Filipino farmers but big TNCs. The Indigenous Peoples had once owned all the land and they are now land-poor.
Yes, beneath our land surface are minerals as our country has huge mineral resources. “But after 50 years of mining, the Philippines has not industrialized and those dependent on mining have the highest poverty incidence,” according to studies.
Look at our coconut farmers who are among the poorest yet the coconut industry is earning billions of pesos. Our workers are among the best in the world but they don’t have security of tenure, receiving wages not enough for a decent living amidst the increasing business profits by a circle of a few elite. According to social scientists, our workers are “treated as cheap commodities, exporting around 4,000 people every day to serve the needs of other countries instead of our own.” That is why our country is described as a “sinking ship” where thousands are jumping in droves everyday just to find jobs in other countries.
Today, our poor farmers are serving notice to one and all that they have awakened and that they will not allow anymore the oppression to continue. They are organizing themselves into cooperatives. In fact, we have now more than 5,000 farmers’ cooperatives throughout the nation who are harnessing their collective potentials to effect paradigm shifts.
They are now debunking conventional agriculture which has impoverished them all these years but enriched the seed and fertilizer dealers, the usurers, the compradors and banks. They now are increasingly giving trust to the innate processes of nature by following sustainable agriculture, doing organic, natural and even bio-dynamics kind of farming. Many are now into manufacturing of organic fertilizer.
The farmers very well understand that they cannot be forever beholden to the present oppressive marketing system where everything sold in this country, from needle to tractor, passes at least five marketing layers. This is especially true in a country that has become a dumping ground of finished products and source of cheap raw materials. Yes, we Filipinos are consuming what we are not producing. I believe that a country consuming what it is not producing will always be penalized by slow growth.
The time has come for the farmers to claim their destiny through their own empowerment to have access and control over their resources and utilities and by doing so, democratized wealth and power in a highly skewed societal order.
They know that the road ahead is long and arduous, the climb will be very high and steep, but, by their collective power, they will get there. Yes, the Filipino farmers are still struggling but let us be reminded of what Justice Oliver Wyndell Holmes said, “Where we are now is of no moment, Where we are going is what is important.”
Surely, the Filipino farmers will be liberated from the vicious cycle of poverty and will claim back their human dignity which has long been denied them by dehumanizing poverty.
Only then can we claim that we are ready for the Asian Economic Community!
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 09, 2014.