FOOD FOR THOUGHT
By V.L.SONNY DOMINGO
The courtesy resignation of Sec. Manny Piñol brings us to re-thinking agriculture. But this time we must RE-THINK PH AGRICULTURE FOR THE FARMERS and not for Congress or even President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Whoever President Duterte will appoint to replace Secretary Piñol must first ask if he/she has a clear understanding of the farmers psyche then ask again what he or she can do for the farmers and not anything else.
First the next secretary must understand that the farmer despite his lack of education knows that if only the price of palay is the same as the price of one bag of imported urea, he will surely profit.
Second, he knows that if he will borrow money to plant rice and cannot pay back, “he will surely go to hell” and thus most often he is self-financed and self-employed. This affects his productivity for lack of capital. We have a shortfall even if we have enough area to be self-sufficient. What an irony.
Third, he knows that in his rainfed farm, he can only plant when the rains come, and so he must work very hard to get a good harvest that he cannot even sit down to write a poem or sing a song that he loves. Yet everyone thinks that he is lazy.
Fourth, he knows that he must have meat (for protein) to remain strong and so easily makes sure of slaughtering his only pig during their fiesta to feed his visitors so he will be welcome when they also have their own fiesta. And so they think he is extravagant or has the wrong priorities.
Fifth, during off season, he has to look for odd jobs most often as a carpenter and therefore can not plant even one plot of vegetables so they think that he must be lazy just to look for odd jobs. If they see him not doing anything, it is just that he did not get a job for the day. They just don’t know that there are also not enough jobs in the countryside.
Sixth, he needs more farm credit than a dole-out and sharing a tractor or dryer with others since farming is an exacting science. One day late will surely reduce his yield easily by 20%.
Therefor to reform agriculture we must first reform the mindset of the government managers in agriculture that our farmers are not beggars but micro entrepreurs who has to survived the negligence of the very government that taxes their farms and produce as they borrow funds to produce at a loss because of a government policy that has enslaved them from administration to administration after the Marcos. It also has made them mendicants of what actually belongs to them which is their share of the yearly budget of a hundred billion pesos or more through the years, which is now ordered by President Duterte to be increased tenfold, and is rightly so.
Many articles written about them depict them like the paintings of Amorsolo — a maiden with a perfect beauty harvesting or the farmer cuddling his cock. You might think he is populating the countryside with kids more than the average and not send them to school as they must help in the farm chores.
Such is his sad plight in his subsistence farming amidst the negligence of the very people who should have been assisting them from day to day.
And so the next secretary of agriculture must be ready to build lives instead of building a legacy at the DA which no one remembers anyway.
More important is that President Duterte must be ready to appoint someone who understands all of the above.
(VL Sonny Domingo is a member of the Board of Agriculture of the Professional Regulation Commission and a “Farmer Rights” advocate as the permanent national chairman of the Kapisanan ng Magsasaska, Mangingisda, at Manggagawa ng Pilipinas. He has 50 years in-depth exposure and experience in subsistence farming and served as consultant of various commercial farms)