This article was written by Paula Aberasturi on April 2, 2016 following the violent dispersal of 6,000+ farmers. Farmers were demanding for the immediate release of calamity funds and 15,000 sacks of rice because they were starving as a result of the drought brought about by the El Niño phenomenon.
I have a bit to say about justice: whether a lack of a rally permit is license to shoot; whether sticks and stones warrant a rain of bullets; or whether we open fire against people who only rally for bread. Except today I will only lament the plight of our farmers.
The Philippines is still an agricultural country. We are the 8th largest rice producer in the world. Farming employs at least 35 percent of our country’s workforce. But despite these, one in two farmers live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. (They comprise 35% of the Filipino population.) Our farmers are entrenched in a cycle of poverty. Farmers are cash strapped and fall prey to usurious financiers who lend at high interest rates. They enter into contracts with onerous traders who snatch up their crops at rock bottom prices. They also have to weather the storm, extremes of drought and too much rain, or unpredictable weather. Just in February, our DA declared Mindanao to be the worst hit by El Nino.
And perhaps that is why they leave their farms to protest in the streets. The people who grow your food are shackled in poverty. They do not have the funds to keep working their lands. The market place where they sell is unpredictable. They are beholden to landlords, to financiers, and to traders. One out of 2 of them live on a mere P60 every day. The average Filipino farmer is 58 years old. His children would rather work in the city, perceiving farming as a dead-end, a ticket to poverty.
Still, Agriculture is the mainstay of our Philippine economy. It employs as much as 35% of us. It is a key to poverty eradication and achieving food security.
We don’t shoot our farmers. Especially when they march with mere sticks and stones, and their battle cry is: “bread.” We don’t open fire against the hungry, especially when they put food on our table.
I stand for the Filipino farmers. #foodjustice #istandforfarmers #filipinofarmers #farmers #bigashindibala