• ‘Lawin’-hit farmers in Cagayan get aid

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    SOLANA, Cagayan: Super Typhoon Lawin-affected farmers in Cagayan got a much-needed boost as they make the transition to ecologically viable agriculture after the devastation wrought by Lawin on their crops and lands.

    This came in the form of seed and fertilizer response packages from the Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GSA)-led People’s Food Movement (PFM). The food campaign network distributed organic seeds, fertilizers, and other farm inputs to 150 farmers in the municipality.

    The PFM’s activity here is in collaboration with Green Meadows Foundation and Solana Ecological Agriculture Group, Solana town’s local government and Greenpeace Philippines.

    GSA Executive Director Yeb Saño said the response packages includes vegetable seeds, vermicast, molasses, palay seeds, bokashi and various concoctions that were sourced from farmers practicing ecological agriculture in Nueva Ecija and nearby provinces.

    Saño said that whenever extreme weather events such as droughts and super typhoons hit an area, the agriculture sector always suffers the most.

    “The impact of these extreme weather disturbances bury our farmers further in an endless cycle of debt, our food production and supply decrease, and food prices increase. All of us are affected. We need to empower our farmers to be able to help the whole nation,” Saño said.

    He explained that events like Lawin, aggravated by climate change, has wrought havoc on the lives and livelihood of farmers in the Philippines.

    He added that Lawin caused at least P10.2 billion damage to agriculture, P3.4 billion to infrastructure, and affected more than 49,000 farmers in different provinces in Luzon.

    Lawin was classified as a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour,

    In Cagayan province, the Department of Agriculture has recorded that at least 56,000 hectares of rice fields, 9,000 hectares of corn fields, and 2,000 hectares of vegetables plantations were destroyed.

    Contributing almost 30 percent to the country’s rice and corn needs,

    Cagayan and its nearby provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in Cagayan Valley (Region 2) are the top food production areas of the country.

    A two-day seminar on Integrated and Diversified Organic Farming System before the seed distribution was also conducted here by Jonjon Sarmiento of Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama) along with Lerma Matus, a typhoon Yolanda farmer-survivor.

    During the seminar, Sarmiento said, the farmers were trained to practice climate-resilient agriculture, self-sufficiency by preserving the seeds, and making their own fertilizers sourced from materials that are abundant and readily available in their areas, so that they will not have to resort to loans to rebuild their farms.

    Ramon Padilla, national coordinator of the Center for Health Initiatives and Management of Ecosystems (CHIMES), said Lawin brought devastation to the livelihood of small holders and producers but it also opened up opportunities to start the conversation on the seeds as the core of life and food.

    “We want to reclaim ownership and control of the food system for the small holders and household producers, in consideration with the consumers’ right to safe and healthy food,” Padilla said.

    Padilla added that through seed response work, the PFM hopes to help address the looming hunger among farmers affected by typhoon Lawin and slowly ease their way out of the cycle of indebtedness.

    He said the activity also aimed to show the farmers that there is an alternative way of farming that will provide them, their families, and the whole nation with healthy food that are produced through safe, sustainable and climate resilient agriculture.

    The PFM is a food campaign advanced by individuals, groups, organizations, government entities, academe and other formal and non-formal groups that act collectively and individually to promote practices, programs and policies rooted on the concept and practice of ecological agriculture.

    PFM members such as CHIMES, Urban Agriculture Advocate of the Philippines, Inc (UAAP), Southeat Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and farmers of the Climate Resiliency Field Schools of the Rice Watch Action Network (R1) also joined in the distribution of the packages and shared ecological agriculture practices.

    Meanwhile, Greenpeace called on President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to support a food policy that will put farmers’ need on top priority.

    “There is a need to put in place a system that can readily respond to farmers needs in rebuilding their farms immediately after a crisis and change the current dominant system of agriculture from monoculture and chemical intensive farming to diverse, integrated, sustainable and climate resilient farming system,” Greenpeace stated.

     LEANDER DOMINGO

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