An IBON research project featured cases of communities, which showed that organic farming could be used as weapon for landless and poor peasants to assert their right to land and to their own future.
By Ibon Features
The Philippine context of any pursuit of agricultural development, whether in modernization or ensuring sustainability, is that the farmers must have secure access to land first before the viability of sustainable agriculture practices such as organic farming can be measured. On the other hand, an IBON research project featured cases of communities, which showed that organic farming could be used as weapon for landless and poor peasants to assert their right to land and to their own future. This provides prospects for “green producerism” in the Philippines because the advocacy is intrinsic in the struggle for genuine agrarian reform.
Said peasant communities in Tarlac, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Davao and Cotobato have proven that their practice of organic farming is firmly grounded in their long-term struggle for land and peasant emancipation. In cases where there were no broader networks, farmers’ practice of organic farming has raised their awareness of the deeper problems of Philippine agriculture and has given them the confidence to align themselves with the larger peasant movement.
Following are some of the shining examples of organized green producerism – whether side-by-side or apart from the efforts of the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG or Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development) and Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) – which illustrate that the Philippines does not only have potentials for green producerism but actually hosts some of the world’s most active sustainable agriculture movements:
Farmers’ Development Center (Fardec). Central Visayas’s Fardec upholds the principle of GARSA (genuine agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture), which reinforces farmers’ legitimate right to remain on the land and keep it productive. It has affirmed the importance of involving the whole community in introducing organic farming, so that farmers do not revert to their old practice of conventional, individualist farming. Its lobbying efforts on the government also helps in advancing the cause of farmers and how policies should be improved to realize overall rural development. Among the challenges that it faces are: bringing back the health of the soil, which has been destroyed by decades of chemical farming; breaking the individualist culture developed in the practice of chemical farming and replacing it with the spirit of bayanihan; militarization in the countryside as it creates an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among the farmers.
Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group (PDG). Established at a time when there was widespread poverty and hunger among the people of Negros island, PDG started with organic vegetable production and expanded its services to providing awareness on laws especially on agrarian reform and rural development. It has embarked on community organizing through agrarian reform campaigns; dealt with land issues covering rice, corn, livestock, vegetables and eventually sugarlands; engaged in environmental issues like mining, and community health and human rights issues as well. It is now concentrated in 30 communities, with people’s organizations and federations currently organized on the basis of their struggle for land and raising political consciousness.
Mapisan’s Kabuhian. Mapisan, an alliance composed of peasant organizations advocating land reform, sustainable agriculture, health and environment, among others, supports the land struggles of farmer-members such as Kabuhian.. The latter’s struggle for land, which began in 1995 against the landlord then Congresswoman Hortencia Starke, derived the following valuable lessons: the importance of unimpeded access to land to allow them to be decisive and for organic agriculture to flourish; that discipline and commitment are necessary values in countering the temptations for fast results amid conventional farming; and that unity is the key to victories.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros Island. It started as the Small Farmers Association in 1987 then bloomed into association level covering 15 Negros island municipalities. KMP-Negros carries out campaigns on tenancy issues and other exploitative production relations, land grabbing, for land redistribution in large haciendas, and higher rice farm gate prices, among others. It promotes the diversification of crops and the production of staple food. Almost all of the areas of KMP in South Negros are already practicing sustainable agriculture. It continues to face various challenges related to its advocacy, but confronts these with united and consolidated actions. KMP-Negros learned that through the practice of sustainable agriculture, farmers see more clearly the dangers of GMOs, the profiteering of TNCs and the mutuality of the struggles for genuine agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture.
Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Maas or Citizens Against Aerial Spraying). Based in Compostella Valley in Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Davao City, Maas was established in 2006 at the peak of the campaign against aerial spraying. It worked side by side with farmers who complained about the health effects of aerial spraying in banana plantations by agro-corporations including DoleFil, SUMIFRO and Ayala Highland in 2004 leading to a Davao ordinance banning aerial spraying in the city. Maas finds itself in a tough situation as government and corporations remain mum about the issue. Maas learned from experience that dealing with tactical campaigns leads to bigger gains in the end; that unity and taking action are essential in making campaigns materialize; and that networking and reaching out to broad support also makes successful struggles.
The number one challenge encompassing these movements is the government’s lack of genuine agrarian reform. It is difficult to sustain the gains of sustainable agriculture if land reform is not being implemented. There are blatant cases where farmers, just because they do not have land titles, are forbidden by the landowners to practice sustainable agriculture. And even if farmers are ‘awarded’ the land they are tilling, government still does not provide support services and subsidies to organic farming and to agriculture in general.
The continuing promotion of intensive, chemical-based farming by the government is a major hindrance to the advancement of sustainable agriculture; organic farming can never developed side by side with chemical farming.
The advocacy of green producerism is a complement to the growing and active green consumerism in developed countries. It aims to contribute to raising public awareness on the benefits of organic farming in order to add pressure on the State to pursue sustainable agriculture. Its viability as a sustained campaign rests on the lessons that have been presented above. (Ibon Features)