Editorial: How are the poor farmers?

THE year is about to end with relatively fewer casualties due to typhoons (pwera gaba), the people and local government units are indeed becoming more disaster-ready and are quick to respond before disaster strikes.

That is very good.

But just in case we forget, several months ago, farmers were starving because of the 18-month long drought and El Niño phenomenon. They are yet on the recovery stage.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was among those that extended agricultural assistance starting from the farmers in Central Luzon and Central Mindanao and later on expanding to four provinces in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and the Soccsksargen Region, where farmers received certified rice seeds, corn seeds, fertilizers, and vegetable seeds.

“These inputs will allow families to re-start their livelihood activities and grow food for household consumption,” a FAO report quoted FAO Representative to the Philippines José Luis Fernández as saying.

But look outside and notice the sun. The sun has been scorching throughout the year, even when a weak La Niña should be in effect. There were just a few days of heavy rain, but the sun returns like its summer. But it’s already November, less than two weeks from December.

Outside the pocket flower gardens and potted plants in urban areas, plants are withering under the heat, requiring daily watering. We can only wonder how the poor farmers are faring with their larger plot requiring more water and labor.

The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery just released a new study showing that the impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to a global $520 billion loss in annual consumption, and forces some 26 million people into poverty each year.

“Severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim was quoted as saying.

“Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences, with poor people often paying the heaviest price. Building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is a moral imperative.”

The report, “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters,” warns in all of the 117 countries studied, “the effect on well-being, measured in terms of lost consumption, is found to be larger than asset losses.”

The poor, being less able to weather disasters, suffer the most. The report estimates that impact on well-being in these countries is equivalent to consumption losses of about $520 billion a year.

Bottomline: hunger.

We are aware that the Department of Agriculture is working harder these days, but it will not be too much to ask them and local governments as well to check on their farmlands and see how the subsistence farmers are doing considering that they have just survived 18 months of failed cropping.

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