FARMERS and fisher folks are still among the poorest in the country says an online article. The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) in response to the call of the United Nations (UN) in setting their worldwide sustainable development goals (SDG) fixes the country’s development plan for the year 2017 until 2022.
The theme revolves on pagbabago, malasakit, at pag-unlad. Under the pagbabago is the goal to reduce inequality through the inequality-reducing transformation programs and activities in various sectors of the society. Neda and other concerned agencies identified agriculture, forestry and fishery as few of these subsectors to be given optimal attention by the government for development due to their generally dismal economic situation. Now, let’s talk about agriculture in the upland first.
Benguet and neighboring provinces are home to many farmers and gardeners in the country. Upland vegetables like cabbage, carrots, Baguio beans, potatoes, and cauliflower come mostly from these areas. It is just sad to think that many of these gardeners remain economically poor. They are also among the most vulnerable to disasters and calamities. When typhoons hit, the gardeners suffer huge losses. There is a wide disparity between the economic income of ordinary gardeners and those in charge of the operations like the middle men/women and other traders.
There are different kinds of farmers/gardeners; those who own the farming/gardening land and farm/garden at the same time, those who manage the gardening but they do not own the land, those who manage the garden/farm but they do not own the land and being assisted by suppliers at the same time. A supplier provides all the resources necessary for the gardening. He/She provides the seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and even food for the workers if it is part of the agreement. When harvesting and selling come, the gardener pays the supplier depending on the division of money agreed upon.
Problem happens when suppliers and owners take advantage of the situation of ordinary gardeners and farmers. My brother-in- law suffered this quandary. He worked hard for 7 months only to receive nothing in the end. Not even enough to purchase a pair of Levi’s. Sometimes owners and suppliers demand for a greater amount of shares than what is fair from the workers. The workers always take the fall when worst comes to worst. For instance, when the selling price of the vegetable depreciates during harvest and selling periods, the supplier is still paid the amount of all those spent during the gardening or farming plus the agreed share.
When suppliers asks for an unreasonable share percentage, workers are left with nothing but a small amount that barely pays their debts. Depending on the crop, farmers/gardeners work for six to 12 months before harvest. At times, they get a few bucks for this length of hard work. When lucky, the take home income is huge but of course the supplier or owner gets the hefty chunk.
Another problem is selling their crops to a worthy amount. Selling is affected by inflation, the weather, supply and demand system, and the business attitude of traders. Middle men/women are not hardly affected by inflation or any of the mentioned factors because any depreciation or devaluation of price is always pass to the famers/gardeners. Their income is scarcely affected. For example, the price decreased by 2:00 peso, dealers will agree among themselves to lower the buying price from the farmers/gardeners. These ordinary gardeners cannot do anything but give in to the asking price because their crops will perish if they don’t sell them. Sad story is many go home disappointed and dejected. How do they feel that after 6 months of work, they could not even supply a month necessities?
So how does the government solve these problems by our gardeners to reduce the inequality among ordinary gardeners, suppliers, owners, and traders in terms of economic income? There must be a protection provided to the ordinary farmers/gardeners. To protect them from calamities and disasters, both man-made and natural, they must avail agricultural insurance. But first they must know what this is all about. To protect them from the greedy suppliers and owners, local governments should craft policies or laws that dictate the fair amount share between suppliers and gardeners. To practice justice in trading, the depreciation or devaluation of products should both be handled by both traders/middle persons and farmers/gardeners, not only by the latter.
In these areas, many gardeners or farmers are rich but country-wide, most farmers are poor. The government designed a plan to uplift the economic condition of these sectors; AFF – Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery. The local government with the help of private organizations and concerned individuals must create a system of fairness to achieve progress in these sectors, particularly in agriculture.