WHAT raged then during the days of student activism in the ‘70s which reverberated throughout land was the battle-cry coming direct from China that quoted Chairman Mao Zedong: “Let not a single drop of rain go out to the sea without serving the people.”
The liberation of the poor living in extreme poverty was then the urgent call of the times as life then was a daily struggle for dignity and even for survival. Chairman Mao’s dictum like major religious tradition bid special attention to the poor. Jesus’ teachings then pay particular attention to the poor, notably in his teaching that he who feeds the hungry, clothes the naked and cares for the sick, serves the Lord.
“I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40) In Islam, one of the five pillars of faith is charity for the poor.
Such was the spirit of service that Chairman Mao bannered throughout China and like a wild fire scattered throughout the land that fired up the hearts of the Chinese propelling China’s growth that is superlative in every aspect. To quote Mr. Jeffrey Sachs in his book, The Age of Sustainable Growth: “As the world’s most populous country, with 1.3 billion people, anything that happens in China is earthshaking, but since 1978, China has also been among the fastest growing economies in the world history.
What is most amazing is that development in China came about not because of communism or socialism but through cooperativism. It is the essence of cooperativism that harnesses the collective power of the people advancing its DNA, i.e., that of being members-owned (prosperity for all as it is socially inclusive), value-based and philosophy driven (serve the people not a few oligarchs), and ecologically sustainable (not sacrificing the people and the environment to the altar of the capitalists’ greed and profit).
The blooming of the spirit of service through cooperativism came about during the time when Deng Xiaping came to power that time harnessed the collective power of the people that put the country on a trajectory of extraordinary economic growth, averaging roughly 10 percent per year in GDP growth. The same roadmap is being pursued by the present Chinese leadership that since last year had already hosted the visit of some 50 cooperative leaders from the Philippines. This 3-year continuing exchange program is among those provided for based on the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jingping in Malacanang last year.
Indeed, the cooperatives in the Philippines can learn so much from their visits in China. One of these learnings zeroed-in on the truism that just like China, any long or short term development can be won or lost through agriculture. In China, the one to benefit from farming are the farmers as they are the ones exposed to the excruciating heat of the sun and the outpourings of rains. In the Philippines, everyone is profiting from farming, i.e., the fertilizer and seed dealers, the usurers and the compradors but not the farmers because they do not own the land and if they do, they do not control the mode of production and marketing.
In China, the farmers do not just sell raw products; they go into value chain approaches, selling products that have already been processed and packaged by them and in doing so, generate employment and more income. In the Philippines, capitalists control the mode of production and marketing and are the ones to gain from farming. Look at the Coconut Industry, a billion dollar industry yet the coconut farmers are the poorest of the poor.
It is about time to have a paradigm shift from conventional to sustainable agriculture where the farmers will be in control of the mode of production and marketing. Because of conventional agriculture, the farmers are becoming the poorest of the poor and because of this, researches showed that out of 5 farmers in the rural areas, 4 are already leaving farming to find jobs in the urban areas which are now becoming congested.
Let us all learn from China. The Chinese farmers have shifted to sustainable agriculture. They are producing rice at only P5 per kilo because they are using the wastes of the carabaos as fertilizer and not the costly chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. In the Philippines, the farmers who are very much beholden to chemical farming are producing per kilo of rice at P15 which can hardly be bought now because of Tariff cation as our country is flooded with rice from other countries as such is produced at much lower cost.
As we now celebrate the Chinese New Year, let us celebrate it meaningfully by learning some lessons on why China with a population of 1.3 billion people which is ten times bigger than the Philippines had just imported some half a million tons of rice last year while the Philippines had imported the biggest on earth which is 3 million tons at the expense of the poor farmers.
Most importantly, just like China, let us debunk the contemporaneous development paradigm which is Neo-Liberal Capitalism which has put in control of our economy only 100 families called the oligarchs and replace it with the collective power of the people called cooperativism. After-all, that is the mandate of the highest law of the land, the 1987 Constitution. As provided in Sec. 15, Art. 12, “The State shall advance the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and economic development.”
Through cooperativism, we can now shout: “Let not a single drop of rain go out to the sea without serving the people!” Yes, the People in whose name and for whose cause, government is there for under the amazing leadership of our beloved President who is now the beacon of light to liberate our people from the quagmire of poverty through cooperativism.