FARMERS are experiencing issues every day. That has become apparent to me lately as I tried to grow vegetables in pots.
As an urban gardener, I wanted to expand my enterprise from growing a few strawberries to vegetables.
I faced problems in moving ahead with my objective. The seeds, growing pots, soil, compost, and fertilizers were not available. They are expensive too.
This summer, irrigation is another problem along with the limited sunlight in the space available for my gardening.
The experience reminds me of the old farmers in the village where my parents came from. They faced many difficulties along the way that they turned into opportunities during their time.
For example, irrigated rice is grown only in the lowlands, not on mountain slopes. But being rice eaters, the villagers turned a problem into an opportunity to evolve a type of community farming that had the members of that community working together in the construction of the rice terraces, and the construction and maintenance of irrigation systems that tap and convey water across mountain ridges.
Throughout the ages, they have been undertaking related community labor and observances that ensured the sustainability of the rice terraces until today.
Particularly in Ifugao, the problem gifted the Philippines with what was once known as the world's eighth wonder and now a Unesco world heritage.
The problems I faced as an urban gardener has been good opportunities for me to become better. As a beginner and committed to a goal, I got my share of failures and found help along the way. I have assembled practical ideas and materials from more experienced people that I am currently working on.
On a bigger scale, I have noted several recurring agricultural issues that were once more highlighted during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) because of the occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic. This time around, I want to encourage the farmers and government agricultural technologists and operatives to develop them for more opportunities.
Who knows, the evolved experiences will become good and best practices that will be promoted to achieve community and national goals in the agriculture field.
Throughout the years, there is an increasing demand for food but the distribution system has not changed. For vegetables, people from some communities in Northern Luzon have been complaining that they buy highland vegetables only when they visit Metro Manila or Baguio City. The traditional marketing and distribution system has followed the same route it has been taking since the 1960s.
During the on-going lockdown, the need for highland vegetables was highlighted with the request by local government units (LGUs) in Northern Luzon for the delivery of highland vegetables to their locales which they bought and distributed to their constituents.
Meanwhile, inter-municipality-province lockdowns and checkpoints hindered the transport of vegetables resulting in oversupply at the source and supply shortage in Metro Manila.
In the past decade, the lack of farm labor has become increasingly felt as people started leaving the rural areas in search of better opportunities in urban centers. This became worse as the ECQ restricted the movement of laborers to harvest or plow the fields. Crops were not harvested and damaged.
Agricultural inputs were either not readily available, were expensive, and of poor quality. This has a notable impact on the supply of food and security.
To address some problems on the production of vegetables, the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched a campaign promoting urban agriculture nationwide, as part of its Plant, Plant, Plant Program, also known as the "Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (Alpas) Kontra Covid-19? to increase farm productivity and ensure food sufficiency during the Covid-19 emergency.
To address marketing and distribution concerns, the agency implemented the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita with its Kadiwa on Wheels and on-line marketing components that were implemented nationwide. The Kadiwa marketing explored all avenues and areas to ensure the unhampered distribution and marketing of agri-fishery commodities near and far from the production areas.
Like our farmers and fisherfolk, let us hope that the ECQ period has defined the problems of agriculture for us to be able to turn them into opportunities towards better Philippine agriculture.