Editorial: Doing our part

THE World Bank last week said that it has updated its 2017 growth projection for the Philippines following a stronger than expected 6.9 percent growth in the third quarter and the second quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.7 percent from 6.5 percent.

Given these, the World Bank projects a 6.7 percent growth for 2017, higher than the earlier forecast of 6.6 percent.

“Continued global economic recovery gaining steam has led to higher than expected export growth for the Philippines and an encouraging upturn for the third quarter of 2017,” said Birgit Hansl, World Bank Lead Economist for the Philippines.

The country's growth boom is given a boost by the recovery of major advanced economies and thus is now experiencing bullish import demand from its main trading partners, like the US, Japan, and Europe, the World Bank said.

We receive this news amid the portent of doom that our main traditional export commodity, cavendish banana, is on its sunset. But then, will the death of this major industry impact on us, the Mindanaoans? Not if we have non-traditional products that can ride the global demand for food.

Mindanao draws its strength from agriculture, and there will never be enough demand for agriculture because people eat, and will never stop eating.

Bring into the picture the growing demand for artisanal, heirloom, organic, and chemical-free products, we need not look any farther than our hinterland barangays.

In 2010, when Davao City Councilor Leonardo Avila III was still alive and he was the OIC-City Agriculture Chief, we had the chance to visit Barangay Gumitan, where it was said the indigenous tribe of Matigsalug and Manobo had passed on from generation to generation their heirloom rice.

In that single visit alone, the natives shared with Avila seeds of 40 native rice varieties. It's the womenfolk who keep the seeds, we were told. They were the stewards. The Indigenous Peoples said they had as many as 70 native rice varieties. That is more than enough to make the science community drool.

Nothing has been said hence on what has become of this attempt to record and keep these heirloom seeds.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, family farmers and small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises' export potentials are being given the boost. That is the very reason why quinoa and other cereals typical of the Andes region are now readily available in our groceries.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Asociacion Latinoamericana de Integracion (Aladi), an association promoting regional economic integration, have rolled out a program that trained more than 50 small firms and family farming organizations in 13 countries on how to improve their access to international markets.

"Bolstering participation in international markets by family farmers and small-scale operations is a fundamental step in making sure the region's food systems are inclusive and contribute to adequate nutrition," said Tania Santivañez, an agricultural (plant protection) officer at FAO, based in Chile.

We don't even have to go international. We just look into what we have, and then with the help of the local government unit, farm families will be trained and tapped to reach markets they have never imagined they can reach. In this global world, where we shop online, anything is possible.
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