A ricebowl left untouched

Needless to say, food is high in demand. It is a basic need for humans every day. But despite the Philippines being blessed with plenty of rich, arable lands, its full potential for agriculture is not developed enough.

Lanao del Sur, for example, might just possess the potential to feed the country, but its agriculture is underdeveloped.

Here in Marawi alone, we enjoy a significant amount of rainfall and an average annual temperature of 23°C. The Baguio-like climate allows even the planting of strawberries here.

There’s also the Lake Lanao, the country’s second largest freshwater lake, where streams and rivers are connected, making irrigation readily available in many parts of the province.

According to Dr. Juliet Bangi of the Mindanao State University – Marawi’s College of Agriculture, the soil texture in Lanao del Sur varies from sandy loam to clay loam, which is one of the best soils for growing crops, especially in upland areas. These kinds of soils are found mostly in the municipalies of Butig, Malabang, and Balabagan.

Despite all these agrarian assets available at Lanao del Sur’s disposal, the province still buys 75 percent to 90 percent of its rice from neighboring provinces, according to Dr. Bangi.

The province primarily cultivates coconut and abaca, but has very little production of it. Moreover, the coconut trees here are already too old and the abaca plants are plagued with disease, Dr. Bangi added.

High value crops such as cacao, coffee, fruit trees, and bananas are also cultivated, but also have low productivity.

The residents of Lanao del Sur also prefer to engage in business rather than farming. There is also the constantly looming problem about peace and order that contributes to the region’s inability to unleash its full potential in agriculture.

Only upland rice and corn are the crops with stable production in the region, said Dr. Bangi.

The rich agricultural qualities of the lands of Lanao del Sur could contribute to the national food supply problem that constantly pops up. If only farmers were more open to innovations in agricultural practice, if residents of the Province would participate more in agriculture, and if the government would be able to invest more in developing agriculture in the Region, Lanao del Sur could fill in the low levels of rice stocks that the National Food Authority (NFA) has been experiencing in some regions.

There was a time when other countries would go to us to study about the Philippines’ food and rice production.

Now, we are the ones who need their rice.

By paying attention more on Lanao del Sur’s farming potential, the amount of rice that we import from other countries such as China and Thailand will be reduced.

In some parts of the country, rice fields are bulldozed and transformed to roads or commercial building lots. In Bukidnon, hectares of rice fields are replaced with pineapple plantations. Here in Lanao del Sur that brims with potential for a booming agricultural produce, some rich lands remain almost untouched.

Yet, reports of dropping food stocks and rising prices for rice, fruits, and vegetables happen every so often.

The country should be utilizing its own agricultural assets, rather than making quick but costly solutions, such as importation, to address our food supply problems.

Perhaps, it is also because of the reduced attitude of the people towards agriculture and supplying real food for people has also sank.

People refuse to make their hands dirty – literally. It may be because the majority has set their eyes on the desirability of a job under a cool shade. A work setting where they wear suits inside an air-conditioned room while sitting in a swivel chair.
We may be shifting to a technological age, but our biological design to eat and nourish our bodies will never change.
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