Observations of a farming community PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 28 April 2014 11:07

By REMEDIOS F. MARMOLEÑO

 

I had occasion to talk recently with an educator who works in one of the municipalities of the ZamPen. As  usual I was on my soapbox about the need to make education contribute to reducing poverty and making education relevant to the lives of the students.  Since the municipality is made up basically of  farming communities my friend and I  exchanged thoughts on how  education can make the students  better farmers who  apply the basic science principles they learn in class to improve their farming practices, increase their yields and thus allow them better incomes as farmers.

Sadly, her observations about what is happening made me more frustrated.

The municipality she lives in was known in the past for the peanuts grown there. She remembers how the lower floor of her family’s two-story dwelling was  the storage space of  sacks of peanuts her father harvested and also bought from the other farmers. The sacks of peanuts used to pile up to the ceiling of the lower floor of the house. Not anymore – not enough peanuts are grown and harvested. Even those who sell ready-to-eat peanuts say that they have to buy the peanuts that come from other municipalities.

The low-skilled laborers in a construction site no longer farm their family-owned  lands. When I asked what is now planted in place of peanuts she said “Nothing.”  She said that a number of the menfolk are content to operate the “habal habal’  because they can see their income for each day rather than having to wait the number of months before the harvest of a given crop is turned into cash.

She is not happy with the impact of the “Pantawid Program” of the government on the parents in the community. (I am aware of the intent of this program but I do not know its  formal name.) It is my friend’s observation that the parents of children  are content with the amount the government provides for each child and this money has become a disincentive. Rather than considering the government allowance per child  as adding to their family income the parents instead depend on the money and are not working as hard on their farms.

Not only that but it seems the money lenders are still making money off the farmers. Since the allowances are often delayed the farmers “sell” the expected allowance to the money lenders, at a loss to the farmers, of course.

It seems that the young people generally look forward to leaving their barrios for the big city, where they think life is more exciting.

Every generation of course has to deal with things like this. This is a reality,  even if we know that such  attitudes  of the young are counterproductive to genuine development. How do we address these realities?  Our urban areas will be full of people who are unemployable for the most part because they have little skills.  They  can be prey to the purveyors of drugs and other bad habits. They add to the  potential for crimes and negative behavior.

On the other hand our agricultural sector will be left  behind by our neighbors in other countries in the region. Perhaps we all need to put our heads together and see what might be done to reverse this trend.