The farm life a deeper look PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 27 June 2016 13:28

SQUARE POINT

BY Jack Edward Enriquez

In any interview whether applying for a job or joining a contest, this question may be asked: “What’s the job of your father?”

At once the usual answer is: “Farmer lang.”

To everybody, it simply means — only a farmer or just a farmer.

In our country, farming is looked upon as the lowest kind of occupation or means of living. It’s not a joke, but a serious consideration. Why?

During our early days in school, we were taught in class that farmers are the backbones of our nation. It has been inculcated in our minds that the rice in our daily meals depends on the farmers. Without farmers there will be no rice for the Filipinos. Unfortunately almost all farmers can hardly leap up over the poverty line.

According to a friend who is in foreign service assigned in the US, a farmer there works in his big farm with modern equipment, lives in a modern house and his family enjoys a modern living. While a farmer here plows his field with a carabao, plants and harvests with his bare hands; borrows money for fertilizer and chemicals from rice traders who dictate the price of palay at harvest time. To produce enough rice for the nation, the farmer has to endure the travail of tilling the soil amidst the risk, a natural calamity which may befall anytime. And when it happens, like the recent El Nino drought, the farmer has nothing to feed his family. So like a beggar awaits the relief assistance of rice from the government, this rice imported from Vietnam.

New Agriculture Sec. Manny Piñol under the incoming Duterte administration told the media that our farmers remain the poorest sector of society. In his biyaheng bukid tour across the country, he was able to see the actual lifestyle of poor farmers and the very reasons behind the deplorable state of living. It was noted that farming areas have become smaller because of the increased population and the spurious land conversion, that is, lesser food production and more mouths to feed. Based on media reports, government funds for food production were not properly spent. Same is true with the funds intended for irrigation projects, roads and bridges. Guidelines on agricultural programs have no specific directions or clearly described in full details according to the soil peculiarity and the real needs of every region. Congressional funds for agricultural development were fraudulently siphoned to ghost projects. Farmers and cooperatives for the benefit of some alleged corrupt legislators. Remember Napoles, the pork barrel queen.

Reportedly the bountiful harvests in remote farms cannot reach the marketsite due to the absence of transport and road facilities. In case some of the produce would be able to pass the rugged terrain down to the city proper, the middlemen take the biggest profit but only a trickle go to the farmers.

According to Piñol, somewhere in Mindanao he found out a multi-million peso irrigation project, but to his dismay a permanent enough water source is nowhere. It was learned that a big percentage of the government budget for agriculture was erroneously wasted on irrelevant projects, unnecessary expenditures or lavish banquets. Undoubtedly agricultural development was hampered by too much politics in Mindanao, peace was driven away by the conflict and violence while the people were to cling to the promise that was never fulfilled.

The Philippines is a known agricultural country with its soil rich for high value crops supported by modern technology in farming and the Filipinos are borne hardworking tillers of soil, yet many of them and their families would go hungry at a phenomenal twist in the climate condition many a time.

The recommended remedy to counter the dry spell, run after the clouds and put salt to induce a downpour. It is an exercise in futility. The procedure requires humdrum negotiations, proper timing for the clouds and multi-million peso budget, but the result is nill.

Evidently something must be wrong with those scientific studies, the findings and strategies by the experts and geniuses hired by the government. Or, perhaps, the system itself is infested with pests or viruses that caused failures and frustrations in our struggle to attain food sufficiency.