On Indigenous Farmers And Modern Farming

How to starve indigenous communities
By Maurice Malanes
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Igorot people now acknowledge their ancestors’ long-term foresight in ensuring the food security of succeeding generations by carving rice terraces, even in tough, challenging terrain, in the Cordillera mountains.

Even during World War II and a rice crisis in the 1970s, the rice paddies have helped sustain the local folk. During the lean months, they supplemented rice with camote (sweet potato) from the nem-a or uma (upland swidden).

In recent years, however, this relative self-sufficiency has been threatened by “modern agriculture,” which the government has pushed purportedly to increase crop production through high-yielding varieties (HYVs) and, lately, genetically engineered seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

A study by the private Montañosa Research and Development Center (MRDC) tells of a farmer from the village of Dandanac in Besao, Mt. Province, who brought home a hybrid variety of corn given by a municipal agricultural technician. Concerned villagers warned that the seeds might be a strain or associated with Bt corn, but the farmer insisted on planting them because of an assurance of high yield.

“True enough, the new corn grew and flowered, but it did not bear ears,” said the study...

The high cost of producing Bt corn, which requires chemical fertilizers and pesticides, has buried many farmers in debt, forcing some to sell or mortgage their land, Prof. Elma Neyra of the SCC said...

The conversion of lands into plantations of banana, palm and lately biofuel plants will lead to “food insecurity,” he said. He noted how the plantations had displaced hundreds of indigenous folk, some of whom were forced to become farm laborers with meager wages that were not enough to provide them all their needs, including food...

Government and international policies, it said, must respect and recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to determine their own development – be it in agriculture and other industries, including mining, and other land and resource uses...

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