Loren Helps Farmers, Fisherfolk Amidst El NinoFebruary 11, 2010
MANILA, PHILIPPINES–SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA, CHAIRPERSON OF SENATE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE AND FOOD, INSTRUCTS THE CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES ON AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES MODERNIZATION (COCAFM) TO CHECK THE PLIGHT OF FARMERS AND FISHERFOLK AMIDST EL NINO AND RISING PRICES OF COMMODITIES.
“These days people are very busy campaigning and I want to be sure whether the needs of the farmers and fisherfolk are attended to because we cannot allow the producers of our food to go hungry. What I want my COCAFM team to emphasize is that the local extension workers, with the help of state universities in the locality, assist them access fund, build their irrigation, market their products and create alternative sources of income.”, Loren said.
The COCAFM is a joint-congressional body mandated to monitor the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997. This twelve-year old law still needs to be implemented fully because even if many systems are already in place many coordination activities have to be pushed and creativity on the part of local chief executives needs to be harnessed.
For instance, local extension service delivery has to be improved particularly in skilling the local extension workers. “We have to ensure that the office of the municipal agriculture office (MAO) in all the municipalities have all the skills needed by our farmers and fisherfolk. One of these local extension workers in the MAO has to be an agricultural engineer to teach the farmers design and develop their own communal irrigation system (CIS), one should be an agribusiness expert to teach the farmers and fisherfolk prepare a business plan and access credit and market their products strategically.
These skills the MAOs need to have in addition to their expertise in technology dissemination. When the farmers have capital and have identified a profitable agribusiness venture, they would be able to use new technologies that will improve their yield.”, Loren said.
The management system being promoted by government for the farmers to achieve economies of scale, improve negotiating position, create their own credit system and access funds from government and other capital sources is cooperativism. The cooperatives can create their own credit system for the farmer-members to use and a collective mechanism to pool or integrate their landholdings to produce volume of output necessary to meet bulk requirement of big buyers.
However, impoverished farmers and fisherfolk have to be helped organize their cooperatives and meet the requirements of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) which in many cases are burdensome for them. “Hence I want to ask the farmers and fisherfolk to discuss with the COCAFM, the Department of Agriculture (DA), the provincial agriculturists and the state universities and colleges in the locality if there are organizational mechanisms that would be convenient for them so that we could study them or consider them for either legislative or executive action.”
“One thing that I am toying about in regard to institutional concerns in agriculture is whether we could allow the farmers and fisherfolk to register their organizations in the municipal office only because they do not have to travel to the provincial or regional center to formalize recognition of their existence. Moreover, the office of the mayor would be in a better position to understand the problems of the farmers and fisherfolk because of its proximity and familiarity to them.”, Loren said.