LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA, Philippines— The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) calls for a holistic approach to push family farming to support resilient food systems and ensure food security in the Philippines. This was the resounding message resulting from a SEARCA-led hyflex Agriculture and Development Series (ADSS) on 25 April 2023.
Dr. Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, welcomed the participants and underscored the vital role of family farming in food-insecure regions of the country. “Today’s ADSS on Leveraging the Role of Family Farming Towards More Productive and Resilient Food Systems in the Philippines is relevant,” said Dr. Gregorio. “Now more than ever, there is a need to promote productive and resilient agri-food systems in the country,” he continued.
Dr. Gregorio added that SEARCA saw a huge potential in empowering the agricultural families and linking them to policymakers. He said that the policymakers govern the welfare and the future not just of agriculture but also of the farmers.
Around 300 online and onsite participants composed of students, researchers, faculty members, and farmers attended the seminar featuring farmer-legislator Atty. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
Atty. Pangilinan, former senator, authored the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Act (AFMech) and the Sagip Saka Act (Republic Act No. 11321), which aim to promote agricultural mechanization development and help solve high food prices, respectively.
In his talk, he highlighted family farming as a significant contributor to food security in the Philippines.
“We have yet to find meaningful government interventions that clearly spell out benchmarks as indicators of success in measuring farming productivity,” said Atty. Pangilinan. “The challenge is to mobilize and marshal resources toward capacitating our family farms and clustering them,” he added. He emphasized that to be able to secure food, we must first secure our farmers and fisherfolks.
Atty. Pangilinan also mentioned several key features of the Sagip Saka Act, which, if implemented effectively, will be a game-changer. “This allows the government to buy its food requirements for calamity relief, hospitals, police camps, and the like, directly from farmers and fisherfolks without going through public bidding,” he noted.
Atty. Pangilinan concluded his ADSS talk with a call to action among the participants. “A whole-of-nation approach in agriculture to mobilize all important players—the public and the private sectors, local government units, among other stakeholders—is key to good governance in enhancing agricultural and rural development,” he emphasized.
The ADSS on family farming is aligned with the Center’s 11th Five-Year Plan on Accelerating Transformation through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) to elevate the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable and resilient livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets.
Prior to the ADSS, in his courtesy visit with the SEARCA executive committee led by Dr. Gregorio, Atty. Pangilinan shared that his team launched a social enterprise called Hapag Bigay. The social enterprise aims to raise funds for the Philippine farming and fishing communities. He expressed that the farmers and fisherfolks must be equipped not just with financial support but also with capacity-building initiatives to further develop their skills and competencies.
When asked how SEARCA can help his office and advocacy, the legislator mentioned his interest in farm visits as an experiential learning tool. In relation to this, Dr. Nova Ramos, head of the Education and Collective Learning Department-Training for Development Unit (ECLD-T4DU), shared that SEARCA, along with the Asia Pacific Association of Educators in Agriculture and Environment (APEAEN), will conduct farm visits as part of the international conference to be held in October 2023.