'Family farming to secure food'

In its push for family farming, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has called for a holistic approach to support resilient food systems and ensure food security in the country.

According to Dr. Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, this was the resounding message resulting from a SEARCA-led hybrid and flexible Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) late last month.

Gregorio said the "ADSS on Leveraging the Role of Family Farming Towards More Productive and Resilient Food Systems in the Philippines" is relevant, adding that "now more than ever, there is a need to promote productive and resilient agri-food systems in the country."

He added that SEARCA saw a huge potential in empowering the agricultural families and linking them to policymakers who govern the welfare and the future not just of agriculture but also of the farmers.

Gregorio said former senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan reached out to around 300 online and onsite participants during the ADSS composed of students, researchers, faculty members, and farmers.

Pangilinan authored the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Act and the Sagip Saka Act (Republic Act 11321), which aim to promote agricultural mechanization development and help solve high food prices, respectively.

The former senator believes that family farming is 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," Pangilinan said.

He said the challenge is to mobilize and marshal resources toward capacitating family farms and clustering them. To secure food, "we must first secure our farmers and fisherfolks," he said.

Pangilinan cited several key features of the Sagip Saka Act, which, if implemented effectively, will be a game-changer and 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.

The former senator said the key to good governance in enhancing agricultural and rural development is a whole-of-nation approach in agriculture.

"This is so to mobilize all important players — the public and the private sectors, local government units, among other stakeholders," Pangilinan said.

Gregorio said the ADSS on family farming is aligned with SEARCA's 11th Five-Year Plan on Accelerating Transformation through Agricultural Innovation or ATTAIN to elevate the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable and resilient livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets.

Earlier, Pangilinan had a courtesy visit with the SEARCA leadership and shared that his team launched a social enterprise called Hapag Bigay which aims to raise funds for the Philippine farming and fishing communities.

"Farmers and fisherfolks must be equipped not just with financial support but also with capacity-building initiatives to further develop their skills and competencies," the former senator said.

Pangilinan said SEARCA can help his office and advocacy and that his interest in farm visits would be an experiential learning tool.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nova Ramos, Education and Collective Learning Department-Training for Development Unit head, shared that SEARCA, along with the Asia-Pacific Association of Educators in Agriculture and Environment, will conduct farm visits as part of the international conference to be held in October 2023.