Home>Editorial>Opinion>How can farmers feed a growing population, protect the environment, and keep their livelihood afloat all at once?

How can farmers feed a growing population, protect the environment, and keep their livelihood afloat all at once?

The average Filipino farmworker makes half as much as the average Filipino worker. According to the latest report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the agriculture business remains the least appealing sector in the economy in terms of average compensation (PSA, 2021). Farm laborers account for two out of every three of the poorest rural poor, owing to lower earnings and even poorer productivity. Resulting in the younger generation of millennials avoiding agriculture in favor of occupations and livelihoods that aren’t related to farming.

Gender also comes as a proponent of inequality of wages of the agricultural laborers. Hence, it remains one of the major problems that concern the Philippine economy.

Our local farmers, according to Adriano (2020), are oppressed by low wages. It states that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s (CARP) land retention ceiling ensures that small farmers would never be able to escape poverty. As a result of the low retention ceiling, farm sizes have become economically unviable.

According to Costa (2021), farmworkers would earn just under 60% of equivalent workers outside of agriculture in 2020, a salary disparity that was virtually unchanged from the previous year. A farmer who grows high-value produce on hectares of land may be able to make a decent life. However, if the farmer grows traditional crops such as rice and corn, which are common in the Philippines, he will be unable to support himself by farming. No matter how good a farmer is at managing his land, no matter how much government assistance he receives, he would never be able to support a family of five or six people on the land he owns (Adriano, 2020).

Agriculture has a vital role in the Philippine economy. Farmers manage and cultivate the land on smallholder farms, which are the most common type of farm. Farmers are key determinants of rural development, yet they are also marginalized and vulnerable to rapidly changing social, political, and environmental issues. The Philippines continues to violate farmers’ legally recognized rights to food security, well-being, livelihood, and employment.

The primary goal of Republic Act 7607 is to provide an equal distribution of advantages and opportunities by empowering small farmers. The law acknowledges the government’s duty for small farmers’ welfare and development by assisting them in achieving their socio-economic goals (Aquino and Ani, 2013).

In a press report by David Llorito of The World Bank, the country’s small farmers are greatly affected by accessing inputs and markets for them to produce. The government focused on supporting, providing, and implementing profitable business plans that can overcome market failure. An example is aiding our local farmers with much higher compensation to further support their access to markets and improve their livelihood. A practice of direct cash payments or cash transfers as possible options. In this way, it can raise our local farmers’ agricultural productivity and reduce poverty specifically in rural communities.

According to the International Labour Organization (1996), approximately 1.1 billion workers are active in agricultural production worldwide in which nearly half of them are paid in wage labor. It is one of the factors that until today that the world’s agricultural workers earn wages that are not sufficient enough for their basic needs and place them in the position at the bottom of the rural poverty ladder. A survey conducted for 45 countries in all regions, shows that the real wages for agricultural workers declined over the past decades in 18 countries, 8 countries with no real wage changes. Only 6 out of the 45 participating countries were able to show an increase in real wages of around 30% in which the Philippines is included. A separate survey of 12 developing countries with large populations, shows that over 50% of all rural workers are below the poverty line in which the Philippines is also included. It shows that incidence from poverty among agricultural wage labor is much higher than the overall rural poverty.

Agriculture is a vital sector not only in the economy but also for the everyday livelihood of the Filipinos. Some of the farmers in this industry are underpaid, earning less than the minimum wage. The percentage of underpaid employees in the Philippines’ agriculture sector has ranged between 10% and 15% in recent years, according to Statista Research Department (2018). Based on a report by the Philippine Statistics Office, the yearly income of Filipino farmers is only P100,800, which is below the poverty line. Agriculture’s contribution to GDP has declined from 31.06 percent in 1974 to 8.82 percent in 2019, putting the Philippines under the world average of 10.81 percent in 2020 based on 146 nations, according to World Bank data from 1960 to 2016. Due to the government’s failure to provide enough financial assistance to farmers and to subsidize some of the equipment that will help to ease their work and improve the system of trading farm products, employment in the agricultural sector has dropped significantly in recent years, with workers moving to other thriving sectors.

For quite some time, the Philippine government has advocated for the elimination of middlemen. However, such policies and programs have yet to be implemented. Even with the money set aside to support them, they have a difficult time establishing themselves and thriving. “We fail either because government projects always seem to lack the key elements that make them thrive and self-sustaining, like the personal relationships that tie farmers to middlemen, or the logistical, operation, and maintenance management skills developed by middlemen over the years,” as stated by Aberia (2020). Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who is currently advocating for the elimination of middlemen to allow farmers to sell their product directly to consumers, proposes solutions such as establishing pension for elderly farmers and fishermen who are unable to work due to their age, free business and skills training for the farmers and fishermen’s family members, scholarship grants and other incentives for their children, and so on. It may take some time, but it will play a positive role all throughout the country, increasing their profit and revenue.

The Philippine Government should be more involved in the agricultural sectors and provide measures/solutions for the betterment of Filipinos working in the agricultural sector. Providing better access to funding programs and implementing a wage increase to Filipino farmers can be a beneficial first step in doing so. As Sen. Chiz Escudero highlighted that “Measures must be drawn up to ensure decent wages to farmworkers and improve their status in society.”

By Sikwát Group, UST-SHS Grade 12 Students
Alcaraz, Joseph Miguel
Basco, Jhan Aldryn
Casas, MJ Andrei
Corpuz, Jhanella Marie
Enojado, Marielle Angelica
Estomo, Wendy
Fabellon, Athaliah Micca
Santillan, Athea Risa

Sikwat


References:

Aberia, I. (2020, September 2). The middleman. The Manila Times. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from
https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/09/02/opinion/columnists/the-middleman/762333.

Adriano, D. F. (2020). Why Filipino small farmers remain poor. The Manila Times. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from
https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/08/27/business/agribusiness/why-filipino-small-farmers-remain-poor/759852.

Dar, W. (2019). The ‘new thinking’ for Agriculture. The ‘new thinking’ for agriculture. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from
https://sra.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/DA-Dar-NEW-THINKING.pdf.

International Labour Organization (1996, September 23). Agricultural Wage Workers: the Poorest of the Rural Poor. Retrieved November 01, 2021, from
https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_008067/lang–en/index.htm

Llorito, D. (2020, September 09). PHILIPPINES: Vibrant Agriculture is Key to Faster Recovery and Poverty Reduction. Retrieved November 01, 2021, from
https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/09/09/philippines-vibrant-agriculture-is-key-to-faster-recovery-and-poverty-reduction

Martin, K. (2013). Farmers, fishermen among lowest paid in PH. ABS CBN News. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from
https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/04/12/13/farmers-fishermen-among-lowest-paid-ph.

Philippine Statistic Authority. (2021). Trends in Agricultural Wage Rates. Retrieved November 01, 2021, from
https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/Report_2019%20Trends%20in%20Agri%20Wage%20Rates_signed.pdf

Senate of the Philippines. (2015). “Chiz says farmers deserve higher wages, decent living”. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from
http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2015/0703_escudero2.asp

World Bank. (n.d.). Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added (% of GDP) – Philippines. Data. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from
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