By MANNY F. PIÑOL, Secretary of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA)
HOPE in Family Farms!
The Covid-19 Pandemic, when it finally ends, will leave us with very important lessons not only on how to handle and address a global health crisis but more profoundly on how to craft our national food security strategies.
The Neo-Liberal economic mantra of Global Food Supply Inter-Dependence and Total Free Market have been effectively thrashed by the immediate reaction of major food suppliers to hold on to their production to ensure the welfare of their people in the face of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Food Security depends on families, or communities producing enough for subsistence
As quarantine measures and lockdowns hamper the movements and delivery of basic food items, people suddenly turn their attention to their barns and backyard to check on whatever could sustain the family’s food needs during the lockdown.
Lucky are the families with a patch of vegetables, a few heads of backyard chicken, a small fishpond, a one-hectare rice field, a few heads of goats and several hills of bananas.
Suddenly, people now realize that the true essence of Food Security is by ensuring that a farm family or a community for that matter produces enough food for its subsistence.
Whatever is produced in excess could be shared in the immediate market or if the volume is really huge, maybe ship it out to where the goods are needed.
The idea of just relying on imported goods which are cheaper than that produced by local farmers to feed our people may sound practical and very logical.
But not when it involves the country’s staple food — rice.
I warned then, just as I still believe now, that relying on our neighbors for the supply of our staple food could prove to be risky and very expensive in the end because Climate Change could affect the export-capacity of our rice-producing neighbors.
Covid-19 gives us a rude awakening and a reminder.
— MinDA Secretary Manny Piñol
A Pandemic like Covid-19 did not even cross my mind but this experience now tells us that beyond Climate Change, there are other factors which could affect the sustainability of food supplies from the outside.
Beyond rice-sufficiency, Covid-19 is showing us the importance of Self-Sustaining Food Security Strategies where farm families are in the core of food production, primarily for their needs and the excess for their immediate communities.
Covid-19 gives us a rude awakening and a reminder that in the face of a food supply crisis, each and every nation’s obligation is to look after the welfare of its people, international commitments and all be damned.
Food security would always be more important to these countries than the romantic idea of One World Without Borders like what the Beatles dreamed of in “Imagine.”
To survive, we must grow our own food and the production must start with each and every small family farm.
All images credit to the author, a journalist, a writer, a father, a politician, a brother, a friend.