Youths to PH Presidential bets: be a champion of food, ecological agriculture

Young leaders from all over the Philippines gathered today at the University of the Philippines Diliman to help shape the future of the country and challenge the 2016 Presidential aspirants to prioritize food and Ecological Agriculture in their electoral agenda.

The National Youth Congress (NYC) on Food, Nutrition, and Ecological Agriculture with the theme ‘Securing Our Agriculture, Securing the Future of our Food’, was organized as part of Greenpeace Philippines’ #IAmHampasLupa campaign, which engages with the Filipino youth to help shape the country’s programs and policies towards safe, healthy and sustainable food and agriculture systems as well as bring into greater attention the continuing plight of Filipino farmers, majority of whom continue to reel from mass poverty, hunger and destitution.

“The youth are taking the cudgels for our farmers because they know that the future of their food depends on the agriculture of this country,” said Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines. “Now more than ever, with the challenges brought about by the changing climate, ageing farmers, nutrition security, disaster response, and environmental protection, we need comprehensive, holistic, and responsive policies on food and agriculture that can act to the growing needs and concerns of the Filipinos.”

Filipino youths comprise 40% of the 52 million registered voters, and their support is seen as crucial in the upcoming national elections.

“It warms the heart, especially for older advocates like me, that the next generation of decision makers are, this early, concerned about the future of the nation,” said Cong. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, representative of the lone district of Ifugao. “It is now up to our youth to be effective agents of change. I have no doubt that our youngsters will call upon their immense creativity and energy to take this advocacy to higher levels. Right to adequate and healthy food for everyone is crucial for our future”

The #IAmHampasLupa campaign seeks to liberate the term hampas lupa from its historically and structurally ‘derogative’ connotation by rediscovering and reclaiming its authentic meaning and definition, which literally means “hitting the land” or “tilling the soil”, and aptly conveys what the farmers are doing – breaking ground to cultivate and plant it with various food crops. It starts by changing our perception of farming and acknowledging the vital role that farmers play in our everyday lives. Farmers are looked down upon as farming is considered a poor man’s trade that no one should choose as there is no future in it.

“We challenge our presidential bets – Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay, Mar Roxas, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Rody Duterte – to listen to the combined voices of the Filipino youth and be a hampas lupa,” said Mark Penalver, an NYC participant. “If you are truly thinking of the future of our nation, we urge you to address these important issues and put food and ecological agriculture on top of your platforms. We need concrete actions to actual problems and this is one of them.”

In their National Declaration, the delegates to the NYC said they came together “prodded by the need to act to defend and advance our rights and aspirations to a more secure, clean and sustainable environment, to a decent life and future, and to protect and promote ecological agriculture, which is the main anchor of the country’s food security and sovereignty.”

Youth and student leaders said the NYC is an emerging relevant forum to crystallize the standpoints of the youth on crucial issues of food and agriculture and generate their recommendations and proposed actions from the local and national levels. The NYC is a culminating activity for the year of the #IAmHampasLupa campaign, which gathered the support of more than 1500 youth from its Baguio, Bacolod and Davao regional youth forum held in October and November 2015.

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