Farmers in Mindanao who were severely affected by the double El Niño last year and early this year, and who currently may be facing threats from La Niña, received a response package this past week, June 6-8, consisting of organic palay seeds and fertilisers.
The organic seeds and fertilisers were provided by farming communities who were able to survive the recent El Niño with seeds to spare as a result of their adopting ecological agriculture practices and early warning services provided by the local government units. More than 300 farmers from Alamada, North Cotabato; Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat; Malungon, Saranggani; and Upi, Maguindanao received the response package.
Greenpeace together with the Rice Watch Action Network (R1), the #IAmHampasLupa Youth Movement for Ecological Agriculture, Passionist Center for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Inc (PC-JPIC), and local governments units facilitated the response.
Despite the early warnings by PAG-ASA about El Niño, Philippine agriculture still posted a 4.53 per cent drop in production  in the first quarter of 2016 due to drought brought by El Niño and the effects of Typhoons Lando and Nona. El Niño destroyed rice and other crops in 28 provinces in the country, mostly in Mindanao. The phenomenon caused widespread hunger among the farmers, which led to a rally that was violently dispersed in Kidapawan City last April.
“With the clear gap in government response, Greenpeace is now calling on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte for a more pro-active solution by shifting the Philippine food and agriculture system to an environment-friendly and climate-resilient system that would ensure food and nutrition security and uplift the lives of Filipino farmers, especially as we continue to fend off the effects of El Niño and prepare for La Niña,” said Leonora Lava, Senior Ecological Agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
“Where the government failed, farmers who were trained by R1, PAG-ASA and their local government units via the climate resiliency field schools, were able to respond. The seeds and organic fertilizers distributed last year for Typhoon Lando and this year for this El Niño response are proof that ecological agriculture is an advanced, climate-resilient system. What more proof is needed to convince the government to transition farmers to ecological farming? ” Lava added.
Sta. Magdalena and Irosin, Sorsogon – sites of Climate Resiliency Field Schools (CRFS) employing ecological farming – were also affected by El Niño but nonetheless were able to keep their yields healthy despite the extreme heat, and produced more than enough yield to respond to other El Niño victims in Mindanao. Last year, Sta. Magdalena was also able to provide seeds for the seed and fertilizer response of Greenpeace and R1 to farmers in Central Luzon who were affected by Typhoon Lando.
“What our farmers need is a farming system that is diverse and will provide them with harvest even under extreme weather conditions, and which will free them from the debt trap that big agricultural companies currently have them in, wherein each season they need to keep buying from such companies the seeds that are engineered to supposedly withstand the toxic chemicals from these companies’ own-branded pesticides. Experience already shows that ecological agriculture is the system that will deliver,” said CT Ivy Ampatuan, executive director of the #IAmHampasLupa Movement.
“President-elect Duterte’s promise of change is welcomed by the whole nation, and change should begin by correcting our broken agriculture system that continues to bury our farmers in debt and poisons our fields with relentless use of chemicals. We are calling on our incoming President to champion the cause of small holder farmers in the face of big agricultural corporations who are taking advantage of them,” Ampatuan added.
Greenpeace is calling on the incoming government for improved investments in ecological agriculture to boost the resiliency of the nation’s farming. It is recommending that government develop well-funded programs that will enhance the capacity of farmers, empowering them to become self-sufficient and respond to crisis. Greenpeace is also recommending the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive food policy that will address food, nutrition and environmental security.