Oxfam urges gov't to give assistance to small farmers
MANILA, Philippines - An international organization on Friday urged the government to give all the assistance it can to small farmers, who may just help the country survive a looming worldwide food crisis.
In its report, "Growing a Better Future," the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) warned that the world's capacity to produce food is steadily declining, and would not be enough to cope with a 70-percent increase in food demand by 2050.
It also noted that the price of staple foods such as rice and maize will double in the next 20 years, partly due to climate change.
"Poor people simply cannot afford to buy food. By 2050, there will not be enough food," said Barbara Stocking, the UK-based chief executive officer of Oxfam, during a forum in Quezon City.
To avoid this, she said countries must support their farmers, especially those who belong to small farmholdings or till their own lands.
Stocking lamented that ironically, many farmers themselves experience hunger.
"We really need to support small farms to deliver more. Small famers have so little access to many of the things needed to do that," she said. "Half of the number of people who are not eating are actually the small farmers themselves."
Access to credit
In response, Senate food and agriculture committee chairman Francis Pangilinan gave assurances the government is committed to assist small farmers and fisherfolk, particularly in terms of increasing their income.
One of his solutions is to give farmers greater access to credit facilities.
"If we are to achieve food scurity, we must first achieve security for our famers and fisherfolk," Pangilinan said. "It's a matter of life and death, and we need to act now."
Pangilinan announced that his committee and the Department of Agriculture (DA) have created a task force to address farmers' and fisherfolks' needs.
Rice self-sufficiency by 2013
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala echoed Pangilinan's assurance of support for small farmers, saying it is a crucial step for the country to achieve its target of rice self-sufficiency by 2013.
In fact, he said, the country is doing far better than in 2009, when it was named one of the world's largest rice importers.
"I'm glad to tell you that we imported only half of what we imported in 2009 this year," Alcala said. "We have established the biggest rice season crop in the country."
Alcala also assured farmers that the country will only import rice until the end of June, so as not to compete with them during harvest season.
On Friday, Oxfam also launched GROW campaign, "a global movement calling for a radically new approach to the way we grow, share and manage food and other natural resources."