OPINION: Ending poverty can be Duterte’s best legacy

Harvey S. Keh

Posted at Aug 22 2016 12:55 PM

My family and I visited the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija last week. During our brief stay there, I had the chance to meet with some farmers whose lives were dramatically improved through the center’s Enterprise Development Program. 

This program trains farmers on how to maximize the capacities of their carabaos wherein its primary purpose is no longer to be used for hard farm labor but instead, they will be used to provide carabao milk for the farmer. 

According to PCC, a carabao can produce an average of 4-6 liters of carabao milk per day. The milk is then sold by the farmers’ cooperatives to traders and companies who use this product.
 
One farmer told me that he used to earn just less than P 2,000 per month in planting rice but when he joined PCC’s training program, his income shot up to P 15,000 per month! This enabled him to ensure that his family no longer experiences hunger and he is now able to send all his children to school. 

Currently, there are more than 1,000 farmers that are now benefiting from this program. Imagine if this can be scaled up all over the country, then perhaps we will be able to conquer poverty sooner than later. 

Congratulations to PCC Executive Director Dr. Arnel del Barrio and his management team for this successful initiative!

Increase DA Budget for farmers and fisherfolk

This shows us that given proper support, the development of agriculture in our country is one of the best ways to help move millions of Filipinos out of poverty. 

I hope that the present administration, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, will reconsider its decision to cut the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) budget by almost P3 billion.
 
Instead of cutting the DA’s budget, it should be increased so more infrastructure and support can be given to our farmers and fishermen. 

Additional budget for the DA should be given to increase the capacities of our farmers and cooperatives to be able to train them to have an entrepreneurial and market-driven mindset when it comes to planning what they will plant. 

This will ensure that even before they start planting, they would already know that there is a sure market that would purchase their products. 

Aside from this, the setting up of more public drying and cold storage facilities will ensure that the produce of our farmers will not go to waste. 

If this can be done together with the construction of more farm-to- market roads, then our farmers will no longer have to rely on middlemen to buy their produce. They can now go directly to the markets and be able to earn more for their families. 

As it is right now, it is the traders and the middlemen who earn so much more rather than the farmer who labored in the heat of the sun for several months. 

National Agricultural Calamity Fund
 
Finally, a national agricultural calamity fund should be established to assist farmers who are affected by natural calamities such as typhoons. 

Last year, many farmers in Nueva Ecija had to literally beg our government for help because of two strong typhoons that hit the province and wiped out all their crops. 

Sadly, many of these farmers can no longer move out of poverty because they have to pay off exorbitant interest rates from the loan sharks that victimized them during their time of greatest need.
 
Hopefully, if and when the Duterte administration gives more priority and funds to agriculture, then there is hope that we would be able to finally move our country out of poverty by the end of his 6-year term. 

When this happens, then this would be the best legacy that he can leave behind as arguably one of the best leaders that our country has ever had. 
 
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Harvey S. Keh is the Executive Director of the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.