By Mac Andre Arboleda
“Who feeds the feeders of the world?”
This question is prefaced in the recent folio entitled “From farms to the frontlines: Figured under quarantine” released by Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) amid the lockdown imposed by the Duterte administration. MASIPAG’s folio comes at a time where food security is one of the most glaring concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While people are forced to stay inside their homes for their safety, there remains the problem of providing food for the most vulnerable sectors: the unemployed, workers with no-work-no-pay arrangements, small business owners, and the poor, including our farmers.
All over the world, we’ve received news about farmers who are forced to throw away perfectly good harvest due to low demand. In Cordillera, an Ifugao farmer reportedly trashed a truckload of carrots down a ravine after failing to sell his vegetables because of the enhanced community quarantine. We see stories about chickens dying in transit because of strict checkpoints, dairy farmers disposing thousands of liters of milk, with both producers and consumers going hungry. What’s worse is that even in the middle of a global pandemic, police and military forces continue to arrest and kill members of farmers groups, environmental defenders, land rights activists who are red-tagged and accused with false charges. Community kitchens are dismantled, and farmers suffer as they await the government’s slow response to give aid and relief.
Composed of 25 visual and textual works from several artists and writers, MASIPAG’s folio covers various issues confronted by farmers including state violence and neglect, land ownership, and organic farming. Included also is an infographic entitled “Land Monopoly Map” detailing the areas of haciendas and landholdings, as well as areas of plantations and corporations per Philippine region. The author pushes for genuine land reform: “[The] problem of landlessness is one of the main roots of armed conflict in the country.”
Although the folio falls a bit short in providing exact “figures under quarantine,” the publication’s stand is resolute: that the frontliners of our society have always been and will forever be our food producers. Our fight for food security must not end after this pandemic, and we must protect our farmers because they are our lifeline. To quote a line from the introduction, “Science proves we survive in packs.” At a time of forced isolation, uncertainty, and hunger, more than ever should we build a community that feeds our feeders.
The digital folio launch was part of Resistance and Solidarity against Agrochemical Transnational Corporations (RESIST) and MASIPAG’s six-day campaign against the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). MASIPAG, a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, NGOs and scientists whose mission is to “improve the quality of life of resource-poor farmers”, began their “Six Days of Action to Shut Down IRRI” on March 29, the yearly Day of the Landless, and ended on April 3, a day before IRRI held its 60th founding anniversary.
The campaign had called for the closure of IRRI, as well as people’s rights to food security and sovereignty. According to the campaign’s statements, IRRI has been responsible for the erasure of indigenous practices of sustainable agriculture, enforcement of anti-farmer policies, violation of worker and peasant rights, environmental damage, corporate control of seeds and agriculture, and widespread food insecurity. MASIPAG also screened their documentary Feeding Lies that showed testimonies from former IRRI workers, scientists, and peasant leaders exposing the issues that arose after the organization’s establishment. [P]
Photos from MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura)