Freeman Cebu Business

Poverty alleviation: Is it achievable?

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos - The Freeman

Once and for all, let us seriously look into the problems besetting the country today.  Then, we shall see if we do or don’t have programs that are supposedly designed to address them. Knowing that these problems are either man-made or due to man’s attitude or negligence, probably, some proposals are now being deliberated to reinforce what had been done so far. 

On top of the list is abject poverty. Notably, majority of those in dire strait are in the agriculture sector.  In fact, if examined closely, those who are mired in poverty in the highly urbanized cities’ slum areas are rural migrants.  These are offshoots of the continuing rural exodus on account of the feeling and perception of helplessness in the countryside.  Knowing fully well that one-third of our labor force is in the agriculture sector, then, even a little percentage could translate into a huge number.  Worst, despite having the most number in our labor force, the agriculture sector contributes just a disappointing 11% to our gross domestic product.  

This situation is not difficult to understand. Remember, for decades now, despite having one-third of our labor force in the agriculture sector, we’ve been experiencing food shortages.  Ironically, all these decades, this concern has been provided with temporary solutions.  The temporary solutions are a combination of rice importation and government subsidy through the National Food Authority.  All of which are non-farmer-productivity-related. 

Lest we must forget, one of the more popular programs of all governments-that is from President Ramon Magsaysay to President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino- has been the land for the landless program.  While these governments had termed it differently in their stay, the ultimate objective has always been the same.   Supposedly, in trying to empower them by owning the lands they till, they will not only free themselves out of poverty, they shall be able to help this country attain food sufficiency. 

On the contrary, however, instead of helping this country be self-sufficient, we are continuing to subsidize this program.  All these years, the beneficiaries have continued to behave like slaves when in fact, money-wise, this government had already spent a lot to free them.  Worst, they’ve started to act like mendicants by raking in over P4.0 billion in annual subsidy.  With all these annual budgets for many years now, what has so far been achieved?  Nothing much.  Except for a few, some lands are abandoned.  Ironically, some of these beneficiaries are leasing out their lands and content themselves by simply earning rental.   Now, some portions are cultivated.  Sarcastically, however, non-beneficiaries of CARP maintain these.  These non-beneficiaries are mostly entrepreneurs and are profitably cultivating the same land where the beneficiaries failed.   

This scenario isn’t difficult to comprehend.  It simply means that they should abandon the mentality of slaves and bury the attitude of mendicants.  They are now free to till the land they own and be successful entrepreneurs (or as the new coined term aptly labeled it, agripreneurs).  The Department of Agrarian Reform cannot help them in this concern.  As records would show, apart from the anomalous unliquidated advances, who will ever forget DAR’s questionable training fees and consultancy fees incurred in 2006.   

Frankly, without belittling themselves, history tells us that they’ve been proven failures in this poverty alleviation program. As downright misfits, they could never turn these beneficiaries into budding agripreneurs.  Due to this predicament, DAR at this stage is so incompetent and unnecessary.   So that, with this development, what is imperative now is for this government to let other line agencies (like DTI, DA, DOST, et.) get involve and help equip these beneficiaries with sound entrepreneurial skills by taking a more holistic and comprehensive approach.  We should develop successful new farmers by providing them experience-based production and sound business-management training.  Such training must include among others, concerns in production, business, ecology and environment.   Apart from DTI’s Shared Service Facilities Program (which could be in storage facilities, transport equipment, packing and processing facilities), the beneficiaries should also be trained on planting, harvesting, irrigation system, livestock, etc.  Business trainings must include marketing, finances, budgeting, etc.

Indeed, once and for all, this government should be straightforward.  In the past, we all know that our former presidents tasked DAR (which have been ran by ideologues) to take the lead in this poverty alleviation program for some ulterior motives.  While we all know that our country’s leaders need these ideologues’ political support because of their mass base, the beneficiaries’ betterment (to be above poverty line) and food sufficiency through agripreneurship are still paramount and necessary. 

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