Freeman Cebu Business

Move away from subsistence farming  

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos - The Freeman

More often, we only realize the gravity of an existential threat to humanity’s existence once a direct and obvious life threatening crisis pervades, like Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. Thus, our decades-old food security concerns loomed largely the past four months.

Probably, most of us weren’t that concerned then as more often, we see a lot of people trooping in fitness gyms spending thousands and, at the same time, go for nutritionist-planned diets to lose weight. Just so unmindful of the rest of our brethren who are underweight as their pockets are starving for pennies and their wallets are on a diet.

First and foremost, we must understand what food security is. According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, food security means that “all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.” Obviously, therefore, the opposite pervades in the world.  That many of us merely exist. On hand-to-mouth existence. 

Left unchecked, the situation can go worse. For one, pundits projected that by 2050, “the world’s population shall be at least 9 billion.” With such size, the demand for food will be enormous. Truth to tell, we shall be a major contributor to such population growth. Growing at the vicinity of 1.7 percent a year or close to 1.8 million, we might be adding 20 million to our current population by then. Thus, our demand for food multiplies.

The question now is, shall we still embrace our current solutions to these clear and present shortages? That of importing rice from our neighboring ASEAN member states and fish (galunggong) from China? Or, should we now roll up our sleeves and harness the potentials of our own resources. 

Yes, our sources of food are clear. Firstly, most of our lands are arable. Sadly, however, we are prevalently into subsistence agriculture or farming. Simply put, most of our farmers are planting crops or raising livestock just enough for their families’ food intake. There are almost no surpluses that they might be able to trade or sale, so they may able to feed one other family.

Secondly, consider the ocean. It is a “huge body of saltwater that covers about 71 percent of Earth’s surface”. Obviously, its influence in our food supply cannot be ignored. In fact, its resources are now viewed as central in our efforts to address the multitude of challenges that humanity is expected to face in the coming decades. Inarguably, as our country is surrounded by bodies of water, we can take advantage of this resource to the hilt.

In tapping these resources, our government already has a full manpower complement in place.  We all know that our local government units already have agriculturists. What are they doing?  Instead of simply adding inches of fat on their bellies why won’t they go out to the subsistence farmers’ abode and help them figure out how to improve their productivity?

By the same token, we need to be reminded that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that “global fish consumption per head has doubled since the 1960s” as the “three billion people now depend on marine sustenance for their primary source of protein.” Yet, according to FAO, “90% of fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.”  Clearly, therefore, the only sustainable solution is aquaculture or fish farming.   

As the population continue to grow and consumption, likewise, going in the same direction, aquaculture or fish farming is now taking center stage. On this, FAO predicted that aquaculture will “produce about 59% of fish for human consumption by 2030”, making it the fastest growing food production sector globally.  

Surrounded by bodies of water, the opportunities are enormous. And while we have agriculturists in the LGUs, we also have the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that is tasked to assist fish farmers in this type of endeavor. 

Indeed, every resource needed is already there. What are we waiting for? Help our farmers move away from subsistence farming and fishers from reliance in fish capture. 

Do we still need another catastrophe for us to realize that food shortages truly exist to push our government agencies to work harder? They are supposed to be off their swivel chairs. Are they mostly sedentary workers? What a shame.


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