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[OPINION] Who will produce our food during the coronavirus crisis?

Ronald Esmas Garcia

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[OPINION] Who will produce our food during the coronavirus crisis?
'It's about time that people residing in urban areas engage in urban agriculture while they practice home quarantine'

When it comes to the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) call for stronger farm-to-market links amid the pandemic, we have to remember that the production side needs to be strengthened as well.

The government should prepare for the worst. There must be a comprehensive plan from the government for sustaining the food supply in the country. We need to have a planned agri-fishery production system as soon as possible to avoid food shortage amid the lockdown. Remember, there is no magic in food production. (READ: [OPINION] Let’s not forget the poor during the coronavirus pandemic)

In this time of crisis, the government should mobilize not only the health care frontliners who fight the virus, but also the frontline workers in the agricultural and fishery sector who can fight hunger in the long run.

The DA should allocate a budget for continuous agricultural production and mobilize the country’s agriculture and fishery sector’s frontline workers (both urban and rural), such as farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural scientists, and agricultural engineers, to ensure that essential food supplies continue to be available for all Filipinos, especially the poor, if things get worse.

This crisis is projected to last for not only a month, but 3 or more months. If the situation gets worse, the country’s food security is at risk.  

Who will produce food for the people?

For a long time, people in highly urbanized areas like Metro Manila were mainly dependent on the people in rural areas in terms of food supply. They do not produce their own food, but are instead consumers of the agricultural products produced by the rural areas.

It’s about time that people residing in urban areas engage in urban agriculture while they practice home quarantine. They can use the vacant spaces in their homes – rooftops included – to plant at least green leafy vegetables for their own consumption. Vertical farming is the key to maximize their limited space.

People in the rural areas, in the meantime, should continue to plant vegetables, root crops, etc. to produce a sufficient amount of agricultural products for their own consumption and to supplement the needed agricultural products in urban areas. Likewise, fisherfolk should also be mobilized to ensure that there is enough supply of fishery products. Of course, social distancing must be observed in all these instances.

Who else?

Through CHED, all agricultural state universities and colleges (SUCs), including UPLB, should also be mobilized by the government. They can use their resources (scientists, engineers, experts, land, technologies, etc.) to engage in agricultural production to produce more food for the people.

Our frontliners might win their fight against the coronavirus in the long run, but there is another fight that we still need to face and win: the fight against hunger. –  

Ronald Esmas Garcia is an Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer by profession and currently an instructor in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department of Bataan Peninsula State University.

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