BAGUIO CITY — “How are we going to feed our children?” This is the question an ordinary mother in the Cordillera region raises.
In the latest Innabuyog Regional Council Meeting on August 15-16, 2008, hunger was seen looming for ordinary Cordillera women.
The urgent issue that the Regional Council discussed is hunger and poverty. According to Innabuyog Chairperson Vernie Yocogan-Diano, Cordillera women play a big role in the food assurance of their families and communities—from ensuring the traditional seeds to the planting and harvesting and finding remedies along with their husbands, to ensure food on the family table and other basic needs like education and health.
“With intensifying hunger and poverty not just in rural but also in urban areas, Cordillera women are in in more difficult times searching for food resources. The subsistence agricultural production, which used to be sustainable and self-sufficient is taken over by cash economy. Families have to produce cash for commodities and other needs like education and health,” said Diano.
Diano also said with the concoction of the economic crisis, imperialist plunder, militarization and even climate change, food and livelihood are becoming scarce in the region making Cordillera indigenous women search for alternative ways to provide for their families.
Other members of the council confirmed that rice cropping and vegetable farming entail high inputs. Expensive fertilizers and pesticides, high rent of equipment and land, and even expensive transport for products leave them with almost nothing. Imported vegetables and rice flooding local market displace local produce.
Localized rice crisis
Manang Appol explained that rice harvest in Mompolia, Hingyon in Ifugao used to suffice but now, what they would keep for their own consumption, they now sell in the market to have the much needed cash.
They sell the native rice from P50 a kilo or a bit higher depending on the quality to enable them to buy NFA rice, which they buy for P25 a kilo. Supply is limited to three to five kilos and a family has to spend almost a day queueing.
Even professionals are seen in long queues in the town centers for the cheaper NFA rice. Commercial rice now sells at P37 or more.
With the dire need for cash to cope with the economic crisis, traditional food sources are now grown and harvested for the market.
Diano said it is also evident that with today’s economic inflation affecting the prices of commodities and services, the Cordillerans are now faced with the challenge to earn even more than what was supposed to be enough.
In 2007, Cordillera was namong provinces with highest malnutrition rates in the country. All over Cordillera, children are noted to lack the necessary nutritional support.
“Worse, efforts from the government such as feeding and medical programs to the Cordilleran children are inefficient, unsustainable and only serve as showcase for the government’s hunger mitigation program,” added Diano.
Mining and militarization
The Innabuyog RC meeting also showed that mining and militarization in areas like Abra, Kalinga and Apayao also contribute to the worsening hunger situation of Cordillera women and children.
According to Diano, the Lepanto mines continue to poison agricultural and food resources in Mankayan, Benguet, Ilocos and Abra. Land and river poisonong, siltation and erosion are seen to happen in areas where mining exploration is being conducted like Baay-Licuan in Abra, Kalinga and Apayao.
Initially, Innabuyog leaders view the seed and fertilizer subsidy as benefiting more the seed and fertilizer traders more than the ordinary or poor farmer. According to them discount coupons are not available to all poor farmers and so far the Department of Agriculture (DA) has indicated a limit on the supply that is discounted.
The women leaders believe that the market-driven support could hardly be sustained by the poor farmers. They said it would also be a source of corruption in he government and ultimately the agricultural supply business would be the beneficiary and not the poor farmers.
The leaders also identified other problems they face like unemployment and the economic dislocation or out-migration of residents due to militarization especially in areas applied for mining projects.
Innabuyog, through support institutions like the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC), monitor and hold action research discussions on the prevailing hunger and poverty of indigenous women in the Cordillera.
The yearly Regional Council meeting of Innabuyog gathers its leaders from the different provinces and sectors of the Cordillera Region. They meet for updates, analysis and action planning to respond to the current situation of ordinary indigenous women in the region. # Innabuyog Release