Farmers convene to achieve rice, food staple sufficiency

FARMER-leaders gathered today to take stock of accomplishments and forge stronger partnerships to further sustain and enhance their contribution to attaining the country’s goal of food sufficiency and security.

The two-day event, dubbed as ‘National Convention of Food Staple Producers,’ highlights the important role of the country’s ‘food soldiers’ to achieve sufficiency in rice and major staples, as part of the Aquino administration medium-term Food Staples Sufficiency  Program (FSSP).

Totaling about 1,300, the convenors include officers and members of Irrigators’ Associations (IAs) who manage and maintain national and communal irrigation systems and small water impounding systems (SWISAs), farmer-scientists, rural women and youth, and indigenous peoples (IPs). The event, held at Manila Hotel, is spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture.

Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the convention  serves as a venue to sustain and strengthen its partnerships with IAs, SWISAs, and farmers’ groups — particularly members of the Pambansang Mannalon, Mag-uuma, Magbabaul, Magsasaka ng Pilipinas (or P4MP), Rural Improvement Clubs (RICs), 4-H Clubs, Magsasaka Siyentista, and IPs — to attain the goals of FSSP, and make the country sufficient in rice and major staples by end of 2013.

The DA has invited President Benigno S. Aquino III as main guest and keynote speaker on the second day, December 13. The participants will present to the President and Secretary Alcala a platform of action and advocacies in support of the FSSP.

“Under the FSSP, we also want to develop and strengthen farmer-to-farmer extension systems, in addition to providing them modern technologies, quality seeds and other interventions to further improve their productivity and incomes, and make them globally competitive,” said the DA chief.

The DA will likewise teach and encourage farmers to adopt cost-efficient, sustainable yet high-yielding production technologies to lower their cost of production. These include promoting integrated pest management techniques to reduce crop losses due to pests and diseases, and providing farmers modern and sustainable technologies, equipment and facilities to reduce postharvest losses.

Another goal of the FSSP is to encourage consumers to reduce rice wastage, and ensure that there is abundant and affordance supply of other traditional staples for those who prefer them, so they would not shift to rice.

During the convention, the participants will band together and form a national network of food staple producers, aptly calling themselves as “Bayanihan para sa Pambansang Kasapatan sa Pagkain.”

The FSSP was launched July this year by President Aquino and Secretary Alcala during an agricultural machinery exhibit, called ‘Makina-Saka.’ It is the DA’s roadmap to realize  President Aquino’s directive during his 2011 State of the Nation Address:
“Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi na tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-aangkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan de la Cruz dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”

Also at the convention — with the theme: “Pagkaing Sapat, Magsasakang Angat, Tagumpay Nating Lahat”— the President and the DA chief will jointly launch the National Year of Rice (NYR) advocacy campaign.

Convenors include the officers and members of the National Confederation of IAs  (NCIA), which to date has 7,026 IAs (2,277 national irrigation systems or NIS and 4,249 communal irrigation systems or CIS), and 915,175 individual members (554,653 from NIS, 360,522 from CIS). The NCIA is under the supervision and guidance of the DA-NIA.

Another group is composed of the officers of Small Water Impounding System Associations (SWISAs), who represent 642 federated members, with 12, 713 individual members. The SWISAs are guided by the DA through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).

The DA through the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) oversees and assists rural-based organizations that include the P4MP, RICs, 4-H Clubs, and more recently farmer-scientists and IPs.

At the convention, the P4MP delegation will represent 573 farmers’ groups with 25,649 individual members. The group was organized in 2004.

The rural women’s group or RICs will represent 7,652 clubs nationwide, which has a total membership of 334,564. The RIC was organized in 1934.

The rural farm youth or 4-H Clubs will be represented by their national officers. To date, the country has 2,644  4-H Clubs.

The DA-ATI has to date  enlisted 500 farmer-scientists, and 10  IP groups nationwide.

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