Agriculture stakeholders’ participation in the management of COVID-19 crisis is imperative. There are two critical areas that need urgent attention—medicine (to cure victims) and food (to survive). But there is not enough attention being given to agriculture in crucial COVID-19 meetings and government directives.

Frustrated with the misgo­vernance in agriculture, the Alyansa Agrikultura, composed of 32 federations and organizations representing farmers, fisherfolk and producers, united in 2010 with four other coalitions to form the Agri Fisheries Alliance (AFA). The other four groups are: Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI-agribusiness); Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP-science and academe); Pambansang Kilusan ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK-rural women); and Agri Fisheries 2025 (multisectors).

Here is the chronology of their submitted COVID-19 recommendations to the government:

• March 23 – Alyansa Agrikultura, under the Bayanihan sa Agrikultura Laban sa COVID-19, signed with nine other organizations the following recommendations:

– Production – Allow small farming families to continue working on their farms, provided they are protected with COVID-19 mitigating measures

– Distribution – Provide for supply chains and allow produ­cers and local government units (LGUs) to collaborate in designated drop-off stations.

– Self reliance – Promote private gardening and provide seeds and planting materials to help communities to grow and provide diverse food sources in each barangay.

• March 24 – Department of Agriculture (DA): The Inter-Agency Task Force approved the DA measures, which gave substance to the previously mentioned recommendations: “Allow all farming and fishing activities to continue; reiterate unhampered movement of all supplies used for agriculture; and upscale Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita in support for food availability, accessibility and price stability.

• March 25 – CAMP described a “looming food crisis” and advocated a community mobilization initiative.

– Establish a community-based food system: Production, distribution, processing and recycling, enjoin every household to grow food.

• Call on the mayors and gover­nors to provide the needed coordination, financial and moral support for their barangays.

– Note: In a March 26 ANC interview, the AFA supported this fully with two key points—barangay empowerment and supply chain management.

• March 27 – PKKK emphasized the women’s role

• LGUs to start creating a responsive community-based system, while ensuring wo­men farmers are vital by providing the support they too need, and not just the men.

• Barangays to designate community gardens where productive and reproductive contributions of women can be possible, such as in raising pechay, onions, cucumber, etc. that can be grown in 30 days.

• March 30 – PCAFI put emphasis on localized implementation and bureaucratic bottlenecks

• Establish emergency trading centers in barangays and provide logistical requirements, delivery systems and marketing support for the producers

• Farmers should not be blocked at check points. Factories producing packaging materials should be allowed to operate.

With the commendable work Agriculture Secretary William Dar is currently doing, the most urgent problems today are the roadblocks set up by some well-meaning mayors and barangay captains. The solution is found in the decisive leadership of Philippine National Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar who is correc­ting this so well. But the remai­ning aggrieved parties must do their share by reporting specific details to the PNP hotlines of 0908-8490013 and 0917-5382495.

For it is only with the active participation of the farmers, fisher­folk and agriculture stakeholders especially in situations like this that our government will succeed in the management of the COVID-19 crisis. INQThe author is Agriwatch chair, former Secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects and former undersecretary of Agriculture and Trade and Industry. Contact him via [email protected]

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