This year’s World Food Day commemorated every October 16, highlights the growing trend of migration and how investments in food security and rural development can prevent its escalation. The Food and Agriculture Organization further cites increased conflict, political instability, hunger, poverty, and climate change as the main factors driving rural migration.
In the Philippines, rural communities, namely the poor farmers and indigenous peoples are usually displaced from their homes and become internal refugees. Militarization in the countryside forces them to flee from their lands and leave behind their farms and sources of livelihoods.
“However, armed conflict is not the root cause of militarization nor rural migration”, according to Sharlene Lopez, National Coordinator of the Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network of the Philippines (AscentPH). “Land grabbing by Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and local big businesses is the main cause for the displacement of farmers and IPs. They employ the military as their private security guards in order to harass the communities and subsequently plunder the natural resources found in the area and to pave the way for business projects such as mega dams, large-scale mining activities, and agri-plantations. Because of these, the peasants who are producers of the country’s staple crops are becoming more and more food insecure and experiencing dire hunger and poverty”, she adds.
FAO’s proposed solution of investing in food security cannot fully answer the twin problems of land grabbing and landlessness widespread in the country. Rural development can only occur through genuine agrarian reform which provides smallholder farmers with their own land to till.
“Instead of investments, support services from the government such as free irrigation, pre and post-harvest facilities, and subsidies must be given to the farmers”, states Lopez.
Indeed, land is life for Filipino farmers and indigenous peoples. Even the United Nations recognizes the fact that, “land is not a mere commodity, but an essential element for the realization of many human rights”.
Thus, access to land enables the people in rural communities to achieve their economic, social, and cultural rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to food, and the right to self-determination.