THE looming food security crisis brought about by the confluence of various factors – notable among them the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and climate change – requires urgent game changing solutions both on the global and local level.
Here in South East Asia a report in The Diplomat (https://thediplomat.com/2022/02/addressing-the-southeast-asian-food-security-vulnerabilities-exposed-by-covid-19/) bears the title “Food Security Vulnerabilities Exposed by COVID-19” and with the sub-title, “The pandemic has highlighted just how precarious the region’s food supplies are.” This is a reality that South East Asian nations, the Philippines included, have to face and it is the stark possibility of food security problems for most of them. Given this food insecurity situation countries will have to do their best to maximize food production to feed their people.
In the Philippines, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte already approved several measures proposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to soften the impact of economic challenges on the global level on the food security of the country. These measures include the following: “a. Additional budget to fund part two of the DA’s flagship “Plant, Plant, Plant” program; b. Realignment of the 2022 DA budget; c. Provision of concessional loans by the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines to provincial local government units for palay procurement and rice buffer stocking; and d. Transfer of oversight of the National Irrigation Administration back to the DA.
On top of these, DA Secretary William Dar also emphasized the role of urban agriculture as a means to ensure food supply by boosting and augmenting food security. This came about as Secretary Dar observed that amidst the continuing pandemic economies are affected by lockdowns particularly in urban areas that are dependent on food produced in the countryside. Dar added that urban farms go a long way in helping local governments allay the effects of disruption along the food value chain.
So with urban agriculture being given a premium by no less than the agriculture secretary, perhaps additional measures can also be activated and implemented towards the realization of a sustainable and continuing food production as a consequence of urban agriculture.
Closer to home, here in the city of Baguio, even as we realize the limitations on available agricultural land, there is still the opportunity to encourage the citizenry and communities to adopt their own urban gardening practices applying modern scientific methods to raise fruits and vegetables in their backyards. To jumpstart things, the city government can initially direct all the 128 barangays to establish community gardens where their constituencies are given the opportunity to plant and grow their own food. For those barangays without available space to put up their community urban gardens, partnerships can be established with other barangays who enjoy bigger land areas that are suitable for urban gardening.
There are already several barangays with their own urban gardens but there is a need to further encourage their constituencies to also put up urban gardens in their own backyards. Towards this end perhaps the barangay officials can go around and come up with an inventory of available backyards that are suitable for urban gardening and educate the owners on how they can grow their own food.
With the precarious global situation right now on food production and food security, it only makes sense to encourage the participation of everyone in putting up a sustainable and continuing mechanism that provides food on the table.