North Luzon Monitor

North Luzon

Of Farm Girls and Farmers

JP Villanueva
Latest posts by JP Villanueva (see all)

The Philippines is considered to be an agricultural country. Agriculture has historically been a significant sector in the Philippine economy, contributing to employment, food security, and rural development. And for someone to consider oneself as a farm girl, it is something to be proud of. A part of me is happy that a supposedly prominent public servant like Mayor Alice Guo would be proud to call herself a farm girl.

On the other hand, when I saw a meme on Facebook saying that of all the people who grew up in the farm, she’s the only one who is so rich that she has all these luxury cars, a helicopter and what have you, while the rest are wallowing in poverty, it got me thinking, how can this happen that even if the Philippines is considered as an agricultural country, the sector remains poor?

Farmers in the Philippines face a range of challenges that contribute to their poverty. First, most farmers do not own the farmland they are tilling. So, they only get a measly part of the profits of the farm, while the landlord gets the most part of the profit.

Second, farmers often lack access to affordable credit, which is essential in buying farm inputs like seeds/seedlings, fertilizers, and equipment. High interest rates and stringent loan requirements make borrowing difficult that is why they are forced to borrow from usurers, be it in money amounts or farm inputs. Come harvest time, these usurers are first to get a share in the measly share they get from the profits of the farm.

Third, productivity is low. This may be due to outdated farming practices, lack of access to modern technology, and insufficient infrastructure like irrigation systems. It is just sad that from being the world’s largest exporter of rice with the best expertise in this field, to now being the world’s largest importer of rice.

Fourth, farmers often face difficulties in accessing markets to sell their produce. They are at the mercy of middle men who take advantage of them, buying their products at a very low price. I have observed this in the La Trinidad Trading Post. The poor farmers are just forced to good just so they don’t go home empty handed or dump their produce on a cliff just because they are just rotting away waiting for prices to go up. 

Fifth is natural and environmental factors. Climate change has drastically affected the agricultural sector. Not to mention the many natural disasters like typhoons that affect the country every year, affecting many farm lands and their crops. This makes farming very unpredictable and risky.

Sixth, lack of government support. While the government has many programs that aim at supporting the agricultural sector, there are a lot of issues that hinder the proper implementation of these programs. The main issue is corruption, like the fertilizer fund scandal. The funds trickling from the national government would be slashed by corrupt officials as it goes down to the main recipient, leaving the farmers receiving close to nothing.

Seventh, there is inadequate infrastructure for agriculture. Irrigation systems were already mentioned earlier, but aside from that farm-to-market road networks are not yet fully developed for most areas in the country. I remember reading a research done on farmers in some municipalities of Benguet who resort to planting cannabis because it is easier to propagate and “bring” to the market as opposed to agricultural crops like potatoes. Imagine carrying 20 or 50 kilos of potatoes to the main road because there are no roads and gaining a small amount of money as against cannabis with just one kilo gaining more. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not encouraging farmers to plant cannabis, but I just want to highlight the reality that farmers choose just because there are not enough roads for them to make their lives easier.

Eighth is the high costs of farm inputs like seeds/seedlings, fertilizers and pesticides. These would greatly diminish their profits. Imagine already having low yield, thus lower revenues then costs are high, profits would be much lower. In the end, the share of the farmer from the profits will be greatly affected.


And lastly, health and nutrition. It is ironic that the very people who are planting and producing food for the country are the ones who do not have food to eat. How can they sustain the hard work in the farms if they are not well nourished and even fed? This would reduce labor productivity. Furthermore, the prohibitive costs of healthcare services limit their access, so in cases that they get sick, they could not easily recover from it or even worse, cause their death.

It is ironic that someone in the likes of Mayor Alice Guo would claim to be a farm girl or more accurately, someone who grew in the farm, would be so filthy rich, while the real farmers, thos  who do the hard work in the farms, remain in deep poverty. I wonder how did she do it? 

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