In the aftermath of typhoon Pablo, which devastated the provinces of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental on December 4, 2012, farmers here have been at a loss as to how to recoup their loss, much less rebuild their lives.
A huge area of the provinces’ corn fields were flattened by the torrential rain and the high winds, and the anticipated harvest completely lost. Farmers are left scrambling for whatever they can, the prospect of new crops growing fainter by the minute.
In their desperation, corn farmers have asked the government for genetically modified (GM) seeds. Farmers believe that these GM seeds will help them get back on their feet faster, because the crops are said to grow at a much faster rate. However, Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize) President Roger Navarro was told that after meeting with agriculture officials, government says that providing farmers with GM seeds may not be possible. At P9,000 per hectare, the government will have to allocate P270 million to distribute GM seeds to affected farmers, an amount the government believes is “too steep.”
Because of these developments, the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) is spearheading farm rehabilitation efforts to help the affected corn farmers. SEARICE and its network partner in the region, the Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), will not distribute GM seeds, but instead will provide natural white corn seeds, a variety that displays a faster growth rate, along with assorted vegetable seeds. The distribution of material and technological aid will be coursed through the Tribal Mission Foundation, Inc. Putting forward the initial funding and sounding out its other partners, SEARICE is embarking on this urgent mission to see to the immediate needs of affected farmers while the rehabilitation of damaged farmlands is being done. The relief effort will follow natural farming protocols, using all organic and natural methods. Contrary to the farmers’ plea, SEARICE and its network partners will not be distributing GM seeds, as they have always emphasized the inherent health and agricultural risks of genetically modified crops.
The TMFI will set up a nursery for growing seedlings from the donated seeds. Local farmers will be enjoined to grow the seedlings in a work-for-food program.
Aside from corn, SEARICE is donating patola, mustard, pechay, okra, kangkong, pole sitao, and squash seeds. Small packets of assorted seeds consisting sweet pepper, bitter gourd, upo, tomato, eggplant, cowpea, radish and saluyot are also included.
Ongoing damage assessment will determine the recipients of the seedlings.