Category Archives: News & Updates

Job Opportunity at MASIPAG

MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura, Farmer-Scientist Partnership), is a nationwide network of farmers’ organizations, scientists and non-government organizations working to empower resource-poor Filipino farmers through their control of seeds and biological resources, agricultural production and technologies, and associated knowledge.

Our regional office in Luzon is looking for a dynamic, self-driven individual who is committed to make his/her contribution to development work.

We are looking for a Program Coordinator on Climate Change Resilience who can assume leadership in planning, coordination and operationalization of the component activities of the Climate Change Resiliency Program. He or she will work in close coordination with MASIPAG Area Coordinators and the local partner organizations and people’s organizations (POs) on the ground.

Specific tasks include:

1. Initiating the planning and implementation of the program component activities and discussing results and assessment with the immediate supervisor;
2. Conducting needs assessment of the POs and their communities and facilitating the implementation of climate change resilience building interventions;
3. Assisting or guiding the POs in planning for the development of community-wide sustainable and resilient farming practices and in the assessment of the same;
4. Initiating linkage building and resource mobilization with capable groups, organizations or institutions in support to the needs of assisted communities and POs;
5. Innovating ways in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the program implementation;
6. Enhancing the functioning of the committee system of the POs and strengthen the practice of Bayanihan system;
7. Monitoring and documenting successful resilient practices and experiences of assisted communities and their organization;
8. Preparing and submitting required reports to immediate supervisor;
9. Performing other tasks as may be delegated by immediate supervisor.

Accountability: Reports to the Regional Coordinator

Interested applicants may send their application letter and resume to masluz@masipag.org addressed to:

Mr. Eugene Britanico
Regional Coordinator
MASIPAG Luzon

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Training Mindanao’s Next Breeders

Davao City – MASIPAG successfully concluded a rice breeding training among its members and partners to further step up the initiatives for food security and assert farmers’ control over genetic resources.

“We borrowed what we know about rice breeding from Ka Pecs, we are just here to share it to you,” says Berbardo M. Portillo, an experienced rice breeder from Surigao del sur, as he shared his expectations for the rice breeders training.

Perfecto “Ka Pecs” Vicente – one of Masipag’s pillars, was well cherished by those who knew him and was loved by those who share his passion for uplifting the lives of resource poor farmers. His most ardent admirers are the farmers he trained in rice breeding, Bernardo one of them.

“We are blessed to have with us the trainers who were trained by Ka Pecs himself,” says Lucille Ortiz referring to the trainers, one of them is Precila “Diday” Gomez, who brought with her the actual visual aides used by Ka Pecs.

“He would be so proud” adds Ortiz.

The training participants, fifteen all in all, are Masipag farmers, representatives of partner institutions and local governments who have successfully established trial farms in their respective localities. Their rice farms are under various stages of development, some of which are on the cusp of mass production.

“We are happy to be attending this training,” says Marelyn of Bunga Coconut Farmers Association of Lanuza Surigao Del Sur. She says that the breeding techniques taught during that training would be a valuable tool for them to develop and improve the genetic qualities of their rice stocks so that they would no longer pay huge sums of money for hybrid varieties peddled to them by traders.

“This is a huge breakthrough for Mindanao,” exclaims Leo XL Fuentes, Mindanao’s Regional Coordinator. “This is the first time that we, as the new Masipag Mindanao will be having this training,” he adds. “This training would not have been made possible if not for the farmers who have painstakingly endured the hardships of Masipag’s organization problems and persevered in their collective efforts to establish their trial farms,” Fuentes adds.

Fuentes shares that providing farmers with the ability to bring greater genetic diversity to their rice stocks through participatory rice breeding could offer significant layers of protection against genetic erosion and ultimately against climate change as farmers can now improve rice traits which are more responsive to various climatic conditions such as drought, flood and salinity.

“Being dubbed as the food basket of the country, Mindanao’s agricultural economy would greatly benefit from farmers who are empowered, driven and have a high technical competence as it charts a more sustainable future moving forward,” Fuentes adds.

Farmer-led rice breeding has been one of the core programs of MASIPAG. Through rice breeding, farmers are able to exercise their control over the genetic resources they use in their farms. As of 2016, MASIPAG has a total collection of 506 farmer-bred rice and around 70 farmer rice breeders.

For more photos of the training, check out MASIPAG in Mindanao’s Facebook page. #

On the Occasion of Earth Day: Farmers-scientists group expresses support for Sec. Gina Lopez and calls for the protection of environment

PRESS RELEASE

Farmers-scientists group MASIPAG welcomes the renewed appointment of Dept. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez by President Rodrigo Duterte, and deems it timely with the global commemoration of Earth Day this April 22. The President re-dappointed Sec. Lopez, along with Sec. Judy Taguiwalo (Welfare), Sec. Rafael Mariano (Agrarian Reform) and Sec. Paulyn Ubial (Health) after they were bypassed by the Committee of Appointments in the House of Representatives.

“We are pleased with the re-appointment of Sec. Gina Lopez, as we believe that she strongly cares for the environment and the people,” Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “We laud her firm stand against the destruction of our natural resources, especially by large-scale mining operations.”

“In this day and age when we are already experiencing the intense effects of climate change, now is the time to stop destructive activities such as large-scale, commercial mining and massive use of harmful agricultural chemicals. We should now focus on rehabilitating the environment and preserving what is left of our precious biodiversity and natural resources,” added Panerio.

In March, the CA refused to confirm Sec Lopez after mining companies intensely lobbied to oppose her appointment at Philippine Congress. Sec. Lopez has recently declared the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of operations of 5 mines found to be violating environmental laws, after an audit of 41 mining firms. She is now at the receiving end of both the praise of environmental groups, and flak from mining companies and apologists, with the representatives of the latter testifying against Sec. Lopez during the CA hearings.

MASIPAG and its member organizations strongly oppose large-scale mining because of its impacts on food and agricultural production, the loss of biodiversity and destruction of the environment.

“Contrary to the promise of better life for the people and the community, the mining operations in our province only brought suffering,” said Elmer Bolusan, a farmer-leader from MASIPAG in Nueva Vizcaya. “It is deplorable that mining companies brag about rural development when in fact they only destroy our environment, our source of culture and livelihood. The big mining corporations benefit from environmental destruction while the people remain hungry and poor.”

Nueva Vizcaya is among the provinces with the most number of mining applications – said to be almost double the size of the province as the applications are “piled on top of the other.” Farmers and indigenous peoples’ groups in the province have been locked in an intense battle as the mining applications stand to damage critical watershed areas.

“The mining operations in the mountain ranges of Nueva Vizcaya have displaced scores of settlers, destroyed sources of livelihoods, and even caused the conflicts among tribes that are traditionally at peace with each other,” stated Bolusan.

“We need a DENR secretary like Sec. Gina Lopez who has the political will to go after destructive mining operations that poses threats to environment and people’s health and livelihood,” Roberto Cordova, a farmer leader from Negros.

“In southern Negros, the operation of Maricalum Mining Company (MMC) has brought untold sufferings for farmers and years of protest remains unheard by DENR officials. The collapse of the tailings dam of MMC has destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of rice lands in Sipalay City and cases of heavy metal poisoning among the populace. Almost 85 percent of land area of the City of Sipalay and Municipality of Hinobaan were covered by mining applications,” added Cordova.

“Despite the outrageous claims of the mining companies, and even some academe, the contribution of the mining industry in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) only ranges from 0.6-0.7% since 2012,” said XL Fuentes Jr., Regional Coordinator for MASIPAG in Mindanao. “Meanwhile, agriculture contributes 10% of our GDP, therefore farming is far more significant in our economy and is way less destructive than mining.”

“Sec. Gina is right in putting priorities in the conservation of our environment and natural resources to benefit the people, and for that, she has all our support,” added Fuentes.

Sec. Lopez’s advocacy is right along the campaigns and calls of MASIPAG for a more sustainable development, as espoused in MASIPAG’s programs for farmer-led and farmer-centered sustainable agriculture. For more than 30 years, MASIPAG has pushed for an alternative method of agricultural productions that emphasized the conservation and improvement of agrobiodiversity, and maximizing the available natural resources to improve and develop farm production. MASIPAG promotes diversification and integration of farms, as well as using local resources for soil fertility management, enabling the farmers to avoid the use of harmful synthetic chemical inputs. The reduced cost of production, along with the added income from surplus agricultural products has allowed the farmers to also enjoy the economic, as well as health benefits of organic, sustainable production. ###

ASIAN FARMERS DECRY REVIVAL OF GOLDEN RICE FIELD TRIALS

AGROCHEM TNCs GUILTY OF ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION ON EARTH DAY

 

Quezon City, Philippines – Amidst the celebration of Earth Day, farmers and civil societies coming from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as regional organizations such as the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, Asian Peasants Coalition and GRAIN, called for the utmost protection and preservation of the environment by rejecting destructive and corporate dominated technologies such as Golden rice and GM crops that are presently threatening the lives and livelihood of Asian farmers.

Applications for the field testing and direct use of Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop touted as the solution to Vitamin A deficiency, is presently filed and awaiting approval from the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry in the Philippines.

Asian peoples’ organizations coming from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines express deep concern regarding the imminent commercialization of the Golden Rice and other GM crops and its effect to their country’s food security, farmers’ livelihood and environmental health.

Golden Rice may affect Philippine rice industry

A recent study made by scientist in India showed that the derived lines of Golden Rice produced phenotypic abnormality and poor agronomic performance making it unfit for commercial cultivation.

Mr Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG said that the study correlates on the pronouncements by IRRI regarding the status of Golden Rice on March 2014. “IRRI stated in its website last 2014 that average yield was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers. It is highly likely that this inherent defect associated with the modification of the rice plant has disrupted the native structure of the rice plant making it perform less. This new information about the unintended effects of genetic modification was not detected in previous investigations.”

“The worst thing that could possibly happen is that the trait can transfer to other rice varieties or weedy relatives thru cross-contamination once the field testing is approved. This will prove disastrous to our already volatile rice production. The uprooting of the Golden Rice field trial by more than 400 farmers and sectoral groups last 2013 proved to be just, given the dangerous nature of the said product” said Panerio.

This has prompted farmers groups in Asia to call for the immediate halt of the said project, stating that the said GM crop would adversely affect the staple food crop of billions of people across Asia. Golden Rice patents are owned by Swiss Agrochem Syngenta, which recently merged with ChemChina a giant Agrochem corporation based in China.

Corporate Greed behind GM crops

Apart from Golden Rice, Asia is a huge market for the bioscience industry wherein a plethora of GM crops are being introduced or are in the process of commercialization. These GM crops have wreaked havoc among farmers wherein it brought more debts, genetic erosion, soil degradation and even suicides.

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi of the Pesticide Action Network India said that Bt cotton proved to be a failure in India. “Pest resistance has increased in the past decades coupled with the increase in cost of Bt cotton production. We have also observed lots of non-germinating Bt cotton seeds causing losses to farmer investments. But farmers are left with no compensation from private seed companies. These factors have led to Indian farmers taking their lives because Bt cotton failed to uplift the livelihood of the farmers.” Dr Reddy also pointed out that most biosafety protocols currently in place are under-developed and lax, even while GM proponents gloss over it. Contamination of traditional crops and food systems by under-quality GM seeds are leading to loss of genetic purity, environmental problems and health concerns.

In Vietnam, Agrochem giants Monsanto and Syngenta are enjoying gains from the country’s recent adoption of GM corn. Ms Thi Tran Lanh, Executive Director of Community Entrepreneur Development Institute (CENDI) said that GM corn are being grown in two provinces in Vietnam, with 21 more provinces doing pilot testing of the said GM crop. “It is estimated that about 1.1M hectares were planted with GM corn last 2016 in Vietnam and the forecast for this year is that Vietnam would be planting around 1.3M hectares of GM corn. It is estimated that approximately 30-50% of Vietnams’ agricultural land will be for GM crops in 2020, which is quite alarming. We must recall that Monsanto, the leading producer of GM crops, is also behind the production of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, the consequences of which has affected many Vietnamese generations so far.”

Yesterday, five judges of the International Tribunal against Monsanto stated in their advisory opinion that the corporation “has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment, the right to food, and the right to health” citing its widespread dissemination of dangerous agrochemicals in industrial agriculture, the introduction and release of GM crops, and introduction of persistent organic pollutants such as PCB in the environment.

Indonesian farmers group Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) said that the extraction of profit is what drives these corporations to exploit farmers and destroy the environment. AGRA coordinator Mr Harry Sandy Ame said that the public-private partnership program Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture or PISAgro only led to the increase in corporate control of the Indonesia’s agriculture. “PISAgro has facilitated the corporate take-over of our agriculture, wherein corporations has divided and assigned among themselves ten high value commodities to ensure steady supply of raw products to their industry. With contract farming model of implementation, this scheme has great potential in introducing new patented seeds such as GMOs in Indonesia.” AGRA is a member of the Asian Peasants Coalition who focuses on land rights and genuine agrarian reform.

GRAIN researcher Ms Kartini Samon said that GM crops, and the enforcement of patent rights, leads to the criminalization of farmers’ culture of saving, sharing and improving seeds. “Corporations are also behind the lobbying of stricter patent enforcement in bilateral and multi-lateral free trade agreements such as RCEP, ASEAN and TPPA to ensure profit. Countries that will not adhere to these agreements are being penalized by corporations. Thus seed sharing, saving and improvement, a thousand-old tradition of farmers will be deemed illegal by these corporations.”

“When governments fail to make these agri-corporations accountable for their crimes, people’s movement proves to be the most important factor to effect change in agriculture policies. It is high time for farmers movements to strengthen and globalize resistance against the increasing corporate control in agriculture and fight for food sovereignty. We must fight the introduction of Golden Rice and other GM crops” added Panerio.

Formed in 2014 during the Asian Conference against Golden Rice, the Stop Golden Rice! Network aims to serve primarily as a platform to exchange information, support, monitor and coordinate initiatives of member organizations on the campaign against the introduction, field testing and commercialization of Golden Rice. Apart from campaigns, this network also promotes alternative farmer-led agriculture, such as sustainable and organic agriculture, seed conservation among others. #

STOP GOLDEN RICE! Network Convenors’ Group
• Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union, India
• Pesticide Action Network India
• ORRISSA, India
• Community Entrepreneur Development Institute, Vietnam
• Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, Vietnam
• Serikat Perempuan Indonesia, Indonesia
• Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria, Indonesia
• Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand
• Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura, Philippines
• Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Philippines
• RESIST Agrochem TNCs, Philippines
• Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes, Philippines
• Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Philippines
• GRAIN
• Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific
• Asian Peasants Coalition

Farmers decry DA’s Masagana 6000 program

 

FARMERS from Bulacan, Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Southern Mindanao held a protest rally at the gates of the Department of Agriculture to denounce the prescriptive programs pushed by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

Around 200 protesters denounced Piñol’s programs such as the Masagana 6000 and the commercialization of genetically-modified (GM) crops.

The farmers also gathered in commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the International Rice Research Institute, the supposed leading public research agency in rice production, based in Los Baños, Laguna.

“From Masagana 99 and high-yielding varieties in the 1960s, to Masagana 6000 and Golden Rice today, it seems nothing has changed,” said Antonio Flores, a farmer from Mindanao and secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

“Both programs and technologies are prescribed to supposedly improve farmers’ production, but in reality, they merely serve to bolster corporate control in agriculture and genetic erosion,” Flores said.

The DA has announced its intended program Masagana 6000 which it said will focus on increasing rice yields to 6000 kilos per hectare through the use of hybrid rice.

The program also supposedly aims to address the improvement of seed quality, conversion of farmers from traditional farming to high-yielding hybrid rice seeds, lack of irrigation, and lack of fertilizers.

Loan programs will also be promoted so that farmers can have the financing to buy off external inputs supplied by huge agrochemical corporations.

“This is reminiscent of the Masagana 99 program instituted in the 1960s,” said Cris Panerio, national coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmer and Scientist Partnership for Development).

“The program, under the Green Revolution made use of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) developed by IRRI, and introduced a package of technology with seeds, chemical inputs and loans,” said Panerio.

“History, however, have shown that any benefits from the program were short-term, and that the MASAGANA 99, the HYVs and IRRI all have failed their promises of better production,” said Virginia Nazareno, a farmer from Infanta, Quezon.

“The seeds and the fertilizers are too expensive for poor farmers like us, that we become buried in too much debt while our yields began to decline because of the failure of the HYVs,” said Nazareno.

“Monocropping of the HYVs exposed the rice plants to various harmful pests while the excessive use of chemical fertilizers have stripped off the soils of its nutrients essential to plant growth,” added Panerio.

“The numerous traditional rice varieties that farmers have cultivated for generations were also lost, because IRRI and the government then only prescribed the use of a few IRRI rice varieties,” said Panerio.

Aside from Masagana 6000, the production and commercialization of Golden Rice is also being revived.

The genetically modified rice was developed by IRRI to supposedly address Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) in poor and developing countries, including the Philippines. IRRI, along with DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) conducted five multi-location field trials back in 2011 in preparation for its commercialization in 2014.

In 2013, more than 400 farmers uprooted the Golden Rice field trials in Pili, Camarines Sur as the calls to ascertain safety to peoples’ health and the environment remained unheeded by IRRI.

“The farmers’ uprooting and continued resistance is justified, especially now in the light of new findings on Golden Rice which shows the weakness of the technology, the brunt of which will be shouldered by the farmers,” said Sharl Lopez, Executive Director of Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP).

“Recent studies found out that the Golden Rice have unintended effects when the gene constructs affected the plant’s own genes which now affects the plant’s growth,” Lopez said.

Lopez is referring to the study released by Test Biotech which states that the samples of Golden Rice were found to have lower yields due to the ‘substantial reduction’ of chlorophyll in the rice plants. This increases the contamination threats to other rice varieties and might have other unintended environmental effects.

“IRRI’s rice science and technology program has only contributed in aggravating the state of food insecurity and agricultural underdevelopment in the Philippines and other Third World countries,” said Finsa Cosico, secretary-general of AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People).

“IRRI has become an active agent in reconfiguring world rice production consistently in accordance with the predatory profit motives of multinational corporations and the general political and economic imperatives of imperialist powers,” Cosico added.

 

“Small-scale farmers have developed initiatives and alternatives that embody a farmer-led and farmer-centered agricultural system that not only ensures food security, but also resists the control of agrochemical corporations,” said Nazareno.

“Masipag farmers for instance, have developed, improved and shared traditional and farmers’ rice varieties which are better suited to the farmers’ needs and farm conditions. The practice of diversified farming and local innovations save the farmers from buying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”

Flores added that, “prior to IRRI, farmers were growing more than 100,000 varieties of rice. Unfortunately, IRRIs technologies have disregarded the local wisdom, traditional knowledge and innovation of rice farmers accumulated over centuries. IRRI’s technologies and DA’s programs are doomed to fail because they are designed for profits and does not address the root of the farmers’ problems, and that is landlessness.”

“We must push for genuine agrarian reform where farmers will have control over the land, and other necessary resources for food production,” Flores added.

“IRRI’s Green and Gene Revolution failed because they do not serve the interests of the farmers; rather it served to perpetuate the systemic exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses,” said Flores.

“What we need is a true social revolution like the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, which served to emancipate the workers and peasants that also proved to the world the possibility of socialist development in agriculture, industry and other human spheres,” Flores said.

Flores said the mass action in front of DA will be followed by a public forum on the impacts of monopoly capitalists to the agriculture sector titled “Going Against the Grain: Resisting the Neoliberal Attacks on Agriculture and the Way Forward to a Food-Secure Future.”

KMP said the forum will also highlight how the peasant sector, through decades of monopoly capitalist onslaught and feudal and semifeudal exploitation, effectively harnesses its collective and militant strength in asserting its democratic rights and in struggling for genuine land reform and national industrialization.

The forum will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the SOLAIR Auditorium in UP Diliman, Quezon City.#

 

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