How MASAGANA 99 Buried Farmers in Debt and Stole their Lands

January 20, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

Early studies made by Hirahitsu Umehara and then by an IRRI team composed of Violeta Cordova, Robert Herdt and others on the impact of IRRI’s High Yielding Rice Varieties (HYVs) that the MASAGANA 99 mainstreamed by 1973 done in a Central Luzon village, the ground zero of MASAGANA 99, found farmers’ income there fell by 25 percent from 1970 to 1978.

Moreover, income per farmer per year declined by 16 percent from Php 1,951 in 1966 to Php 1, 639 per farmer in 1979. Both studies found the farmers produced more, but were poorer for all their work.

In hindsight, nearly 50 percent of the farmers in the barrios ACES studied said they had enough income for their farm needs, household expenses and children’s education in 1970. By 1983, exactly 10 years since MASAGANA 99’s implementation, only 13 percent felt they had enough income to meet their needs. In one barrio, 100 percent responded in the negative when asked if their income was enough.

Moreover, ACES discovered the total paid-out costs (expenses incurred by farmers in the preparation, planting, fertilizing, irrigating, etc. of their farms) increased by 51 percent from 1970 to 1981 while the palay prices decreased in real terms by 46 percent just eight years since MASAGANA 99 was implemented.

From the 1982-1983 study made by ACES on the effects of MASAGANA 99’s HYVs rice in four Nueva Ecija barrios revealed that the HYVs reduced real farm income by as much as 52 percent within an eleven-year period from 1970 to 1981, 9 years since MASAGANA 99 was first implemented with the drastic increase in farm maintenance went to the fertilizer, pesticide, and other farm chemical manufacturers who benefited most from the farmers’ shift to IRRI’s HYVs from traditional rice varieties.

No thanks also to MASAGANA 99 and IRRI’s HYVs, the real costs of labor have decreased, but the costs of other inputs, emanating from Transnational Corporations passing through the hands of government corporations and local capitalists, have increased.

Growing indebtedness of farmers was also prevalent during MASAGANA 99 due to its large contribution to the diminution of the farmers’ real income and their consequent inability to pay their debts, which have accrued mainly from unpaid rent and/or amortization arrears, and unpaid personal loans.

The average debt of each farmer in the barrios surveyed by ACES ranged from Php 10,000 to Php 15,000 with some farmers owing more than Php 40,000. In one particular bank in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, 120 farmer-borrowers from one of the four surveyed barrios had accumulated total debts of Php 952,494 excluding interest by 1980. By 1987, three years before MASAGANA 99 ended, the figure with interest added had climbed beyond Php 2 million.

Some 50 percent of the farmer respondents said they had outstanding debts in 1970. By 1981, 95 percent said they had debts, mostly with the banks. And because farmers cannot pay their debts to the banks, they have gone back to borrowing from usurers and their former landlords ultimately locking them into a land grabbing deal.

Today, the son of the mastermind of MASAGANA 99, President Marcos Jr. plans to revive and intensify the MASAGANA 99 project under the name MASAGANA 150 and MASAGANA 200.

Almost 50 years since his father’s implementation of MASAGANA 99 and its fatal and lasting consequences to our farmers and environment health, had he not learned the lessons of it? Or is it still the same profit over people schemes for the son of the late dictator?

Makialam! Magbahagi!

Reference: Modina R.B., Ridao A. R., IRRI Rice: The Miracle That Never Was. ACES Foundation, Inc.