Teodoro was in his 20s when he and other farmers in their place were invited by a technician from DA to participate in a training under the MASAGANA 99 program. During the training, they were taught how to plant hybrid seeds and apply chemical inputs intensively.
MASAGANA 99 aimed for farmers to produce 99 cavans per hectare. Through Samahang Nayon, farmer members availed of loans from rural banks to procure inputs required to produce the target yield.
Teodoro recalled that after he completed the training, it was as if he and the other farmers were left on their own. There were no follow-up trainings and monitoring and no assistance, whether in kind or cash, extended to them.
MASAGANA 99, for Teodoro, disrupted indigenous farming practices. He grew up growing rice using traditional varieties and natural ways of farming. Those were times when seeds need not to be bought and were resilient to local conditions, and infestations of pests such as stink bug and stemborer were rare or even unheard of. Teodoro lamented that the implementation of MASAGANA 99 spurred farmers’ lost of control over resources of production, which led to many of them incurring and struggling with loans and debts. He was fortunate to have returned to organic farming sooner. For him, the destructive effects of MASAGANA 99 on livelihoods and the environment continue to hound and even tightened its grip on the country’s agriculture sector over the years.
Considering past and present agriculture programs that favored big landowners and businesses and accommodated political patronage, Teodoro is especially skeptical about another Masagana. For him, if the program remains hyperfocused on increasing yield while neglecting economic and environmental sustainability and farmers’ rights in general, then there could be no real difference between versions of Masagana and no real change in the lives of small farmers like him.
Teodoro encourages fellow farmers to bring back traditional varieties of rice and other crops and farming practices that protect biodiversity. He hopes that the government will prioritize small farmers and provide ample and serious support for organic agriculture.