[ON THE GROUND] Beyond Technical: MASIPAG Mindanao’s Continuing Quest Towards Farmer Empowerment

February 7, 2024

by MASIPAG National Office

While it has not even half of the first quarter of 2024, MASIPAG farmers from Mindanao started the year strong – further strengthening their capacities to lead local food security initiatives through farmer-led agroecology.

In Asuncion, Davao del Norte, members of the Abagatan Farmers Association (AFA) collectively tend to the MASIPAG trial farm after the incessant rains that caused flooding in the province last week.

MASIPAG farmers established the trial farm in December 2023. With farms in the town frequently flooded following heavy rains, they are motivated to observe and study the characteristics of the different varieties and selections of rice to assess their adaptability to local soils and climate conditions, including their resilience to floods.

From the trial farms, small farmers can develop and ensure access to adaptable seeds cultivated through organic farming. They do this so that the family and community at large can have rice on plates—a task they continue to do through rain and storm.

For MASIPAG, farmer-led agroecology goes beyond its technology- as agriculture should be. In addition to its ecological and sustainable technologies commonly practiced, it is necessary to look at the economic dimensions of farmer-led agroecology because agriculture is about production and income. But agriculture is also a livelihood that meets the needs of humans, and poverty alleviation – such as the practice AFA and their trial farm.

A little north over Davao del Norte, farmers belonging to MASIPAG Provincial Consultative Body (PCB) Surigao del Sur led the transplanting of 14 successful F1 (filial generation one) rice at Brgy. Cabangahan, Tago town on February 4, 2024. These new crosses were the results of last year’s farmer-led rice breeding training guided by veteran rice breeder Bernardo Portillo.

Recognizing the farmers themselves as experts and specialists, MASIPAG continues to work with farming communities in rice breeding to develop new varieties of rice seeds suitable to the soil conditions, resistant to pests and diseases and adapted to the diverse challenges of changing climate. Through this practice, farmer-led agroecology has once again not only cast into the affairs of technicalities but also of social relations and political assertion.

Indeed, choices in agricultural practice are a political act in itself, but it is also of cultural identity with specific production and consumption preferences involving social relations. Amid globalization and increasing control of corporate giants in our food and agricultural system, MASIPAG farmers of Surigao del Sur practice of farmer-led rice breeding and seed-saving ensures that their farming communities have reliable sources of quality seeds and asserts farmers’ control over genetic resources.

While it has not even half of the first quarter of 2024, MASIPAG farmers from Mindanao through their practices have once again proved the multidimensional nature of farmer-led agriculture – attaining different levels of achievements and articulations in the aspects of technical, socio-political, economics, and culture. An essential skill and a step closer towards MASIPAG network’s vision of farmer empowerment.