AUGUST 26, 2014 – Hacienda Luisita farmers’ under the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement (FARM) are trying to make awarded lands productive despite zero support from the Department of Agrarian Reform. Last June, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA) in coordination with Rights Network, donated five water pumps to farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, and 50 kilos of black rice seeds for seed production.
Black rice seeds were distributed equally to five farmers. Four of the farmer-recipients started planting last July 18 and will wait three more months for them to harvest. At the onset of the rainy season, water pumps have been used only sparingly for irrigation water.
Farmers are thankful to CBCP-NASSA and the Rights Network for their help. “Malaking pasasalamat namin sa NASSA kasi ang hirap magsimula ng pagsasaka ng wala ni singkong kapital.Salamat din sa Rights dahil kung hindi sa kanila hindi naming makikila si Bishop Broderick Pabillo at ang NASSA.” (We are grateful to NASSA because it was very difficult to start farming with zero capital. Thanks also to RIGHTS for introducing us to NASS and Bishop Broderick Pabillo). The farmers said that these organizations have proven to be more reliable than the government departments that should be helping them.
Support Services from government
As to government support services’, Roger Amurao one of the leaders of farmers said that Department of Agrarian Reform gave them nothing but promises. “Sinusuportahan na kami ng DAR, sinusuportahan nila kami ng maraming pangako” (DAR is already supporting us, they support us with their promises), Amurao said with disappointment. He said that they were not asking for a huge support. “Humihiling lang kami ng ng para sa capital para makapagsimula kami para makapagsimula kaming makapagsarili” (We’re just asking if they can help us get some money for capital, so that we can start on our own. There is no problem if we have to pay back with interest.)
“Lumuluwas kami paulit-ulit para makahingi ng suporta sa DAR, namamasahe kami hanggang Maynila, babalik kami dito sa Tarlac na dala lang ang mga pangako nila na walang kasiguraduhan kung kailan matutupad o kung matutupad nga ba.” (We would go back and forth to Manila to talk to dialogue with the DAR and ask for support only to return to our homes with nothing but promises.) Farmers said that the Department committed to donate fertilizers and seedlings but until now, they did not get any of those promises. FARM members assert that land redistribution without financial and technical support to make the land productive is meaningless. “Marunong ka ngang magsaka, wala ka naman puhunan, wala rin.” (You may know how to farm. Without capital, however, you will not be productive).
Since many FARM members started to cultivate the land before the rainy season, the use of the water pumps required at least seven liters in one day with a cost of 65 pesos per liter (roughly about P 455 pesos per day). According to Roger Amurao, there was a time that they had to spend such amount for five straight days.
Since black rice is organic, they do not use pesticide or any other chemical inputs. They are extra careful, however, in monitoring the field, to ensure that water is sufficient. They are hopeful that with the effort they are exerting, they can make the land productive. “We know how important our land is. We need to make it productive because it is our only source of living; we take care of our plants, make them grow well, and sometimes talk to the plants so they would help us.”
As of now, farmers are still in the experimental phase since this is their first time to plant black rice. They are hoping that the venture would be successful.
FARM members are afraid they would lose their land again because of zero support from the government. They would often ask themselves, what would they do if they do not have something to plant on their lands? Farmers have very little choice and can become easy prey for the ariendadors who have been offering instant money in exchange for the reformed lands to be used for sugarcane production. FARM members said that at least 80% of awarded lands have been reconsolidated in the hands of the ariendadors. ‘May sapat na pera naman yata para sa support services. Kaya lang baka sa sugarcane block farming yun na kontrolado ng ariendador.” (There is supposed to be sufficient money for support services. Maybe the support services are intended for support sugarcane block farming controlled by ariendador.)
“Kung masusuportahan lang kami ng gobyerno, siguradong makakaahon kami sa kahirapan.” (If the government could only extend its support services to us, we will surely leap out of poverty.)