Hunger Now Worse for
Prepared by Innabuyog
Gabriela on its Regional Council Meeting last August 14-15, 2008
"How are we going
to feed our children?" This is the question raised by any ordinary
mother in the Cordillera region.
In the latest Innabuyog Regional Council Meeting on August 15-16,
2088, hunger was seen looming for ordinary Cordillera women. Done
annually, the Regional Council meeting of Innabuyog gathers its
leaders from the different provinces and sectors of the Cordillera.
They come for updates, analysis and action planning to respond to
the violence that hunger brings to ordinary indigenous women in
The urgent issue that the Regional Council discussed
is hunger and poverty. Over the years, Cordillera women played a
big role in the food assurance of their families and communities
- from ensuring the traditional seeds to the planting and harvesting
and finding remedies along with their husbands, to ensure food on
their family's table and other basic needs like education and health.
With hunger and poverty intensified not just in rural but in urban
areas, Cordillera women are reaping harder times of searching for
food resources. The subsistence agricultural production which used
to be sustainable and self-sufficient is taken over by cash economy.
Families have to produce the cash needed for commodities and other
needs like education and health.
But with the concoction of the economic crisis,
imperialist plunder, militarization and even climate change, food
and livelihood are becoming scarce in the region. The Cordillera
indigenous women are now faced with a greater problem of having
to search for alternative ways to provide their families' needs.
Rice cropping and vegetable farming both entail
high inputs. Expensive fertilizers and pesticides, high rent of
equipment and land, and even an expensive transport of their products
leave the Cordilleran peasantry with almost no produce. More over,
the flooding of imported vegetables and rice displaced local producers
in the region.
Manang Appol explained that rice harvest in her
community in Mompolia, Hingyon in Ifugao province used to suffice
them for a whole season. But now, what they would keep for their
own consumption, they now sell in the market to have the much needed
cash. They would sell the nutritious native rice from P50 a kilo
or a bit higher (depending on the quality) for NFA rice which they
buy for P25.00 a kilo. Supply is limited to 3-5 kilos and a family
has to spend almost a day to join the queue. It is a common observation
that even professionals are seen joining the long queues in the
town centers for the cheaper NFA rice. Commercial rice is sold from
With the dire need for cash and to be able to cope with the economic
crisis, traditional food resources are now grown and gathered for
It is also evident that with today's economic inflation
affecting the prices of commodities and services, the Cordillerans
are now faced with the challenge to earn even more than what was
supposed to be enough. The rising prices of basic commodities and
services even push food as the people's lesser priority. In 2007,
Cordillera was noted as having one of the highest malnutrition rates
in the nation. All over Cordillera, children are noted to lack the
necessary nutritional support. Worse, efforts from the government
such as feeding and medical programs to the Cordilleran children
have proven to be inefficient, unsustainable and only serve as showcase
for the government's hunger mitigation program. A common experience
of children benefitting from the DEPEDs feeding program is that
parents have to shelve an amount to contribute for milk or Milo
that will make the vita-meal palatable for the children.
The Innabuyog RC meeting also showed that mining
and militarization in areas like Abra, Kalinga and Apayao also contribute
to the hunger of Cordillera women and children. The Lepanto mines
continue to poison aricultural and food resources in Mankayan, Benguet,
Ilocos and Abra. Land and river poisonong, siltation and erosion
are seen to happen in areas where mining exploration is being conducted
like Baay-Licuan in Abra, in Kalinga and Apayao.
Initially, Innabuyog leaders view the seed and fertilizer
subsidy as benefitting more the seed and ferlilizer traders more
than the ordinary or poor farmer. Discount coupons are not available
to all poor farmers and so far the Department of Agriculture has
indicated a limit on the supply that is discounted. The leaders
believe that the market-driven support will hardly be sustained
by the poor farmers. It will also be a source of corruption in government.
Ultimately, the winner will be the agricultural supply business.
The trend of militarization in areas applied for
mining projects often results to the residents' economic dislocation
and even out- migration.
Unemployment strikes women and unemployed graduates
even resort to working in pubs and bars in the town centers. Innabuyog
through support institutions like the Cordillera Women's Education
Action Research Center (CWEARC) will monitor and hold action research
discussions on the prevailing hunger and povery of indigenous women
in the Cordillera.
The indigenous women leaders expressed the current
status of their already degenerating livelihood. Fortunately, even
with the worsening crisis, Innabuyog provides the Cordillera women
not just the sisterhood, but the drive for these women to struggle.
As the crisis worsens, more indigenous women gather together in
hopes of finding solutions to these problems and confronting the
large companies and the state which victimized them and reduced
them to this state. More and more women organizations from the local
communities of Cordillera join Innabuyog. From mothers to daughters
and elders to the women youth, these women organizations will unite.
The support of Innabuyog-GABRIELA to these organizations and vice
versa will continue to strengthen for the assertion of the indigenous
women's rights to land, life and food sovereignity. #