Tedurays and Lambangians of Maguindanao start rebound from El Niño with organic, non-GMO corn seeds and fertilizers

Press release - July 21, 2016
Cotabato City, Philippines; 20 July 2016 – Indigenous peoples of Maguindanao, who have been severely affected by the 2015-2016 double El Niño, take on the challenge of recovery as they start to plant, organic, non-GMO corn seeds this week.

Farmers from indigenous communities in Upi and South Upi, Maguindanao, have been asking the government since 2015 for immediate response to El Niño.  But instead, the elections and constrained distribution of food and farm support to  impacted farmers threw them further into hunger, malnutrition and indebtedness, aggravated by their use of GMO corn that requires expensive inputs.

“Three weeks into the new government and El Nino affected farmers still have no response from DA (Department of Agriculture) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol. They can no longer wait, so this week, 45 Teduray and Lambangian families have taken it upon themselves to secure non-GMO and organic corn seeds and organic fertilizers to jump-start their recovery and transition to a more climate-resilient and debt-free farming system,” said Leonora Lava, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines.

Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayunan (Kilos Ka) Maguindanao-Cotabato Cluster and Greenpeace Philippines are supporting the Teduray and Lambangian farmers’ transition from GMO farming to ecological, climate resilient and debt free farming. The Teduray and Lambangian were affected by El Niño in early-2015, which resulted in poor harvests and, subsequently, not being able to pay their creditors on farm inputs – seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The farmers had to take out more loans for the succeeding cycle, but rats infested their farms and they had no recourse but to loan again in order to replant. By the third planting, drought, brought about by the second El Niño in the latter half of 2015 and early-2016, resulted in even poorer and, in some cases, no harvest at all. The series of crop failure have thrown them into hunger and indebtedness.

The farmers are now gearing up to contend with the possibility of La Niña (increased and more intense rainfall) that typically follows an El Niño.  Maguindanao declared a state of calamity due to the effects of El Niño last April, but received only a few kilograms of rice per family because of the election ban.

“The challenge is to bring farming back to the control of farmers for the benefit farmers, not lenders and agro-chemical and seed companies.  Local and indigenous farming communities also need to rediscover their local and indigenous knowledge of working with biodiversity for resilient farms and livelihoods. This indigenous knowledge system can be re-enforced with access to local climate information to enable them to plan and design their farming systems better,” Lava added.

The corn seeds they are planting this week, Tinigib (a traditional variety) and OPV-10 (an organic improved open-pollinated variety) as well as the use of organic fertilizers and pesticides, will help alleviate the pressure by breaking the cycle of indebtedness that the chemical intensive and GMO agriculture system have small farmers trapped in.

In a planting cycle, a typical small holder farmer will have to put out a loan for farming inputs. If, for example, a loan of P30,000 was taken in November 2015, he has to pay that back by March 2016 with P15,000 interest. With the drought in late 2015 to early 2016, that farmer had to declare crop failure while already being P45,000 in debt. On top of that, he will need to loan another P30,000 to farm his land.  The P30,000 investment typically consists of: costs for spraying, herbicides,  fertilizer, pesticides and payment for GMO seeds.

“We are calling on the new administration, to be true to their promise of  improving the lives of Filipino farmers, by taking them out of this debt trap created by chemical and GMO based farming system. This is proof that GMOs are not climate resilient. Food and nutrition security, with our changing climate, need to be our priority. We can only achieve this by recognizing that there is something wrong with our current chemical based farming system and we need to change our farming system now.  President Duterte and Secretary Piñol has to lead our way to food and nutrition security, with a brave decision to  shift to more ecological and climate resilient food and agriculture system,” Lava concluded.

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For more information:

Leonora Lava, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner
Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines
Email: | Mobile: (+63) 998 562 4005

JP Agcaoili, Communications & Digital Manager
Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines
Email: | Mobile: (+63) 949 889 1332