Agriculture is considered as the backbone of our economy. It stands out as the sector most equally distributed across all regions of the country, unlike services and industry, where only three regions, the National Capital Region comprises of the highly urbanized cities in Metro Manila, its nearby region of Calabarzon, and Central Luzon that accounts for over half of the sector’s gross domestic product (GDP) contribution.
Despite the country’s rich natural resources and inherently-endowed vast and diverse environment suitable for agricultural activities, agriculture is merely one tenth of our GDP now, from about one third during 1940s. It is indeed timely and urgent to introduce new approach to manage the sector. Like passing to the provinces the primary responsibility to make their farmers and fisherfolk productive, competitive, and profitable.
Devolution agriculture is a brilliant idea, yet it is not properly implemented at the local level.
Immediately after the Republic Act 7160 also known as the Local Government Code of 1991 became law, municipal agricultural officers (MAOs) were basically left on their own. In many areas in the country, it appeared that the Department of Agriculture (DA) did not provide them technical supervision as municipal employees. The result is, mayors in towns and cities with little regard for agriculture utilize their MAO as all-around workers, even heavy equipment operator. The DA on the other hand, implement their one-size fits all programs, which are in fact not applicable in some areas. The result is, even if a farmer is requesting a carabao to plough his farm yet the agency gave him hybrid rice seeds and fertilizer.
This time, one of the beauty as a result of the Mandanas ruling is the devolution of some functions from the DA to the local government units, the dispersal of livestock, communal irrigation, small water impounding projects, fish ports, water and soil resource utilization and conservation projects etc. There are also functions devolved to barangay local government units, like the planting materials distribution system, operation of farm produce collection, buying stations, establishment of satellite or public market, where viable.
Our agriculture, must be a joint accountability of the DA and the provincial agricultural offices coordinating the MAOs, along with other institutions like church, academe, and big business. Agriculture upshots and effects definitely impact food consumers, and that means everyone, especially the low-income families and households—resulting to to food insecurity and malnutrition when agricultural production is low and food prices high. All of us should have an important part to play to address the pervasive and long-term effects of our troubled agriculture sector.