Coronavirus pandemic is a health issue but it could lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken, the Catholic Church’s social action arm said.
Caritas Philippines said it is “high time” for the government to provide “stronger” support to agriculture as the world braces for a crippling economic meltdown due to the pandemic.
“It’s about time we strengthen our programs on food security, providing the needed support to farmers and fisherfolk who remain until this time the poorest sector in the country,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, National Director of the Philippine Caritas.
According to him, the current crisis compels the country to ensure that each family is secured with ample supply of basic food requirement.
“And this can only be provided if the agriculture sector is given priority,” he said.
The bishop issued the statement as the government continues to find solutions to stretch its ability to provide food rations and ensure that the food sector has enough supply to feed the whole country at least in the next three months.
“The social amelioration program is not efficiently solving our food security problem, however we see it as a necessary short-cut solution,” Bagaforo said.
“Thus, we at Caritas Philippines, strongly urge our government, especially the Department of Agriculture to start mobilizing farmers at the community level while we still have time,” he said.
The Kidapan prelate pointed out that cash aids to poor families are not enough to combat the negative economic impact of Covid-19.
“Our food industry needs to be supported most importantly by our agriculture sector. We will triumph in this crisis if we can ensure that no Filipino family experiences hunger,” he said.
Bagaforo, however, said that “while we find solutions to our food security problem, we must continue to be vigilant and ensure that the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine continue to be within the bounds of law, and that our authorities enforce maximum tolerance, respect and compassion, especially in locked-down areas.”
Citing Caritas’ programs on sustainable agriculture, he said that their community farms are helping deliver fresh vegetables to families struggling from the work suspension in Iligan, Nueva Vizcaya and Camarines Sur provinces.
A local farmers’ cooperative supported by the Diocese of Libmanan and the Gratia Plena program of the Diocese of San Jose are also supplying thousands of sacks of commercial and organic rice to Luzon provinces.
In the Diocese of San Carlos, the Caritas Kindness Store is providing opportunity to local farmers to sell their harvest at fair prices without the interference of middle traders. The same are being experienced by Mindanao farmers.
Bagaforo added that Caritas’ backyard gardening program has also ensured food security at household level, while providing additional stable income to farming families in Iloilo, Bukidnon, Quezon, Leyte, Samar, Capiz, Oriental Mindoro and Zambales provinces.
He also said that the seedlings distribution being conducted simultaneous to providing food relief in the Archdiocese of Cebu also strengthens the call for food production at household level.
As of April 26, the Covid-19 response of Caritas’ social action network has already reached more than P1.4 billion, helping more than 4 million families across the country. CBCP News