[Land cultivation gives back] Farmers asserting for land reform give relief goods, farm produce for Taal eruption victims

Farmers from Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) donated several sacks of fruits and vegetables for the victims of the Taal eruption in a relief operation organized by Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis networks KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos says that “we poor farmers are familiar with the disaster faced by our fellow Filipinos near Taal as we suffer from rural poverty and the increasingly erratic climate. We really felt the need to give help in whatever way we can.” The beneficiaries of the relief operations are evacuees from Lemery and Agoncillo towns who are now clustered in evacuation centers in Barangay 1 and Barangay Timbain in Calaca, Batangas.

Relief operation

The Taal eruption caused at least P3.06 billion worth of damage in agriculture. Most severely affected were coffee and fruit farms but also it damaged fisheries and livestocks. “In the long run, farmers and fisherfolk would need economic rehabilitation and assistance from the government to help them get back on their feet and normalize their lives.”

The agricultural products KMP brought were harvested from the Bungkalan land cultivation farms collectively tilled by farmers from Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB) in San Jose Del Monte and Samahang Magsasaka ng San Mateo (SAMA-SAMA) in Norzagaray. AMB leader Cecil Rapiz shares that “gusto rin naming makakwentuhan ang mga kapwa naming magsasaka at mangingisda na apektado ng kalamidad, para kahit sandali makapagpalitan kami ng mga karanasan at pamamaraan para muling makabangon at tuloy-tuloy na magpaunlad ng kabuhayan.”

Members of SAMA-SAMA in Norzagaray, Bulacan themselves face constant threat of eviction from their famdlands, albeit not quite natural. Rapiz explains that some 75.5 hectares of productive agricultural lands in Norzagaray are being claimed by Royal Moluccan Realty Holdings Inc. to convert into a private real estate and subdivision. The landgrabbers from Royal Mollucan company have since resorted to violence and harassment in trying to evict the farmers. “Ilang beses nang sinunog ang mga aming mga bahay, pinagsisira ang mga tanim namin, pinagbabakuran pa nila ang mga daanan. Talagang pinahihirapan at tinatakot nila kami para mapilitan umalis sa sakahan ang mga magsasaka,” Rapiz narrates.

Ramos notes that the bungkalan or collective cultivation campaign has effectively galvanized farmers’ unity and conviction, whilst being a substantial source of livelihood, not just in Bulacan but in other provinces. Last October 2019, KMP also launched Bagsakan, a mobile pop-up market for the organic products of farmers launching collective land cultivation efforts.

The farmers were also with artists, cultural workers, students, and land reform advocates from the Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan (Sinagbayan), Unyon mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya, Anakpawis Partylist and the United Council of Churches in Philippines. The groups distributed 250 relief packs and hygiene kits, and farm tools and school supplies to the communities in Calaca, Batangas. #

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