Agriculture and poverty

Agriculture and Poverty
Agriculture and Poverty

FOR those of us who live in urban areas, the depths of poverty can be measured, for instance, by what a typical urban-poor family eats. In most cases, it’s just rice and vegetables, or fish, for lunch or dinner. The desperately poor make do with rice and salt, or its variant, rice and soy sauce. That’s what they can afford from scavenging from garbage dumps for recyclables, which gives them, on a good day, about P100, more or less. Still, others make do with eating pagpag, or scrap chicken from fast-food chains, which can be bought dirt-cheap.

But how do poor urban dwellers compare in terms of earnings to farmers and fishermen in rural areas?

Not much, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). The wages and salaries received by those in agriculture are comparable to those of private households with employed persons (i.e., domestic help) at P138.99 per day, the NSCB said.

In short, farmers and fishermen are in the same economic category as domestic workers and just a notch higher than the scavengers in urban areas.

Which brings us to the assertion of the NSCB that the declining share of agriculture in the Philippine economy could be a reason for the country’s high poverty incidence.

According to the agency, the share of the agriculture sector in the Philippine economy significantly declined to only 11.1 percent in 2012. Compare that to 1946, when the sector accounted for about a third, or 29.7 percent, of the economy. That’s a one-third decline that puts at grave risk the nation’s food security.

Most of the poor are in agriculture despite the efforts of previous administrations to boost agricultural modernization, provide more agricultural inputs and implement agrarian reform. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, for instance, agriculture accounts for 63 percent of its economy, while poverty incidence in the region remains one of the highest in the country at 45.6 percent in 2009.

Economists have long pointed out that because of government neglect of agriculture, farmers and fishermen have remained among the poorest in the country. Wonder no more, therefore, that the exodus of people from the countryside to urban centers such as Metro Manila in search of a better life continues unabated, only for them to discover that life in the big city is not a bed of roses and could even be worse than before, with some of them having to eat from discards from trash cans.

Would an increase in government support for agriculture lead to lower poverty rates? That’s the obvious conclusion, and the government, if it is really committed to inclusive growth, should begin putting more attention to the countryside and improving the lives of our farmers and fishermen. World Agriculture. Source Business Mirror


Published: Zarai Media Team

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