I came from a conference where members of civil society, government, and private sector gathered in the hope of address social issues. Great idea, right? But instead of leaving the place invigorated with the possibility of these sectors working together more closely, I walked out of that event confused, even enraged.
On the issue of malnutrition in the country, the government representative presented figures, which no one would contest: malnutrition is rampant especially among the low-income families. Proposed solution: intensify promotion and consumption of vitamin-fortified food. Say what?
I live in a suburban area. We get free supply of malunggay (okay, moringa for the high-end market) from our church patio (and I donate money in exchange for that, promise). We have three sweet apple trees that never fail to supply me with abundant harvest every year in the last 25 years (yes, organic!). Some good things are still free. I grew up in house surrounded by papaya trees, gourds, sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, chili peppers, and lots of medicinal plants, which I do not remember anymore (oregano, sambong, banaba, among others I think). And every summer, our front yard smelled so sweet with jasmine in bloom. Don’t get the impression that I live in a hacienda. It’s just that my lola had green thumb and planted our lot of no more than 300 sqm with good stuff.
Maybe, to those who live within the four corners of a condominium unit, eating vitamin-fortified food is okay. But if they can afford to live in condominiums, they should be able to afford healthy food, right? On the other hand, if they live in rural areas, where most poor families live, there will always be a piece of land, maybe even just a pot of soil, where they can grow food plants. Natural, organic, sustainable, free.
And of course, I don’t think we can discuss food issues apart from the problems of the agricultural sector. The poor (farmers) till the land and labor in the farm and yet cannot have a share or afford to feed their families well? In the same light that the Philippines ranked 11th top supplier of fish in the world yet the fisher folks are among the poorest. There must be something wrong in our system, really.
Another issue presented during the conference was water. In the 1950s, 13,000 metric liters of water was available for each earthling; it dropped to 5,000 in 1990s and today, to 1,500. Then the not-so-smart moderator remarked: aside from fear is there any other way we can convince people to act on the water issue? DUH? I don’t think the speaker meant to frighten us; he was just presenting the facts. Poor speaker. The bearer of glaring, scaring facts.
If there’s any good thing that came out of this event, it’s this:
A free, 2GB, superthin USB! Cool!