Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Like preparing for war -- rice in the Philippines

The Inquirer (Philippines): Do we have enough rice? Probably not, considering the steady increase in rice prices over the past few weeks, the long queues for the government’s cheaper rice variety and its consequent rationing among consumers. Some have blamed the prohibitive costs of fertilizers and fuel for what has been described as a rice crisis. Others point to hoarders for supply shortfalls. The lack of irrigation systems has also been cited.

….Data from the Agriculture department confirms that although our rice production levels have generally kept pace with population growth and demand, we have not reached a point where we have an annual surplus to cover contingencies. Is it merely a production or management challenge? Or, do the roots of this problem run deeper?

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that it takes over 4,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of rice. No forests? No water. No water? No rice. Most of our freshwater comes from watersheds, which are found in forests.

A hundred years ago, we had close to 22 million hectares of old growth forest. A study by the Environmental Scientists for Social Change (ESSC) reveals that we have systematically cut this forest down and have not stopped its destruction along with its core biodiversity. At the start of the millennium, we had less than 600,000 hectares of old-growth forest left. This means that in one century, we cut down close to 97 percent of our original forest.

…Forests perform critical functions. They are watersheds. They also retain soil and manage erosion. Most importantly, they are storehouses of biodiversity that provide the natural mechanism for forests to restore themselves. The use of the FAO definition means that our capacity to restore forests, recharge aquifers, retain soil and manage erosion may actually be only 10 percent of what we think. Our water supply is at risk. We may not have that much water left.

Forests are also the base of an agricultural value chain that contributes to our national rice output. Unfortunately, all administrations since martial law have regarded forests as a source of timber and as potential mining sites. Although we have an estimated 240 watersheds throughout the archipelago, barely 10 percent of these watersheds have been properly mapped, much less properly managed….

Rice on a plate, by "Vadakkan," Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many countries subsidize farmers so that they keep their farms open. So that in times of war there will be food. But there is no war in the Philippines. Just bad management.