Antipolo City, Philippines
Our fourth year field trip was a visit to a farm in Tarlac. There we were able to experience how it was to be a farmer—even if it was for just a day. Off to the the fields we marched, complete with the straw hats, the rubber boots, the working gloves, and a sickle each. The farmers taught us how to cut off the stalks and neatly pile them on the ground to dry. At first it was a real struggle, but soon we got the hang of it.
Before long, we heard the bell telling us to stop. I remember standing up, stepping back and beaming at my pile of hard work with a sigh of content. And in my excitement I asked the farmer beside me, “Manong, about how many cups of rice does this pile make?” The farmer looked down at my precious pile of sweat and labor and said, “Oh that? About one.” I vowed at that very moment never to leave a single grain of rice on my plate ever again.
Realization number one: It is not easy to be a farmer. Upon further conversation with a family living in the area, I also learned that what they earn is not enough to pay for their daily necessities. I found it so ironic that they are the ones who provide the whole nation with rice, but are also the ones who sometimes go to bed without a single morsel of it to fill their empty stomachs.
When I first read that the theme of this contest was all about “agriculture,” “better food,” and “better health,” the first image that came into my mind was that of the baby of that family of farmers whom I met on that day. His body was thin and bony, but his head was big. Clearly, he suffered from malnourishment.
Realization number two: If agriculture would be used to produce better food and lead to better health, I think the first persons to help would be those who produce the food themselves: the farmers and their families.
And thus given this, I will waste no more time with my back stories and get down to business. The first solution I propose is the equal allocation of lands for the personal consumption of these farmers, and more provisions for their health and wellness. I think it is just right that the government provide more funds for the benefit of these farmers. After all, how can one expect a country to progress towards a healthier lifestyle if the main producers of its food do not experience healthy living conditions?
The second solution I propose is the cultivation of the unused agricultural lands in the country. In class we have learned that one of the real reasons for poverty in the Philippines is the overcrowding in the urban areas which is in turn caused by the under-cultivation of many wasted agricultural lands in the rural areas. If the government only allotted more funds for the cultivation of these lands and the provision of more efficient farming technologies, then everyone won’t have to flock to the cities just to get a good job. Many may opt to settle in the rural areas as farmers. Not only will the lives of these people be improved, but so will the lives of those left in the city, for there will now be a more balanced distribution of space and resources.
Now looking back at what I have written above, I have realized that the solutions I have presented both rely on the government and the actions of those which are beyond my control. I am now realizing that these solutions seem so ideal; and that though they may be easy to explain and defend, they may not be so easy to carry out. And they will not be up to me.
Which is why I turn the challenge towards myself. What can I do to help? This seems like an even harder question. To help me answer this, I once more remember the image of the little malnourished baby. I remember the way his face lit up when we handed the Noche Buena package to his mother. It is nice to think that we at least gave them something to eat for Christmas. How I wish we could give them something to eat all year round. Which reminds me… I think there is a way we could have given them something to eat for more than a day. After the field trip, I remember that a teacher of ours shared that one of the students/teachers asked one of the farmers if they ever planted their own vegetables or fruits in the little patches of land in front of their homes. According to our teacher, the farmer simply shook his head and explained that if one of them were to plant their own food, then his/her neighbor would just end up stealing it. Upon hearing this story, it was then we realized that instead of the Noche Buena packages, we could have given each and every family of farmers a pack of seeds. That way we could have not only helped them, but taught them to help themselves.
Aside from this particular suggestion, I believe that there are many ways we, as individuals and as a whole community, can help these farmers improve their own lives, and at the same time take a step towards better health for ourselves. Maybe during summer or other breaks, we youth can volunteer to lend a helping hand to our farmers just like what we did on the day of our farm visit. Or maybe we can even adopt the idea of the seeds and plant our own vegetable and fruit gardens in our own backyards. Most of the food items bought in groceries today are loaded with artificial chemicals and preservatives, that’s why it would be a good idea to start the campaign for growing homemade produce here in the country.
Maybe schools can even implement the idea and make their students participate in the care of vegetable or fruit gardens within their own campuses! This way, the youth can be educated earlier about the importance of cleaner, greener living, and healthier food choices.
It has always been said that the smallest things make a big difference. I believe that the path to better health and wellness lies in small things too. Literally, these small things can mean the seeds we may give to farmers, or those that we may all plant in our very own homes and schools. But in a deeper sense, these small things can mean the little steps we take on our own and as one nation, towards health and wellness everyday— the little seeds of generosity, awareness, creativity and team work.