Understanding the landscape and hope for a sustainable future: food, forests, and farmers in the Philippines

Food, forests, and farmers touch every aspect of human existence. The state of each is integral to the health of our environment, our economies, and our cultures. It is important to keep these relationships balanced so that families, communities, and nations function well. When one fails, the resulting imbalance threatens broader systems of education, health, and economy, as well as human rights, peace, and security. “And in many cases, those who are already poor or marginalised are the most vulnerable”.[1]

In the Philippines, despite reported economic growth in the last decades, increasing poverty has become a major concern with a high relative proportion of the poor belonging to the agriculture sector.[2] According to the Asian Development Bank (2020), “The Philippines has made tremendous strides in reducing the national poverty rate, but rural poverty remains high because of low productivity and limited crop diversification.”[3]

Filipino farmers, ironically, are among the poorest because of low farm productivity and seasonal income, limited crop diversification, and the lack of capital and access to market.[4] This situation is compounded by the changes in weather patterns and events such as longer droughts and more intense rains and storms. 

The pursuit to feed the world and achieve zero hunger is ambitious, but the effort is to awaken the world that if everyone works together, we can transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food and work towards sustainable food and agriculture.[5] Although businesses focus on research for profit, they can become critical partners in delivering practical solutions and conduct responsible business for food security and sustainable agriculture. Civil society on the other hand will continue to weigh up the need and use of genetic engineering. The use of science and research can be tapped as a tool to better understand future concerns surrounding food security and at the same time alleviate the worsening conditions of poor farmers. Government capacity to plan, regulate, and dialogue needs to be reinforced for responsible action and leadership. 

In this context, the conference seeks to provide a critical bridge between science and local food security thus contributing to the broader context of global sustainable food and agriculture and sustainable land management.

What does the Conference want to achieve?

Raise awareness and promote discussion about food, forests, and farmers in the Philippines in relation to sustainable food and agriculture and sustainable land management.  

Develop principles that can guide and support farmers, businesses, relevant government offices, academe, research, and private institutions towards equitable and sustainable food systems and land management.  

Generate significant action and measurable indicators that contribute to global goals on food security and systems and to create a system of monitoring that ensures that outcomes continue to drive new actions and progress through sharing of experiences and knowledge.

This conference also seeks to contribute to the ongoing workshop series led by Ecojesuit on COP26 and beyond: stepping forward for the global common good. Significantly, it aims to share grounded experiences on local adaptations and best practices related to agriculture and food security, land use management, and climate change.