Consensus on Agricultural Development
Byline: Bernardo M Villegas
IT is heartening to observe that local officials from provinces as diverse and far apart as Ilocos Norte, Aurora, Oriental Mindoro, Negros Oriental, and Southern Cotabato are focusing their efforts on agricultural and rural development. Gone are the days when "industrialization" was the mantra or obsession of Filipino politicians. Now, there seems to be a consensus that the best use of public funds is in constructing rural infrastructures as irrigation systems, mini-dams, farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities, rural ports, solar and wind power energy systems. For its part, the national government is doing a good job in building the so-called Philippine Nautical Highway which is an indispensable component of farm-to-market roads in an Archipelago like the Philippines.
All these rural infrastructures will benefit small farmers and farm workers who constitute close to 50 percent of the Philippine labor force. It should be reassuring to our government officials who are focusing on agricultural development that they are being very faithful to the social doctrine of the Church. In the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, paragraphs number 299 and 300 clearly spell out the paramount role of agriculture in a developing country like the Philippines:
299. Agricultural labour merits special attention, given the important social, cultural and economic role that it continues to play in the economic systems of many countries, and also considering the many problems that need to be met in the context of an ever more globalized economy as well as its growing significance in safeguarding the natural environment. "Radical and urgent changes are therefore needed in order to restore to agriculture -- and to rural people- -- their just value as the basis for a healthy economy, within the social community's development as a whole."
The profound and radical changes underway at the social and cultural levels also in agriculture and in the more expansive rural world urgently call for a thorough examination of the meaning of agricultural work in its many different dimensions. …