Press Release
June 8, 2020

Villar: Food Self-Sufficiency Is Key Life Goal In The New Normal

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the limitations in the country's food supply and shortcomings in distribution system. That highlighted the need to promote self-sufficiency among Filipinos, particularly families or households and communities.

"Covid-19 is an eye-opener for many people, not only in relation to our health, but the sufficiency and source of the food we eat, too. It made us realize how dependent and vulnerable we are when it comes to food. So much so that being food self-sufficient has become an important part of our life goals in the new normal," the senator said.

The senator cited that when community quarantine and lockdown was implemented, many Filipinos find themselves out of food already in a matter of a week or so. "The lack of food was of course due to many factors--no money due to loss of income, no access to food due to closures of nearby stores or food outlets and, movement of food supply was hampered," she said.

Thus, food experts agree that the ongoing pandemic exposed flaws in food supply, fragilities in food systems and the urgent need to ensure that those loopholes will be plugged by shifts in government priorities as well as people's mindsets.

"We have seen a renewed interest and enthusiasm in urban farming and backyard gardening. That's a good indication and we should keep the momentum going. Growing food in one's backyard is the most effective way, especially for food-poor families, to make sure that they will not go hungry during emergencies," said. Villar.

However, she said it is not enough to just promote backyard gardening and provide seeds or fertilizers. "It should not stop there, it should be supported by practical and sustainable programs and policies," said Villar, who is long-time proponent of urban agriculture to prevent food poverty.

Villar further cited, "People get restless and angry when they get hungry. That is not unique to us Filipinos. It is human nature and universal. The expression "food is life" is very true. The right to food is a basic human right. We can empower people to grow or produce their own food as much as we can, but agriculture officials and policymakers should put in place a sustainable program to ensure that the people will not run out of food, with or without a crisis."

According to her, besides food security, agriculture should also be about food self-sufficiency. She cited that although the government prioritized the unhampered movement of food all over the country, it is not logistically possible to accomplish it during an emergency or pandemic situation.

"During the first few weeks of the lockdown, there were barangays and cities that run out of supply, particularly of fresh crops or produce. Most vegetables, poultry or meat come from outside urban cities, so it took some time for the supply to normalize. Even farmers complained that their crops rotted because they cannot transport them to reach the buyers," Villar cited.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) itself warned that the ongoing pandemic will further disrupt food supply chains and adversely affecting everyone, from farmers to consumers and food wholesalers to retailers. It cited that centralized food supply chain can easily be disrupted by emergencies such as a virus outbreak. FAO also noted that communities that practice integrated farming are less affected by the Covid-19 crisis, as they can easily consume the food they grow at home when they lose their source of income or livelihood. On top of that, they can also sell their crops or produce and earn money to buy their other essential needs.

UN-FAO is also urging policymakers all over the world to ensure that the poor in particular have access to nutritious food by making food supply chains seamless and uninterrupted, which it said is what food sufficiency and resiliency is about. These will also ensure that people will comply with stay-at-home orders and other quarantine rules or new normal procedures.

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