Count it Right, Do Them Right

The Philippines is hit by typhoons at an average of 20 per year. Every time a major typhoon hits, damage cost amounts to millions, sometimes even billions of pesos. Previously this would not even make me think twice, just take in the news and move on. But recently with Typhoon Nona, reports about cost of damage particularly in agriculture made me think twice and ponder, “Are they really assessing the damage right?”

Why am I pondering about this? The reason is, some of the farmers whom I've come to know through the course of my work with the Agricultural Training Institute was hit by Typhoon Nona. I have witnessed their anguish and hopelessness after the disaster. So to understand the situation better, I came up with the list of possible losses they have incurred but unaccounted by the reports.

  1. Blood, sweat, and tears.We all know that farming is purely physical work. Farmers put in everything their might could muster to make their land tillable and productive. Day in, day out, they continually do this not just to feed themselves but all of us. This investment is priceless considering that our farmers are aging and dwindling in number.
  2. Unrecoverable investment.Farming just like any other business endeavor requires financial investment. Farmers may have to take up loans just to be able to finance their farming activity and most of the time they barely get by. With a calamity created by typhoon, it would wreak havoc on their financial capabilities.
  3. Loss due to emotional distress.I've heard a story about a farmer who stayed away from his farm for more than a month after a typhoon. He was overcome with grief when he went to his farm after the disaster and could not accept the damage done to his farm. During the days he was away from his farm, he indulged in self-pity and nearly lost interest in farming. Now think about the number of farmers who feels the same way after every disaster.
  4. Lost opportunity.Damage reports after a calamity usually account only for the value of the standing crop. Most of the time they don't account for what might be earned from the damaged crops. For example, a farmer has a mango tree about to bear fruit before the disaster happened. A mango tree would take about five (5) years of nurturing before it reaches fruit-bearing status. So in the next 5 years there will be a lost opportunity in terms of income for the farmer until the replacement tree starts bearing fruits. Now multiply it with the number of fruit bearing trees uprooted by the typhoon. Add to that the potentials of other damaged crops/livestock.
  5. Delayed development.Some farmers are setting structures in their farms to accommodate would-be farmers to learn from their farm. With the assistance from the Agricultural Training Institute, these farms are established as Learning Site and/or School for Practical Agriculture to help in developing would-be farmers to learn the technologies in farming. With the calamity and destruction of these structures these would-be farmers would have to wait for some time until the farm is ready to accommodate them again.

We may have experienced calamities in our lives and we know how difficult it is to start over, more so for farmers. With our country being an agricultural country, support system for farmers after calamities should be improved. The following are my suggestions:

  1. Farmers should be the first priority for any aid that the government and non-government organizations are giving.
  2. Agricultural insurance coverage must be expanded to include all crops/livestock and structures in the farm.
  3. Calamity fund must be set up specifically for farm rehabilitation.
  4. Farmers must be provided with opportunities for soft loans so they can immediately start over.

This may sound like I'm asking for too much in behalf of our farmers, but I believe it's just right. We must remember that these people deserve more with what they do for the country… they feed us.

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.