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Liberating Force Against Hunger & Poverty

Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
Plant Taro Root (Lutya)

Do you know that the Philippines is the biggest rice importer in the world, importing some 2.5 million metric tons of rice annually while China with a population of some 1.5 billion Chinese Is only importing 2 million metric tons? From where does our rice importation come from? Mostly, from Vietnam and Thailand and other South East Asian countries whose millions of hectares of irrigated lands are using irrigated water from the Mekong Delta otherwise known as the Third Pole. Recently, it was discovered that soon Mekong Delta will lose its iceberg like what is happening in the Arctic and the Antarctic as every day some 1,000 hectares of the 386 meter-high iceberg is melting due to climate change. When that happens, hunger will stalk our country.

It has been our advocacy that our fertile land especially here in Mindanao must not anymore give way to massive plantations of high value crops to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries. The priority must now be on food. But these Trans-National Corporations are so powerful to continue converting our vast tracts of lands into massive plantations. Thus, it has become imperative to now listen to the plan of our Indigenous Peoples- for food security.

The ecological people in the hinterlands of Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro consisting mainly of Higaonons, Manobos and Talaandigs have discovered an amazing root crop called Taro Root otherwise known in the vernacular as Lutya which could be one to liberate them from the quagmire of poverty and hunger. This is amazing during these most challenging times when our country has lost its ecological integrity and food security. It is a great paradox in a rich agricultural country which has some 200,000 hectares of plantations in Mindanao alone planted with high value crops to supply the consumerist needs of the people in advanced countries but cannot even produce enough rice and milk for its hungry people, the reason why 85% of the Filipino children are malnourished.

Yes, from the bosom of Mother Earth looms the long awaited countervailing force against the number enemy of the country which is hunger and poverty. Amazingly, it is also the one to cure the many ailments besetting the people as the health benefits of taro root include its ability “to improve digestion, lower blood sugar levels, prevent certain types of cancer, protect the skin, enhance vision, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, aid the immune system and prevent heart disease, while also supporting muscle and nerve health.”

Taro roots contain “a wealth of organic compounds, minerals and vitamins that can benefit our overall health in a number of ways. It has a very significant amount of dietary fiber and carbohydrates, as well as high levels of vitamin A, E, vitamin B6 and folate. There is magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, and copper in it.”

No less than the former Spokesman of the Indigenous People to the United Nations, Datu Vic “Migkitay” Saway, who is the Chieftain of the Seven Tribes of Bukidnon based in Lantapan, Bukidnon, has been passionately advocating in its massive and intensified propagation coining the slogan, “one million Lutya for Lumad liberation.”

Well, in a country that has become a dumping ground of finished products from all over the world that include snack foods and soft drinks that are glaringly unhealthy, why not give focus to a local root crop that is being grown abundantly which are just used as feeds by the farmers to pigs. Datu Migkitay together with cooperative leaders are now front lining the massive production and processing of Lutya to crackers, biscuit and chips, going around to educate the farmers on the imperative need to promote our own products including the application of value-chain and marketing. And why not?

Let us be reminded of a truism that buying is like casting a vote, choosing from different economic alternatives, i.e, choosing between products which are either local or foreign, healthy or not healthy, essentials versus non-essentials, organic versus inorganic. Contemporaneous times glaringly shows that the Filipino buyers, having been brainwashed by advertisements without let-up promoted by the mainstream media, are buying what are foreign, unhealthy, the non-essentials and what are produced inorganically. In effect, we are promoting the jobs and the economy where these products are coming from.

We buy foreign and in doing so, some 6,000 Filipinos are going abroad everyday during the pre-pandemic period just to find jobs as there are some 14 million Filipinos who are either unemployed or under-employed. Many Filipinos are beset with problems on high sugar levels, high blood pressure, skin diseases, cancers, or what have you because of the unhealthy and chemicals-laden foods coming from everywhere. Even the way we raise chickens that is heavily using toxic chemicals is highly flawed as these are carcinogenic.

But constant bombardment of advertisements coming from the mainstream media which are owned by the trans-national corporations are giving the message: buy this buy that and you will be happy. That is the way they promote unbridled materialism and consumerism. That is a societal flaw that we must now rectify.

We in the cooperative movement are serving notice to one and all: if you buy the products of the Cooperatives, you are buying what are locally produced, what are healthy, what are organically grown and what are the essentials. In doing so, you promote the local economy, generate jobs for the Filipinos and you buy what are healthy and essentials. Indeed, buying is like casting a vote and our vote should be that of buying local, buy healthy, buy organic and buy what are essentials. If you buy the Filipino products, you support the livelihood of the poor and the vulnerable. If you buy foreign products in the malls of the oligarchs, you further enrich the rich and powerful oligarchs.

Lutya is indeed the liberating force against poverty and joblessness and in eating Lutya, you cure not only ailments of the body but that of society as well.

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