Addressing worsening hunger in PH
There must be a grassroots public-private sector national initiative to address our worsening hunger.
Last Jan. 22, the Social Weather Stations reported that the number of Filipino families that experienced “involuntary hunger” worsened from 9.8 percent in September 2023 to 12.6 percent in December 2023. That is a 29-percent increase in hunger. This may still get worse with the coming of El Niño amid rising prices.
Hunger Free Philippines stated: “A volatile social inequality and uneven wealth distribution have contributed to the country’s ongoing crisis.” Private sector groups like the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) under then president Benedicta Du-Baladad launched nutrition as a major focus during her term.
Last Feb. 4, the AgriFisheries Alliance decided to address hunger by advocating a small community approach. As early as the Jan. 16 Cabinet meeting, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. delivered a three-year plan with strategic components to address the issue.
Among these are: “expanding and improving available agrifishery areas to increase production, improve and expand market access, and have a strong partnership with the private sector.”
The Department of Agriculture (DA) must now consider immediate grassroots action, together with the private sector, to address our worsening hunger situation. We cite two private sector initiatives here that should be considered:
The first is Kabisig ng Kalahi, led by its founder, Vicky Weineke. She is also the vice president of the Agribusiness and Countryside Development Foundation (in partnership with MAP). Though a very successful entrepreneur for 30 years, Wieneke changed course and focused on addressing hunger.
Starting with just P40,000, Kabisig has implemented a nutrition model in more than 150 barangays throughout the country. Its major partners include local governments, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Education. Its private sector partners include civic groups, parishes and corporations like Unilever. For its phenomenal success in addressing hunger, Kabisig has received numerous national and international rewards.
Gia Mendoza wrote that through Kabisig, mothers were happy “to get out of the house and cultivate, socialize with others, and not worry about where the next meal was coming from.”
Another example is Harbest Foundation led by its president, Toto Barcelona. Harbest promotes its “Family Food Garden Program in Every Household.” Harbest is now in more than 40 provinces, with more than 200 mayors as partners.
Promoting both household and community gardens, Harbest features a 2,000-square- meter demo farm for different crops that anyone can grow in their own garden.
Barcelona states: “In two to three months, food on the table will have higher nutritional values to support a healthy body for each member of the family. [It is] toxic-free and readily available. Cooking lessons to prepare healthy food will uplift the family health index within one year.”
There are other parts in the Harbest holistic programs: (1) Nutrition education involves teaching nutrition and online sessions on the nutritional values of food ingredients with accompanying cooking lessons. (2) Intensive livelihood farming has hands-on training on crops production using simple and easily available technologies, resulting in increased productivity, better quality produce, and improved incomes. (3) Local government and state university and college-initiated training centers are needed because highly perishable vegetables and fruits must be produced within a province, near urban centers or island provinces.
There are other successful antihunger programs initiated by the private sector.
The DA must now look into these and consider catalyzing a national grassroots public-private initiative. Backed by strong political will, our hunger situation may yet improve.