by Prime Sarmiento
MANILA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Farmer Ligaya Oria has never thought the onions she grew would be used in delicacies, nor did she expect to talk about her life as a farmer in front of a huge audience who included workers, social celebrities and government officials.
But the Friday luncheon sponsored by the non-profit organization Oxfam made all this true. The luncheon themed " Growing a Better Future" was held to draw attention to small scale farmers, who they believe can help avert food shortages caused by climate change.
"We're concerned about small farmers because we really believe they can help with the food needs of the world and yet they get little support (from the government)," Dame Barbara Stocking, chief executive officer of Oxfam Great Britain, said in an interview with Xinhua.
Climate change has brought erratic weather patterns, stronger typhoons, drought and scarce water supply. This is expected to reduce farm output, spike prices and raise hunger incidence.
The International Food Policy Research Institute estimated that 12 million more children would be consigned to hunger by 2050, compared with a no-climate change scenario. Oxfam estimates that by 2050, demand for food will rise by 70 percent. But agricultural production might not be able to sustain this demand as climate change is squeezing resources.
Oxfam said supporting small-scale farmers will help vulnerable countries like the Philippines to adapt to lower farm yields caused by a warmer planet. This is because farmers practice a less intensive and more climate-friendly techniques which will ensure that farm production will be enough despite a growing population and dwindling resources
Most small scale-farmers, for instance, use green manure and crop management instead of expensive synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They also rely on water harvesting, thus reducing the need for irrigation and help deal with unpredictable rainfall.
Oxfam cited small farmers in India, Indonesia and Vietnam, who practiced the system of rice intensification (SRI) which was introduced by several non-profits, became more productive by cutting their dependence on farm inputs. Several studies revealed that farmers who used SRI increased average yield, reduce water usage and hike farmers income.
Oxfam proposed that governments invest in small scale farmers, by protecting their land rights, expanding credit and market access and investing on infrastructure and technologies.
Investing in small scale farmers will also directly address the hunger problem as most of the world's poor and hungry are in rural areas.
"Vulnerability, poverty and hunger are concentrated among the rural pot, so investing in small holder agriculture will build resilience, and boost incomes and food availability in hunger hotspots," Oxfam said in its report.
But investing on small-scale farmers may just be the first step. It's also important to make their livelihood sustainable.
"The challenge is how to make small holder farming sustainable? How do you make rural enterprises work?," said Jessica Reyes- Cantos, lead convenor of Rice Watch and Action Network
The Oxfam lunch may just be the answer. Although it's a one-off event, the chefs who prepared the meal believe this is a way to bring attention to the plight of small farmers while at the same time create a market for their produce.
Chef Myke Sarthou is organizing other chefs to visit small farms all over the Philippines, source ingredients from these farms, craft delicious meals out of them and expose the plight of small farmers to diners.
"Supporting local farmers is one of my advocacies, so I encourage other chefs to work with the farmers," he said.
Sarthou said that these meals may be a way to educate diners on abstract concepts like climate change or food security.
"Food is a good metaphor for these concepts," he said, adding that this kind of meals will spur a conversation between diners and chefs about farming and what anyone can do to adapt to the impact of a warmer planet.