Posted by: mensab | June 17, 2009

Agrarian Reform Now

Landlessness is a major cause of worsening poverty in rural Philippines.  The poorest Filipinos are the landless farmers who earn their living from hired-labor or tenancy on farms owned by landlords. No matter how hard they work all day, they are not able to earn what their families need to live decently.

To reduce rural poverty in the country, agrarian reform promises to be a potent force. A piece of land to the farmers who toil all day is a dream fulfilled and deserved. They will finally be able to reap the fruit of their labor. Working hard will eventually pay off. Imagine the joy, empowerment and splendored dream that go with that piece of land to farmers, their children, and their communities.

Land distribution to actual farmers is a key to poverty alleviation in rural areas. Economic data may show otherwise, but here is my take on it. Without land, farmers urge their children to join them as hired-laborers in the fields for additional income of the family. With land, farmers send their children to schools and ask their help in the weekends. This scenario cannot be captured by economic data and yet a valuable data nonetheless.

Land ownership brings the farmers into the market system which drives our economy. Imagine hundreds of thousands additional players in the market system. Landlords will remain players in the market system due to their retained estate holdings and other mainstream economic activities.

Two decades of agrarian reform have partially demonstrated the promises of land reform. It was two decades of trying stages of learning and taking further the lessons in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The Senate approved the CARP extension for another five years with P 147 billion to cover 1.6 million hectares for distribution to landless farmer-beneficiaries. The House of Representatives also passed CARP extension. Extending a government program means that there is an unfinished and incomplete task.

What remains to be distributed are the contentious private large estates. This is where the compulsory land distribution and acquisition component of CARP will be tested again. The creative and controversial “corporative ownership” scheme is allowed in the extended CARP approved by the Senate.

Many argue that this “corporative ownership” scheme is a better set up to keep up the production of land. However, this does not effectively transfer land ownership to the farmer-beneficiaries. In the end, farmers are left wondering whether they truly own the land they till or not.

For the farmers, it is logical to pass and implement CARP right away. Land conversions of agricultural lands to industrial and other uses take away the golden opportunity from farmers of owning a land where they can start building their dreams of a good life.

Agrarian reform now is a call for social justice due to poor farmers in the rural areas.

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