Advocacy from DA to IPs: Converting unused ancestral land to agricultural land in the middle of the ECQ



MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) calls on Indigenous Peoples (PA) to turn parts of their ancestral lands unused into food production areas to ensure a stable food supply amid the COVID-19 pandemic and enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“In this time of crisis, we need practical strategies that can produce immediate results. Thus, we call on our compatriots, the indigenous peoples or PAs, to transform part if not most of their ancestral unused lands into vegetable and high-value farms, ”Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement on Thursday. .

“Our IPs can also consider embarking on diversified farming systems, integrating vegetable and livestock farming, which will not only provide them with a continuous source of food, but also a source of additional income,” he said. added.

Dar pledged that the DA “will allocate a substantial budget to finance the improved program of food production on ancestral lands”.

“It is part of the Plant, Plant, Plant program of the Duterte administration of 31 billion pesos, where we will, among other projects, intensify the promotion of urban and community agriculture as one of the interventions aimed at ensuring the availability and access to food across the country, ”said the DA chief.

Citing the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the DA noted that IPs occupy approximately 7.7 million hectares or 26% of the country’s total land area of ​​30 million hectares.

NCIP specifies that ancestral domains “Refers to all areas belonging to IPs comprising land, inland waters, coastal areas and natural resources therein, held by virtue of an owner-occupied or owned claim by the [Indigenous Cultural Communities/IPs], by themselves or by their ancestors, collectively or individually since time immemorial.

These ancestral domains, which cannot be sold or mortgaged, are collectively owned and private in nature “but are beyond the commerce of men”, according to the NCIP. In 2019, the NCIP issued 243 certificates of ancestral domain titles, with a total area of ​​5.7 million hectares and a total of 1.3 million IP as rights holders.

Dar noted that the DA has realigned its programs and refocused its budget to improve food production as it is “as important as a major strategy” in the fight against the pandemic.

“Besides the profitable types of vegetables – like onion, green beans, potato, carrots, pineapple, garlic, cauliflower and watermelon – our IP brothers can grow cocoa, coffee, abaca, or black pepper, or they can raise native pigs and free range chicken, ”Dar said. The DA also listed ampalaya, asparagus, cabbage, cassava, garlic, ginger, mung bean, papaya, peanut, sweet potato and tomato, as other crops IP can develop.

The DA recently reiterated its appeal to local government units (LGUs), in particular from the province of Bukidnon, to enable the continued operation of food crops such as sugar factories in order to ensure a stable food supply and to avoid “artificial shortages and rising prices” during these periods.

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