From producers to consumers: how rice farmers face catastrophe

Funny, we hear precious little about the global food crisis and the real reasons as to why food all of a sudden goes up in price. We only feel it in our wallet and we grumble. In fact most of us know as little as this rice grower. The difference is that we do have televisions and Newspapers while he has not. So while we can understand his ignorance I have trouble understanding ours. Why are we not informed by our mainstream  Media?

Could it be because they are no longer independent and if not isn’t it time we become the media ourselves again?

Just after dawn, Marlon Tayaban makes his way down the terraced paddies in Banaue, in the northern Philippines where the rice farmer has his home and fields.

It is a stunning vista. The steep, thin steps and strips of cultivated land mottle the mountain slopes in infinite shades of green. As the 36-year-old descends the narrow path, he is surrounded by rice as far as the eye can see. On one side is a flooded paddy full of light green shoots. Higher up the distant hillsides on the other side of the misty valley are darker fields almost ready for harvest. Every inch of land appears to be given over to rice.

It is hard to imagine a more abundant symbol of Asia’s most important crop. But Tayaban’s journey down the giant steps highlights the growing problem facing millions of small-scale farming families.

The farmer is on his weekly trip to the market, where he has to buy more food than he sells because his ability to produce children has far outpaced the capacity of his land to feed them.

Thirteen years ago, when Tayaban started tilling the paddies, he had two fields and two mouths to feed. Today he has no more land, but six children. The producer has had to become a consumer. That was not a problem when grain was cheap. But in the past year, global prices have tripled.

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