Recently, we witnessed farmers bringing forward their struggle and turning their individual courage into a collective one. We arrived at a San Jose Del Monte barrio upon farmers electing their new leaders after a successful general assembly.
I am thankful to have been part of this milestone, although this was not the first time that I witnessed and participated in solidarity gatherings with the farmers of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. I was part of the IBON research team and last year, I joined various production activities with the SJDM farmers. Through these activities, I was able to document their stories of success as well as their decades’ worth of struggle for land ownership.
It was from these experiences that I learned how difficult the life of a farmer in the Philippines can be. Oftentimes, the much-needed support from the government such as agricultural inputs and technologies are not made accessible to the farmers and if in case provided, they remain insufficient to help the farmers in their production. In addition to this, those who actively struggle and advocate for their right to land, food sovereignty, and livelihood are constantly subjected to increasing and worsening harassment, violence, and even killings.
As an individual, I cannot find any reason why such atrocities can be committed against the people who provide us the very food we serve on our tables. Questions such as “what would happen if one day they would just cease farming?”, “What would happen if they gave up their struggle for their lands?”, “What if there is nothing left of them?” plague my thoughts whenever I hear or read news in the social media about farming communities that are continuously experiencing violence being perpetrated by the goons of landlords, hacienderos, and developers.
In my conversations with the farmers in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, I have developed a deep sense of respect for their collective action as they remain steadfast to their cause even when confronted by threats of death. For them, the land sustains their lives, therefore it is just to fight for it. They struggle not only for themselves but also for our sake. No one can deny the fact that farmers are essential to our lives. They have long been taking good care of us by providing our food — now it is time to do our part in upholding and protecting them.
With this, I join the farmers in defending their rights to land, livelihood, and settlement.###