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Famine waiting to happen in Maguindanao upland village

AGRICULTURE • 03:17 AM Tue Feb 2, 2016
Ferdinandh Cabrera
A child takes left overs of a coconut milk in a remote village in South Upi, Maguindanao as food shortage hit the village due to drought. (FC)

SOUTH UPI, Maguindanao – Farmers in remote villages here are likely to experience starvation if the drought that has plagued farming communities here continue for another month, indigenous farmers said.In a vast corn field, the effects of El Nino phenomenon had taken its toll on members of Indigenous Peoples who are reliant on agricultural products and indigenous crops as daily food on their tables.Green surroundings have turned to brown and dry as the villagers here have not tasted rain water the past two months. sand// Food shortage has taken its toll on one of the villages, the Teduday tribal leaders have said.A 19-year-old Teduday woman, resident of Barangay Kuya, South Upi, has been depressed and lack of food deteriorated her situation, according to her mother Maria Luz. Sadly, the mother said, she has to fasten her daughter to a pole at a neighbor’s house after she allegedly set on fire three houses, including the family owned.Maria Luz was sobbing heavily as she recounted the story of her eldest daughter. She has not taken her meal due to lack of it and one day last week, may be out of frustration, set on fire our neighbor’s house,” Maria Luz recalled.Carmelita Mabologon, a village official, said the woman was already depressed and when her stomach was empty she became absurd and difficult to control. Sometimes neighbours give her food but when we ran out of anything to offer, she was uncontrollable,” Mabologon said.As Mabologon was telling the story, a 2-year-old son of Maria Luz was seen crawling in the nipa hut eating left over of coconut milk.The child quietly but hastily eating the coconut as if afraid someone will take it from him.In a nearby hut where Maria Luz’s family stayed after her home was razed, her other children were preparing yellow corn as alternate rice. Yellow corn variety is for chicken, sometimes additives for animal feeds, now we eat it in lieu of rice,” Maria Luz said in the vernacular. In what used to be a communal water source nearby, the villagers pointed at an open well, already dry. A river nearby has turned into open field of stones but waterless.Maria Luz and her village mates have also shifted to heat-resistant crops.In the meantime, she said the family and her neighbours are searching for kayos” (wild jam) as alternate food although she admitted it was poisonous.Around the village, corn fields are still beaming with corn plants but looking closely, one can see they are empty. Rice fields have been dry with the rice paddies turning into concrete blocks. Failure,” rice farmer Joven Padilla declared. Failure” is a term used by farmers if the harvest cost is way below the amount of inputs.A hectare of rice field produces 90 to 100 sacks but with the current situation, it would be good enough if they could take 10 sacks of palay or none at all. We have not tasted rain the past two months, I don’t think anything can be salvaged here,” he said.Most worrisome, according to a woman farmer who asked not to be named, is how they could pay the input costs. We have loaned the fertilizer and seedlings, how can we pay back,” she said in Filipino. Can’t imagine how we can make both ends meet in this situation.”Conchita Quinlat, Teduray-Lambangian civil society representative, said like any other communities, here water is scarce. This is famine in the making, I fear people will physically fight over limited water supply from already drying up wells,” she said of the people of Kuya, South Upi, Maguindanao, an upland town dependent on rain-fed rice and corn fields.Informed of the situation in South Upi, the humanitarian arm of the of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has scheduled a relief and food assistance mission Monday. (Ferdinandh Cabrera)

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