The agriculture industry needs less ego, more cooperation

Photo by Levi Morsy on Unsplash

It’s the holiday season, arguably the most anticipated holiday of the year. But instead of concentrating on the festivities, many Filipinos will be wondering how to make ends meet amid the rising prices of basic food items.

This, alongside the longtime complaint of farmers and fishers not making enough money either due to bad crop planning, being shortchanged by an opaque food system, or recovering too slowly from either the latest natural disaster or environmental degradation that has been going on for decades.

Photo by Levi Morsy on Unsplash

In a perfect world, food would be cheap enough to afford the regular citizen access to ingredients for nutritious, delicious, and culturally appropriate food at least three times a day (because Filipinos, like hobbits, require at least five meals) while giving the farmer a decent income that can support their families, their business (because, as I realize that I have to keep pointing out, farming and fishing are businesses) in the black, and offer their employees (if any) livable wages.

Something like this is easy to type, as all the armchair warriors who think they know more than actual agricultural practitioners show, but in reality, is very difficult to do.

One doesn’t even have to be a grizzled veteran–stick around the industry for a few years, and one will eventually run into either a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed individual who believes that they, yes they and only they, can solve the country’s entire agriculture problem if only people would listen to them; or the aforementioned person who likes to offer advice on topics they know nothing about. 

Spend enough time in the industry and one will realize that its problems are systemic and intertwined. There are too many people who stand to gain from the current convoluted system to want to change it for the better. There’s an Upton Sinclair quote that goes, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” and it fits this scenario perfectly. 

The way around this for many people is to do their best in their own communities with the resources they have. If they succeed, their community is better for it. If they’re exceedingly lucky, the results ripple outwards, affecting others positively as well. The key word here is community. 

Though Filipinos like to believe they’re group-oriented, many like things done their way, to the point that they’d rather break away from a group and start their own instead of seeking compromise. This can be a factor to a group’s success, as politicking takes the place of genuine cooperation. Again, this is easy to write but difficult to implement. 

The sooner folks learn to work together for the common good, the easier (the word “easier” being relative, as this is currently a near-impossible task) it will be to ask for and effect change in a system that is skewed against the very people who keep it afloat.

This piece was first published in the Opinion page of

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Yvette Tan
Yvette Tan is Agriculture magazine's managing editor’s web editor. She is an award-winning writer who likes to eat, travel, and listen to stories about the strange and supernatural. She is dedicated to encouraging people to push for sustainable food sources and is an advocate of food security, food sovereignty, and the preservation of community foodways.

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