Basilan Farmers Discuss, Advocate Their Human Rights Issues

Isabela City, Basilan-Although the Farmers’ Month celebration is usually done on May every year, the Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. (NFI) proved that “The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something,” as said by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator.
Thus did NFI conduct a Farmers’ Right Advocacy Planning-Workshop on July 25 at the Bishop Quereta Formation Center in Isabela City Basilan. The farmers came from the different areas/groups in the province, among them from the municipality of Akbar, Upper and Lower Bato-bato, Matarling, Microfinance, TSHG Tairan and Tairan Coop, MNLF communities and others.
Mrs. Catalina Nabi, NFI Board of Directors member, conveyed the welcome remarks to about fifty (50) farmers-participants. NFI Project Staff Meridith Ogoc shared some inputs on the Magna Carta of Farmers, adding the definition of terms used for the farmers that they would be able to understand their basic meanings as well as the topic of Empowerment of Small Farmers.
In the first session of the workshop, a small group sharing was carried out, grouping the participants according to their respective communities. In this sharing, they answered two questions: 1.) Sa iyong pananaw, Anu-ano ang mga karapatan mo bilang isang magsasaka?, and 2.) Alin sa mga karapatan na ito ang nais mong isulong para ito ay maisakatuparan?”.
During that session, they were also asked to write some basic information about themselves as farmers like the name, age, what kind of crops that they are planting and their average monthly income.
In a big group sharing, each group discussed some issues and concerns of farmers like the rights to have a linkage with concerned government agencies who can help them, right to organize as cooperative, and the right to choose land to farm.
On the processing and deepening about the Farmers situation and their economic status was discussed by DAF-ARMM Resource Chief and Municipal Agriculturist Emme Dagatan.
She cited that in Basilan, farmers grow coconut and rubber dominantly and other crops such as cassava, corn, rice, vegetables and other fruit, legumes and others.
Ms. Dagatan also recounted an experience from the 2013 siege in Zamboanga, wherein the province of Basilan was also affected. “We really had difficulty acquiring rice and other foods from Zamboanga City, so we really have to grow here our own food,” she said.
“This workshop is a good thing that NFI initiated to empower our farmers,” Ms. Dagatan added.
Before the second part of the workshop took place, which is the planning and painting session, an Orientation on Visual Arts as an Advocacy tool, and Strategy Techniques in painting was given by Ms. Ogoc.
On the planning and painting session, the grouped participants answered questions on three farmers’ rights that they would like to be prioritized, why, how, where, when, who and the expected results. These plans were also portrayed in paintings that the farmers would like to advocate for the public and concern government agencies to know.
This activity is the second sectoral advocacy workshop conducted by NFI under the 2nd Covenio program’s Human Rights Advocacy of the Marginalized Sectors in the community in Basilan, as partner of Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc.

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