STRIKE HOME| Kalibre con ginamos

Worthy of consideration is the advocacy of UP professor Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr. for people to eat less rice and in its place eat sweet potato (kamote) and cassava instead. Rasco made the exhortation recently at the UP Mindanao campus to an interesting mix of audience that includes local officials, as reported by the Times in its Aug. 24th issue.

To begin with, he said, rice production continued to sustain inequality whereby majority of the rice farmers are poor while the few rice industry players are rich.

He added that rice farmers also tended to suffer from poor nutrition and poor health, occupational hazards and handicapped by low levels of mechanization.

It is also his contention that rice production, likewise, generates high greenhouse gas emissions.

What are the effects of eating rice on the body? As reported, he was quoted as saying that once rice becomes glucose, it affects the skin, brain, arteries, blood pressure, nerve pressure nerve cells, kidneys, eyes, bones and virility itself.

He described white rice, pan de sal and white bread as the worst while sweet potato and cassava are the best.

In conclusion, Dr. Rasco recommended what he called a “strategy of intensification, diversification, integration through a mix of less rice production with more of other food products such as vertical integration with mushrooms, carabeef, and vermiculture; horizontal integration with ducks, tilapia, mungbeans, corn, soybeans, and other field crops; and similar integration with garlic, onion, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, and other vegetables.”

As an organic agriculture practitioner myself, I am inclined to cast my vote for the professor’s advocacy. His system in fact shapes up as among the “best practices” Filipino farmers can muster as part of the defense against free trade and the dumping of farm products in the market. It entails a paradigm shift by stakeholders, chief of which is the Department of Agriculture itself that worries annually on where to source the money to buy rice as well as the irrigation to sustain farmers’ crops.

Organic agriculture itself, especially when applied to vegetable production, is the best defense we have against the influx of veggies mostly from Mainland China. In organic agriculture, we are not only assured of safety products but also of their health benefits.

Cassava and sweet potato is not strange to the poor that crowd the countryside. In Siargao island, cassava eaten with fish paste is an almost daily fare and the people are not complaining. The menu is referred to fondly as ‘kalibre con ginamos.’ You will be surprised that despite this spartan food, the people (both men and women) are good swimmers and expert divers and do not shirk from physical work.

Corn is also a common stable in villages, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao. For the sake of corn, even steep slopes are plowed to plant corn with. Its disadvantage as a crop is that it demands too much soil nutrients but otherwise it is indeed a more nutritious food than rice. Why, even Senator Manny Pacquiao once admitted he practically grew up on corn. It is also a known fact that most of the Filipino boxers who made good in boxing were basically corn eaters.

The poor by reason of necessity also survive on bananas (saba) aside from roots crops but while majority gets to access rice, it is on a one-day-one-eat basis. Indeed, in addition to the ailments cited above by Dr. Rosco, farmers suffer perennially from lack of enough cash to buy the very commodity they raise.

Let us call on the DA to make Dr. Rasco’s system as well as organic farming among the major thrusts of the Duterte administration in bringing about food sufficiency and sustainability.

Posted in Opinion