Tuesday, January 15, 2019



Children (and adults, too) need to learn the principles of ecology (how life works in community), and they need to see the connections between human beings and the rest of Nature. The urgent timeframe of global climate change means that any learning that doesn't contribute to these understandings could be considered part of the problem. Indeed, the environmental crisis can be attributed in part to the inability of human beings to come up with sustainable ways of living together.
Here are some ways to "ecologicalize" teaching:
  • Education programs sometimes include icebreakers, warm-up activities, initiative tasks, cooperative games, or physical adventure elements. Helping people work together better will always be a good thing, and creating a sense of community is essential for being eco-friendly. But how can we integrate environmental learning into these activities without drastically changing program elements and while still contributing to group dynamics and character building? It's not easy, but it's simple: We just need to stretch what we do to include mention of and learning about the rest of our natural "place" and community.
  • Ecologicalizing education means looking for principles of ecology and connections with the rest of Nature in as many of our learning activities as possible.
  • Follow up to any learning task that demands group work or cooperation can lead to discussion of the behaviour of fish in schools or birds in flocks. How did participants communicate to each other? Why? How do the strategies they came up with to meet their challenge compare with fish or birds dealing with a challenge such as a predator?
  • A group activity that demands cooperation can lead to participants discussing the similarities between humans and other social animals. For example, you can help your students learn how wolf behaviour can act as a metaphor for effective group functioning, character development and leadership.
  • That so many roles need filling to keep a classroom working well exemplifies the connectedness of the living web — what happens to the "web" within the physical and emotional space of the classroom if one participant falls down on the job? And how does this compare with losing one species or degrading one aspect of an ecosystem? Let's talk about these things with students.
  • If your education programming already includes lots of hands-on Nature connecting, you can highlight and reinforce ecological understandings by pointing out or asking for evidence of Nature's gifts or ecosystem services in action. This could be an ambulatory activity (one you do while walking between classes or travelling to different venues), or an ongoing project throughout the year.
  • Nature abides by rules. Games work well and reflect Nature if they combine rules with cooperation and some "friendly competition" (in the sense that every individual is doing his or her best). Beware of overstressing competition — the goal, it seems, of our culture. Ecology relies on mutualism (living things relying on each other), and life is all about synergistic symbiosis. In Nature, "the fittest" is the one who fits into its ecosystem best. This is a lesson our students desperately need to learn.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

How We Stopped A Landslide from Further Destroying a Forest.

How We Stopped A Landslide from Further Destroying a Forest.
Soil erosion and landslide prevention is one of the things we do besides tree-planting. We're pretty good at it. Here, my team Cordillera Ecological Center and A Tree A Day (ATAD) worked hard at Longlong Forest to prevent a landslide from happening using bio-engIneering techniques..

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Asian Indigenous Peoples' Intellectual Property Rights on Biodiversity Endangered By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan Eurasia Review

Asian Indigenous Peoples' Intellectual Property Rights on Biodiversity Endangered
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan Eurasia Review December 11, 2018

London---Indigenous and tribal peoples of Asia, are facing complex threats to their survival as distinct peoples. Not only are they confronted with dispossession of their lands and resources, and physical persecution, but they are also faced with the appropriation of their collective knowledge on plants, trees, animals, insects and even land and waters, developed through the ages.

This is according to a book by this author titled 'The Intellectual and Cultural Property Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Asia' written for the Minority Rights Group International (MRG) based here in London, now available at Amazon.

Minority Rights Group International is an international human rights organisation founded with the objective of working to secure rights for ethnic, national, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples around the world with international headquarters in London.

The book says traditional knowledge on food, crops and medicinal plants is being taken by multinational companies, while traditional songs and designs are being commercialized for the tourism industry. The issue of indigenous cultural property rights is becoming more and more urgent for indigenous peoples.

Even with the United Nations' adoption of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there is minimum standard for the protection of indigenous peoples rights, the book asserts. This is because unfortunate international instruments are adversely impacting on indigenous peoples cultural rights. For instance, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS), put both indigenous peoples and developing nations at a disadvantage by imposing an intellectual property rights regime that does not take into account the diversity of cultures.

Also, Article 8j of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), gives minimal recognition of indigenous peoples rights. It does not protect indigenous peoples from the drive by multinational companies to patent plant and animal materials — resources that are generally found in the biodiverse territories of indigenous peoples — for their potential medicinal and agricultural value, without the knowledge or consent of the peoples who have protected and nurtured such resources, the book covering 22 Asian countries said.

Salak Dima Personifies Asian IPs' Suffering
“When the trees are gone, the deer forever lost and the forests are just memories, we will weep. Not for the land that is bare and dead. But for us, our children and their children. When there are no more tears to fall, we will weep with our own blood.”

This is what Agta IP leader Salak Dima said to the author deep in the Palanan Wilderness Area of Sierra Madre, the biggest tropical rainforest of the Philippines at 200,000n hectares in personifying what wordsmiths call “the last forest guardians.

The Agtas are one of Asia's indigenous peoples marginalized by incoming settlers. Indigenous and tribal peoples see themselves as distinct from the mainstream. They speak their own languages, are largely self-sufficient, and their economies are tightly bound to their intimate relationship with their land. Their culture is different from that of the mainstream, inherited from their forebears and adapted to their current situation.

They take only from the Earth what they need, nurturing and caring for resources as a way of life. They have often lived on their lands for thousands of years.

It is difficult to generalize about Asia's indigenous and tribal peoples. They encompass a huge variety of peoples, living very different ways of life in a great variety of environments. One thing that they do have in common is the oppression and marginalization they experience. Often they suffer direct
violence, for example in Papua New Guinea, in Burma/Myanmar and in the Chittagong Hills of Bangladesh. They also suffer from development efforts by their own governments and by multinationals, through the takeover of their lands and resources.

In most parts of Asia where indigenous peoples land rights are recognized, the government retains the power to overrule these rights in the economic interest of the state. The intellectual and cultural property rights (ICPR) of indigenous peoples are under threat. These include their beliefs, knowledge (agricultural, technical, medicinal, ecological movable and immovable cultural properties), the book reveals.

Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Struggle To Protect ICPR of Biodiversity
The struggle of Asian indigenous peoples to protect intellectual and cultural rights ranges in form from resisting subjugation, territorial takeover, resources exploitation, the destruction of traditions, and infringement on customs and lifestyles, to fighting inhumane treatment, abuse and deprivation of human rights.

In South East Asia much of the struggle is over land and resources, as mining, timber and oil and agricultural corporations encroach upon indigenous peoples lands in search for profit.
Indigenous peoples are becoming victims of forced resettlement, pollution, diseases, militarization, starvation, social and cultural destruction, and the ruin of traditional ways of life.

Asian indigenous peoples close connection to the land makes them particularly vulnerable to ecological damage. Extractive activities threaten patterns of subsistence, living conditions and cultural practices.

In some cases governments deny indigenous peoples civil and political rights in order to prevent them from resisting the incursions. Some states face challenges in reconciling international human rights commitments to indigenous peoples with the requirements of foreign direct investment.

Against the odds, indigenous peoples have had some successes. Divide and rule tactics intended to break down their opposition have failed. Often, there are clear connections between resource extraction, human rights abuses and militarization. In some countries, governments have attempted to stifle the growing resistance of their indigenous populations.

From the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia to Papua New Guinea, there is a burgeoning indigenous movement against both governments and resource-depleting companies. This movement has brought together concerns about human rights and the environment. It is rural-based, grassroots-initiated and multiracial.

The indigenous opposition remains vibrant and effective. In Bangladesh, the struggle of the Jummas, the original inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is primarily to do with rights to land and resources. Many Jummas are losing their lands; they have been forcibly evicted by government military forces. The Jummas are also being displaced because of the discovery and development of a gasfield.

The gas reserve development has affected traditional food sources like homegardens and age-old community forests, threatening the extinction of many traditional food crops.

In Nepal, the indigenous people of Nepal are campaigning against the widespread plunder of germplasm (i.e. plant cells) and indigenous knowledge. Already, many plant resources have been lost, without recognition or recompense.

In Sri Lanka the Wanniyala-Aetto (forest beings), the Sri Lankan indigenous people, are being uprooted from their forest dwellings, shot at, detained, placed in reservations and sold as slaves or prostitutes. Their trees are being cut, logged and traditional foodlots being razed. The Wanniyala-Aetto women, in particular, bear the brunt of this inhuman treatment.

In the Philippines, many NGOs are working for indigenous peoples intellectual and cultural property rights in the Philippines and, seemingly, their efforts have paid off, with the passing of Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in 1997. But the body set up to implement IPRA, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), cannot stop creeping mining, logging and commercial agriculture destroying wide tracts of forests.

In Indonesia,the most significant result of indigenous peoples struggle for recognition of their rights is the government's granting of decentralized power. It gave adat-based (traditional-based) villages powers beyond the standard notions of indigenous rights in international legal discourse. This allows the natives to take care of their forests and homegardens.

But millions of hectares of indigenous peoples lands are be destroyed and planted with oil palm destroying thousands of plant and animal species.

In Malaysia, encroachment into ancestral lands and intimidation are two of the many problems facing Malaysian indigenous peoples. There is no pause in the exploitation of their resources and appropriation of indigenous territories.

In Thailand, the Chao-Chaos, a mixed grouping of indigenous tribes in northern Thailand numbering almost a million, were granted a peoples Constitution which allowed them to participate in the democratic process in the country. They are led by the Assembly of Indigenous and Tribal peoples of Thailand (AITT). Together with the Northern Farmers Network, AITT is pressing for the adoption of a community Forest Bill, which will give indigenous peoples recognition of their right to their traditional resources and management practices.

In Cambodia, positive developments with regard to indigenous peoples struggle for land rights and the protection of their forests and natural resources is happening. Local activists and NGOs headed the campaign for a new law that gave provision for land tenure for indigenous people. Those who now have ownership and control of their lands are enjoying their rights to their resources, such as in the tapping of resin and development of inland fisheries.

But in Vietnam. the government is oppressive towards its indigenous population and does not allow advocacy activities. The government's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department for Sedentary Farming announced a campaign to wipe out traditional nomadic life and swidden farming of its indigenous population.

The government is attempting to eradicate traditional shifting agriculture, which is the lifeline of most highland indigenous peoples including the Banar, Ehde, Jarai, Koho and Mnong tribes, thousands of whom were imprisoned after calling for independence in February 2001.
This is causing genetic erosion of hunreds of traditional food crops including upland rice, rootcrops, legumes, tubers and leafy crops.

Laos has a similar policy as that of Vietnam, which aims to eradicate all traditional forms of agriculture by its indigenous peoples. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Hmong are being removed from their ancestral lands and relocated to areas which are not suitable for their lifestyle an cultural practices.

It is perhaps only in Burma/Myanmar, out of all the states in Asia, that the indigenous peoples form a majority. But under its military rule, politIcal detentions, harassment, militarization, military offensives, forced labour in labour camps and an educational crisis are widespread. Women face rape, marriage to military men and are trafficked by the military as slaves, labourers and prostitutes.

International Efforts to Fight Threat on IPs' ICPR
Indigenous people view the world they live in as an integrated whole. Their beliefs, knowledge, arts and other forms of cultural expression have been handed down through the generations. Their many stories, songs, dances, paintings and other forms of expression are therefore important aspects of indigenous cultural knowledge, power and identity form their heritage.

Heritage includes all expressions of the relationship between the people, their land and the other living beings and spirits which share the land, and is the basis for maintaining social, economic and diplomatic relationships — through sharing — with other peoples.

All of the aspects of heritage are interrelated and cannot be separated from the traditional Territory of the people concerned. What tangible and intangible items constitute the heritage of a particular indigenous people must be decided by the people themselves.

The guardians of an indigenous peoples cultural and intellectual property are determined by the customs, laws and practices of the community, and can be individuals, a clan or the people as a whole

Due to the active lobbying by indigenous peoples representatives in various international meetings, there is a growing appreciation by international agencies of the complexity of indigenous peoples discourse.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has begun discussions on the issue of indigenous peoples intellectual and cultural property rights, although many indigenous peoples are not entirely happy with the process. The UN has also undertaken a study on the heritage of indigenous peoples and put forward several recommendations but these remain recommendations only.

Most of the discussions at the international level on the issue remain elitist — only a very few indigenous individuals are able to participate and information regarding the discussions or outcomes is not extensively disseminated. There is a gap between the international debate and the local realities
Most indigenous communities are faced with life-threatening issues that keep them from actively engaging in international policy advocacy work, and yet many of the issues that indigenous peoples face on the ground are brought about by the implementation of policies crafted at the international level.

Asian indigenous peoples are now often able to wage their local struggles on a global front by working closely with international allies. A transnational movement of environmentalists, human rights workers, lawyers and indigenous organizations is emerging to defend indigenous rights.

Sunflowers, Bees Collateral Victims in Effort for Clean Safe Food By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Sunflowers, Bees Collateral Victims in Effort for Clean Safe Food
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Baguio City, Philippines---Fifty Christmas seasons ago, much of this city and the Cordillera provinces' woodlands, valleys, glens and landscapes were beautifully carpeted with golden wild sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia) Wild bees abounded, pollinating wild and domesticated flowers, ensuring genetic evolution.

Today, the sunflowers are sparse, the fields ugly, pockmarked by human touch as thousands of the plants are cut and killed intentionally two months before every Christmas season. Considered by apiculturists as the best sources of nectar for wild and domesticated bees alike in this part of the country, the plants are being killed resulting to the loss of billions of bees, the world's best pollinators.

A quote often ascribed to Albert Einstein but without no known proof says, "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live" highlighting how vital bees are to the survival of of plant and animal species on the planet, including humans.

Use of Sunflowers as Fertilizer, an Indigenous Know-how
The wild sunflowers, native to Mexico, are being cut in the Cordillera region to be used either as green manure or composting material for the production of organically-grown vegetables.
Unwittingly, farmers intending to satisfy consumers' growing demand for organically-grown safe and nutritious vegetables cut thousands of the plants from September to November and compost these as organic fertilizer. This allows them to make a killing in the market when they harvest their crops near Christmas and New Year, the seasons when vegetables are in their peak demand.

Locally called “marapait”, the wild sunflowers use as rich fertilizer can be traced to the indigenous knowledge of the natives of Mountain Province. For hundreds of years, they have used the plant as basal fertilizer, incorporating these in rice paddies together with pig manure and composted rice straw. Many farms in Mountain Province grow sunflower hedges as sole source of nitrogen fertilizer. Sunflower biomass decomposes rapidly after application to the soil.

The use is not without scientific basis. Then Philippine Department of Agriculture have found that sunflower leaves have high nitrogen content (2.9 percent oven dry weight) and that a ton of fresh sunflower can yield as much as 60 kg of nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen is the most basic fertilizer element needed by crops.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) and the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) say wild sunflower leaf biomass is high in nutrients, averaging about 3.5% nitrogen, 0.37% potassium and 4.1% phosphorus on a dry matter basis. This means the high nitrogen content is good for green plants.

Wild sunflower is a robust herbaceous and bushy perennial that grows up to 3 to 4 meters tall. Branches are stout, with hollow stems. The plant produces large flower heads with bright yellow to golden petals.

How Are Bees Affected Adversely?
The manner and process how honey is made is one of God's wonders science can't duplicate. Worker bees, after hibernating on the rainy and stormy months of June to September, start foraging for nectar and pollen on October. It is also on these months that sunflowers bloom with overflowing nectar. Nectar is the sugary liquid found in flowers. Worker bees using their long, tube-shaped tongues sip the nectar from the flowers and store this in their crop. While sloshing inside the bees' crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition making it more suitable for long-term storage.

Apiculturist Nelson Palispis who trains farmers in this province explained in one of his trainings, “When a workerbee returns to the hive, it passes the nectar to another bee by regurgitating the liquid into the other bee's mouth. This regurgitation process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb”.

It does not end there. “Once in the comb, the nectar, still a viscous liquid, is fanned by the bees using their wings to speed up the process of evaporating any water. When most of the water has evaporated from the honeycomb, the bees seal the comb with a secretion of liquid from their abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Away from air and water, the honey is stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for cold and rainy months, “Nelson elaborated.

Unfortunately, just as the bees time their nectar foraging from September to December, these are also the months when hundreds of farmers engaged in organic vegetable growing, cut thousands of sunflower plants to death, harvesting these be composted as fertilizer. As a consequence, the bees are deprived of plants rich in nectar. The bees are forced to forage on other plants mostly vegetables sprayed with deadly insecticides resulting to the death of millions of bees.

New Zealand-based apiculturist and former chief beekeeper of Saint Louis University's Beekeeping program here Jose Bandiwan lamented “Benguet is the country's worst user of dangerous pesticides, this uncontrolled chemical abuse is killing everything—bees, birds, beneficial insects, the soil, water—it is practically a biocide.”

“With the wild sunflowers, bees have a chance on foraging on non-poisoned sources of nectar, but when you kill the sunflowers the bees are forced to forage on vegetable flowers laced with chemicals, killing thousands of bees everyday,” he deplored.

Worldwide, the Malaysia-based Pesticide Action Network(PAN) says billions of bees are being wiped out due to pesticides yearly, and honey tests reveal worldwide contamination by bee-killing pesticides. It warns of ecological Armageddon if the dramatic fall of inset numbers don't abate.
Nelson is one of the fortunate beekeepers in the province, his bee colonies are situated in the village of Anchukey more than 1,500 masl opposite Mount Pulag, far from farms and surrounded by thousands of sunflower plants.

A Need for A Mutualistic Understanding
Jose believes it is senseless depriving bees of priceless sunflower nectar and people from appreciating the beauty of sunflowers. He likewise avers beekeepers and organic vegetable growers to benefit alike from sunflowers and bees. “Apiculturists and organic vegetable growers must agree on a timetable that allows bees to forage nectar before the sunflower plants are harvested to be composted, most likely the months of September and October. Organic vegetable growers can cut the sunflower plants after those months,” he proposed.

“Organic vegetable growers can also harvest plants that have finished blooming. On one hand, farmers and beekeepers must not merely depend on the resources without sweat, they must plant more sunflowers,” he added.

The idea led the government of New Zealand to support a Project Marapait in Benguet aimed at increasing bees for pollination at the same time intensifying planting of sunflowers. The project, implemented by the Cordillera Ecological Center has put a shot in the arm to beekeeping in the province.

Today, the sunflower plants may be less than before, the bees foraging may be fewer but Nelson says there is light ahead of the tunnel. “Nature has a way of healing we hardly understand if we don’t do our part. Planting those that give life is not nature’s sole responsibility, we must do our share, “he quipped

Living Eco-Spiritually with Earth By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Living Eco-Spiritually with Earth
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

There is an area where Christian spirituality and contemporary ecology can overlap to give assurance that we sustain planet Earth. This is the area of eco-spirituality.

This seeks and finds God not only in loving service of the neighbor but also in creation by reverencing life in all its diversity and all non-living things in all their nobility as humans' reflections to an all wise and loving Creator.

We do this through prayers, sacred scriptures and sacraments and by being responsible trustees and caretakers of Earth. We do this as believing Christians leading spiritual lives to reach union with God by being concerned with all his creation.

In my 30 years of experience of earth-caring, a good ecologist is only worth his salt by believing the material cosmos, the world where humanity dwells together with all plants and animals, is a reality. The living human spirit is always enfleshed in a material body, always a being in the world with other beings, all interacting, all interdependent. No one escapes the fact of being situated in this world physically and spiritually.

People living spiritually breathe the same air, drink the same water and walk on the same earth as those who practice ecology. Beyond the shared obvious commonality, they share many values such as reverence for the living and non-living and appreciation for beauty.

I approach eco-spirituality in the context and from the side of traditional Christian values expanding self-awareness reaching out to expressions by actions that reflect spiritual validation—planting and caring for trees and plants, preventing destruction of landscapes, forests, soil, air, waters, pollinators, and; fighting for these by writing, talking in fora and by organizing street protests to educate.

As Christians, we expect a “new heaven and earth” (Rev 21:1), we believe in the value of the Creator's creation, we also believe in an eco-spiritual syle of living that collaborates in the divine plan to bring about the new creation for the praise of God's glory.

Rice Shortage? Treat Rice as a National Security Concern By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Rice Shortage? Treat Rice as a National Security Concern
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan Business Mirror

How come we buy rice from Vietnam, bombed by the Americans for many years, and from Thailand whose some better known agriculturists graduated from UP at Los Banos? How can they produce so much and we can’t?

Put simply, what is wrong with Philippine agriculture?

Prof. Than Nguyen of the Vietnam National University says Vietnam does not take its rice production lightly. “Rice is a matter of national security in Vietnam.”

The Philippine legislative body recently passed the tarrification bill and many are not certain if we are on the right track.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said a rice tariffication bill, is the right and significant step in reforming the agricultural sector, and most importantly, in solving rice shortage.
The August body agreed with NEDA, passing the bill, which amended Republic Act (RA) No. 8178, otherwise known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. It said this will pave the way for the
replacement of the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports with tariff. This will remove unnecessary government intervention in the rice market.

But critics say otherwise. One like think tank IBON warns “rice tariffication and uncontrolled rice imports will displace rice farmers and worsen food insecurity without solving the problem of expensive rice. The government is using high inflation to justify rice sector liberalization according to long-standing demands of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and big foreign agricultural exporters. Domestic agriculture should be strengthened with ample government support
instead of being prematurely opened up to cheap foreign government-subsidized imports from abroad,” said IBON.

Treat Rice as a National Security Concern
Many reasons have contributed to the shortage of rice but the country withdrew from the market due to ample domestic supplies and a government imposed import ban during the main harvest period. The Philippines, however, will see a substantial increase in imports—about 70 percent—resulting from poor bumper production and dwindling ample stocks as the government hopes to promote
self-sufficiency through hybrid rice production.

How does Vietnam manage its rice production?

First and foremost, Prof. Nguyen explained, the government considers it a national security
policy to achieve rice self-sufficiency. Policies clearly spell out land is for food availability, specially rice, that it must be affordable, accessible, safe and nutritious. As for food availability, there are direct policies set to ensure food production, strategy for sustainable development for agriculture, farmers and rural areas, and a master plan on the development of agricultural production and vision for 2050.

The Vietnamese government targeted to increase food production by 2.5 times by 2030 by guaranteing the availability of sufficient land for growing rice, of which will be used for two crops of irrigated rice per year, he elaborated.

The government has a standing resolution that strengthens the capacity for scientific research and extension, with a 10 – 15% increased budget for this use. Improved training and scientific knowledge and management of farmers are also goals of the resolution to improve efficiency of food
production and income generation.

Because it is stated in the Vietnamese National Food Security strategy, it stresses that rice land is important for national food security. Effective land use and rice land fixing can ensure national food security. The purpose of rice land protection policy is to ensure National Food Security. The policy becomes important in the context of the agricultural land which is captured by
industrialization and urbanization leading to conversion of agricultural land and rice land for other purposes, Prof. Nguyen said.

There must be a set of supply support policies aim to ensure stable paddy supply for domestic demand and surplus for export. Another important supply related policy must be a monitoring of the minimum land reserved for rice production, he added.

Ensuring that Agricultural Land is Available
In Thailand, the government makes sure a large share of land is used for rice cultivation, Thakit Wirasak of the Chulalongkorn University said. It is the government's priority to meet domestic demand and even have surplus of rice.

Idle areas are converted to allow farmers to plant rice and other crops to obtain higher incomes, thus contributing to increased food security.

Four elements ensure food security-- accessibility to facilities and infrastructure, research and development, extension and market, Wirasak bared.

When incomes grow, households can promote their self-reliance in food accessibility. By clearly diversifying paddy land, it is easier for Thai farmers to implement land protection and management, for using land more effectively and giving opportunities for farmers to improve their income by
diversifying their production.

In Thailand, there is a change from the dominant role of the agriculture ministry responsible for
managing food hygiene, safety and quality) and state owned enterprises to “equal ground for all actors” which will help other stakeholders to have more chances to participate in export activities, and create fair competition of domestic export companies and redistributing the benefit to all stakeholders in the value chain.

Policies on rice business mandates all stakeholders to fairly operate in the rice value chain under the market mechanism with less dependence on state owned big companies. Priority of investment are made in research on new and better varieties, especially diseases and flood resistant varieties.
Research is carried out to find out effective crop structure for different ecological region and to ensure production sustainability.

The government has set a priority on facilitating increased rice productivity rather than regulating land area. If the paddy yield is not increased, the food security may not be achievable in the medium
to long term basis. Increasing paddy yield is not simple. It requires a lot of investments. Improving technology is considered as a decisive strategy, biotechnology in particular, the academe agriculturist elaborated.

Beyond the strategies mentioned above, Prof. Wirasak said the following are strictly implemented:
--Strong technical services delivery to farmers
--Planting calendar based on typhoon occurrence
-- Improve drying facilities.
– Hoarders punished immediately

Dwindling Rice Production
In the Philippines, rice is grown on small family based farms with an average size varying from less than 0.5 to 4.0 ha, hence the ratio is small. The possibility of increasing planting areas is nearly
exhausted. Yield increases have begun to slow as well. Added to that, the Philippines population is perhaps the fastest growing in the world.

The Philippines has approximately 4.2 million ha of rice lands and produce about 11.2 million Metric Tons of milled rice, sufficient only for 90% of the population. There are at least five major provinces
which produce rice as its major farm crop. Rice production in the Philippines has been rapidly growing since 1970’s until the early 1980’s when the country achieved self-sufficiency, having a surplus enabling the country to export a small amount.

Going further, a study of farmers' planting methods will show that about half of the country's rice lands are still planted with the old rice varieties that produce only about 2.75 MT/hectare. The
Philippines has so-called "Certified" and "Hybrid" seeds that yield 4.7 and 6.5 MT/hectare, respectively. The country's supplier of hybrid seeds even claim that the actual average yield of his seeds is actually higher (8~10 MT/hectare) and there are even instances of exceptionally high yields that are reported by some farmers.

According to the latest figures released by the Philippine Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the production of unmilled rice (palay) in the country have risen by 5.13 % to reach 3.94 million MT in the first quarter of the year on increased irrigation and seed supplies.

Growing Rice Consumption
Rice is the staple food in the Philippines, more important to the economy and to the people at a lower income levels, hence an important intervention point for promotion of agricultural development and alleviation of poverty. Rice is what many farmers grow, but it is also what nearly all consumers eat.

Noticeably, consumption increased from 2003 which is only 26,000 tonnes comparing now with the national daily consumption of the grain at 33,000 tonnes, accounting for 20 percent of the daily household budget, on an average, with each Filipino eating 115 kilograms, or more than two sacks a year. Apart from being the main source of carbohydrates, rice creates what anthropologists refer to as "the physiological sensation of satiety".

Rice is eaten by millions of poor consumers and grown by millions of poor farmers in the Philippines, and to ignore fairness and equity would strip the analysis of much of its value. For most Filipinos, no meal is complete without rice. At this point, it produces only 90% of the rice demand and imports the remaining quantity from neighboring countries. Some 68 million Filipinos live on less than $2 a day, according to the National Statistics Office 2006 survey. Rice purchases make up 12 to 20 percent of their total food expenditures.

Prices of Rice Imports
Once self-sufficient in rice, the Philippines was listed by the US Department of Agriculture as the world's top importer of milled rice for 2007, ahead of Nigeria, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Over the past 20 years or so, the country lost nearly half of its irrigated land to rapid urban development. The shortage in the rice production of the Philippines has been augmented by imports from other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand and Vietnam.

The Philippines is the world's biggest rice importer, purchasing between 1 million to 2 million MT each year, mainly from Thailand and Vietnam. This volume is equivalent to 10 % of the Philippines' total rice consumption.

Towards the later part of 1986, rice prices begun to increase until the present time. In the 1980’s, rice prices in Philippines and Thailand are similar but since then prices have rapidly increased in the Philippines.

Agriculture experts warn prices will increase continuously as exporting countries, pushed by growing local demand at home, will be prioritizing their own food needs.
The writer used to be a supervising agriculturist of the Phil. Dept of Agriculture and trainor at the World Vegetable Center.

Human Race Must Embrace Eco-spirituality to Save World's Biodiversity By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Human Race Must Embrace Eco-spirituality to Save World's Biodiversity
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan Business Mirror

As planet Earth stumbles to the brink of ecological collapse, from irreversible climate change impact caused by man, survival of species, including Homo sapiens, is a vital issue. How can flora and fauna, thousands of species of which are now either threatened or endangered, be sustained?

How can economic growth like food production be sustained in a world now exceeding its carrying capacity without sacrificing remaining biodiversity habitats? How can we tame our energy-intensive appetite for luxury without effecting negative trade-offs in our ecosystems? How can we rein-in an economy based on greed totally detached from the web of life? Are we doing enough of our inter-generational responsibility to ensure that those yet unborn, may be able to benefit from today’s biodiversity?

The time of Descartes and Newton in the 17th and 18th centuries ushered in a “modern devotion”, a movement that went full steam ahead towards domination of nature and exploitation of its apparent unlimited riches.

But all of a sudden, at the turn of the 20th century, we are facing the grave ecological consequences of this domineering and disenchanting approach to the physical and natural world.

Development for What and For Whom?
All through 500 years until the dawn of this 21st century humans toiled, scarcely slowing down, bogged by the consciousness of progress and development. Yet, the dusk of the last century also brought in a reenchantment of reality-- awareness of the limits of growth, the dwindling natural resources and the place of nature in man's search for sustainability.

The economic models of growth were based on industries that although brought high standard of living for the Western nations, has entailed treating the world as an object of endless manipulation, alienating humans from their surroundings.

Today, the global cost for a high standard of living is enormous and hard to sustain. Worse, we have trespassed, raped and looted the resources meant for the unborn generations.

With thousands of floral and faunal species entering the Red Handbook of endangered, threatened and extinct species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are signs that the historical stage of carefree over-development is coming to an end.

Man's march to progress, now spells more doom than boom. Adverse climate change impacts mean environmental bills are coming. We are paying the price.

As our economic and environmental limits become more obvious, we are obliged to shift into a new framework and approach of thought in development.

Making Room for God
We need a to live not only in a new paradigm, view and live our world as a cosmos of organic system whose parts, both human and non-human, form an intricate network of interdependent components but more importantly put eco-spirituality in our approach to development wrote Charles Cummings, a monk of Holy Trinity Abbey, in Huntsville, Utah, USA.

Cummings, who holds a degree in formative spirituality from Duquesne University says in his book “Eco-Spirituality” there must be a spiritual dimension to our ecological approach because the universe is a deliberate result of a Creator with creative capacity and inexhaustible imagination.

The indigenous and tribal peoples of the world understood the relationship with the Earth much better, because of spirituality which allowed them to physically sustain it. This is often manifested in their ways of life, and expressed through their rituals and prayers.

The spirituality can be sensed in the way they respect their surroundings as they live in peace and wonder at the natural world around them, something rarely valued by modern man's economic images of progress.

“God created heaven and earth”, Cummings quoted Genesis 1:1 of the Bible. But we misread our mandate, he says, misunderstanding the Genesis when it said “subdue and master Earth. We believed we have dominion, can control and exert power, and to dominate. Dominance led to devastation, he wrote.

We must reflect a divine image, to mirror God's own way, as faithful caretakers of God's garden which is this world, he said.

Caretakers Not Stewards
“Humanity does possess the unchallenged right to use the goods of the Earth but use has become abuse. The proper role of humans on earth is that of caretaker. The caretaker model incorporates the best features of stewardship model and adds the quality of faithful, respecting loving care,” Cummings explained.

The stewardship model defines that humans are agents or trustees of God charged with the safekeeeping of the Earth's resources for the benefit of all. In Luke 12:42, Jesus praised the trustworthy steward who gave their allowance of food at the proper time but pointed out the danger of a steward growing careless or being concerned only for his own welfare, a likely reference of today's reality.

Stewards are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the earth and will have to give an account to God of how we have used or abused our position. “Draw me up an account of your stewardship” says the master in a parable of Jesus in Luke16:2.

Cummings says to give a spiritual dimension to stewardship, we need to include the soul in caring for planet Earth. The stewardship model does no go far enough and it is ambivalent as there are honest and dishonest stewards.

“The caretaker model never exploits, never acts like a tyrant, he is not the owner but then guardian, God is the owner, maker.”To him belongs the sea and the land,” Cummings quoted Psalms 95:4. “The caretaker's task is to nurture, heal and restore fostering the life and harmony everywhere, “ Cummings wrote.

A State of Disconnection
It is not difficult to analyze that the root cause of our ecological crisis is the absence of our connection to conscious awareness to life and all that gives life. Reverence is the foundational principle behind eco-spirituality. Everything that gives life must be treated as sacred.

This of course moves against the current irreverence of today's society. A society that allows trees to be massacred to put up malls and parking spaces, dumping of garbage in the seas and rivers and tolerates animals to be slain for their tusks, fins or bileducts.
 These societies have lost their reverence toward life, are irreverent toward the Earth. The hectic pace most people maintain in our post industrial culture is inimical to the spirit of reverence. Hasty living has no time to pause, no time to ponder the beautiful, haste is blind to everything except the deadline it is rushing to meet. Whatever gets in its way is likely to be run over with no regret. Haste is intrinsically irreverent.

The challenge now is to bring in spirituality in our relation with Earth, develop a values-based development structure, that is not concerned solely with our material well-being, but embraces reverence and love for the rich biodiversity of the Earth.

The human race must explore and work out ways that humanity can be served in its deepest sense, where Earth's resources we use are not just commodities to be consumed, but part of the living fabric of a sacred Earth.

This may seem idealistic and impractical to most, but only a few decades ago organic farming, a practice of our ancestors, which respects the well-being of the soil, insects, microorganisms, cleanliness of water, diversity of heirloom, was considered uneconomic and idealistic. Now it is recognized and accepted as the only environmentally approach to sustainable farming.

Humans must reconnect with a way of life that respects and includes the soul as well as the land, water, landscape and every living and non living thing like the air, sun, moon and the forces of nature. Through spiritual values that respect both the individual and the environment, we will be able to comprehend God’s gifts and how central they are to the world we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

We are left with no choice, eco-spirituality will eventually usher new ways that support the idea that the best business environment is the environment.

But first, ours is the first move, to love, care and treat nature with reverence.