On October 16, 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) celebrated World Food Day, and together with more than 130 countries, advocated a common goal: a world free from hunger and poverty, where everyone can lead healthy lives. Toward this end, many activities had been lined up to promote and drumbeat the occasion.
Poverty is always equated with hunger because it is one of the underlying causes of the latter and is often the direct cause of malnutrition. People who are poor can’t afford nutritious, healthy food, or food in general, and therefore tend to get ill more easily. This makes it difficult to work or earn a living and often means that people remain in a poverty trap.
Hence, NO POVERTY is foremost among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, supported by all UN organizations. Nations, governments, private companies, and citizens from around the world are working hard to achieve the 17 goals by 2030, starting with hunger and poverty.
The Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program is on a parallel journey, though its objective is not in totally eradicating poverty. Rather, it aims to contribute to the reduction in the country’s poverty incidence among the farmer population in the shorter term. In Region 8, its objective is to contribute to efforts of everyone – government agencies, LGUs, NGOs, CSOs, etc. to reduce poverty incidence among farmers from 46.7% in 2009 to 22.7% in 2022.
To achieve this goal, it has employed strategies that are subsumed in two (2) program components – social preparation and livelihood interventions. The first is necessary to prepare the areas and their respective constituents for the entry of various interventions. The second, which is the core of program implementation, provides funding and technical support for livelihood projects to target beneficiaries who may be individual farmers or groups/associations selected based on certain criteria.
Agricultural interventions focus on both household consumption and agri–enterprise development. Specific activities include capability building up to marketing assistance.
Almost every activity involves sharing of information and technology, whether in utilizing resources to improve people’s lives, monitoring project status and developments, imparting changes in climate and how they could put people’s life and health at risk, teaching advanced and new growing techniques and how they can be made to serve the most economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as the greater good.
All projects are now in operation in the five (5) SAAD Program–covered provinces in Eastern Visayas. They consist of rice and corn production enhancement, swine production and fattening, and vegetable, poultry, cassava, and ube production. While some projects have already borne fruits and shown positive impact in the lives of beneficiaries, others are still on start–up status, especially those implemented only in 2018 in the expansion provinces of Leyte and Southern Leyte.
From testimonies of farmers, projects which have been operational since 2017 were instrumental in bringing enough food to their table, curing some maladies, and supporting their children through school, among other forms of benefit they brought them. The projects likewise enhanced their capacity to generate more productivity and income.
In the case of associations, they improved their access to resources and maximized their profits. Together, they were able to adapt to climate variability and develop common strategies for sustainable cultivation, as well as learned how to prepare for natural disasters and adverse conditions and recover faster from their impacts.
The initiatives are geared towards empowering communities to become self–sufficient so that hunger and poverty are combatted. If all work together to produce food for the family and for the rural community they belong to, it could lead to resolving these chronic problems that have beleaguered our society ever since we can remember.
We could duplicate the feat of Brazil’s “Fome Zero” (Zero Hunger) Initiative, where millions of people escaped poverty and hunger because of this program. In time, the twin goals of hunger and poverty eradication shall have been achieved through this and similar efforts like SAAD Program.
Writer: Michael F. Dabuet, DA-RFO 8 Adminstrative Officer III