Oxfam Philippines GROW campaign for sustainable food

When Oxfam contacted me last month, I had no idea what their organization stood for. Through my food blog, they wanted to explore the possibilities if I would support the new Oxfam campaign called Grow – that intends to ensure poor Filipinos have enough to eat, now and in the future.

Of course, I was interested and not just for my food blog but for Blog Watch.

Oxfam Hong Kong Director General John Sayer explained about the hunger situation at the launch of the GROW campaign. “We all need food. Some people don’t get enough food. That problem is going to get worse. All our knowledge learning and studies tell us, the way we’ve organized our food systems too many people don’t get enough food. A billion people wake up hungry and go to bed hungry. That’s one in seven. In the Philippines that’s closer to one in five.”

“I think its our mutual responsibility for everyone in the world to provide food for all people on earth. So we’re launching the Grow campaign, which will last for several years”.

Oxfam held the Good Food Lunch Friday to showcase the “good food” Chefs Steph Zubiri, Sau del Rosario, and Tatung Sarthou, and Oxfam Ambassador Cherry Pie Picache prepared “good food” – dishes using sustainably produced ingredients by poor women leader-farmers and fishers Trinidad Domingo and Ligaya Oria of Nueva Ecija, Rosario Mendoza of Cavite.

Each of the ingredients featured in the recipes at the Good Food Lunch had story to tell about food: what challenges poor women and men go through to produce it; how it is sold and traded in the country and beyond; how its production is threatened by climate change; and so forth. You can read more about how Manila chefs advocate “good food”.

Sayer added that “Women farmers are responsible for a huge amount of food production in the world. In addition to that they are responsible for early child education, for feeding the family, for the health of the family.”

Ka Elvie Baladad, a farmer from Rizal whose monggo and alugbati was used for traditional monggo shared her story . Baladad is a member of the Pamansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan. “You may not know it, but we are the ones putting food, especially vegetables on your table. There is money in agriculture… Given the right services, the right incentives especially for the women, we will be empowered. Just give us the chance to grow and give a piece of land to us and we can grow anything, and feed the world”.

“What we’re saying is empower first the smallholders. Help them. Now is the chance,”

Sayer believes that smallholders are the key to improving food security in the country.

“We believe one of the keys to feeding everyone and averting the global food crisis is to empower smallholder producers. More than half the people who are malnourished and hungry are smallholders. They own land, but they are not getting enough food to eat.”

“Aid and government budgets have dropped dramatically for agriculture around the world. If we invest in smallholders, helping them to increase their production, helping them with infrastructure and knowledge, make sure they’re not exploited by middlemen, big companies in trade and food.”

Challenges lie ahead.

Sayer listed three challenges that must be faced.

“One, we’ve got to produce enough food. By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet. Second, we’ve got to do this in an environmentally sustainable way. Third we’ve got to do it in a way where the food reaches the people who need it. There’s no point in producing food that is geographically far away or unaffordable.”

Oxfam is an international non-profit organization that works in over 84 countries worldwide to end poverty and human suffering. In the Philippines, they work with poor people to sustain their livelihoods, and reduce their risks to disasters and climate change. More information about their work is available on www.oxfam.org.uk or www.oxfamblogs.org/philippines.