Posted tagged ‘nutrition’

INDIA’S RURAL SALVATION COULD BE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

August 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning from Manila!

 

India’s rural poor is very high in frequency as its overall rural population is still at an all-time high of 80%. No matter how heated the industrialization efforts are at the moment, it will take time before the benefits of industrialization will permeate the rural folks.

 

It is no wise action to force rural areas to commercial urbanization as an option to alleviate urban poverty.

 

[15 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to eldis.org database news.]

 

 

Sustainable agriculture: a pathway out of poverty for India’s rural poor

Produced by: Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (2008)

Millions of farmers in remote rural areas of India struggle to feed themselves and their families, while the resources on which they depend are deteriorating daily. This book shows how sustainable agriculture can help India’s farmers – especially those in poor, remote areas – pull themselves out of poverty.

The book details 14 examples of how development initiatives have helped farmers in some of the remotest parts of the country break out of the cycle of poverty, debt and environmental degradation, and improve their lives and livelihoods through agriculture that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.

The examples fall into three areas:

  • organic agriculture
  • land and water management
  • improving market access for small-scale farmers.

These examples were selected not only due to their success, but also because they have the potential to be replicated on a large scale. The analysis and lessons are intended to be applied to a wide variety of situations, not just in India, but also throughout the world. The authors argue that such large-scale application is vital if the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability are to be met.

Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=38679&em=310708&sub=agric

Advertisements

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY

August 1, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let me continue on the issue of hunger, which many politicians are raising howls this early in time for the 2010 polls. The tendency right now, with politicians’ short-sightedness and poverty of wisdom, is that hunger will be perpetuated and sustained even long after the same politicians are all dead.

In the study on fair trade & food security I did for the national center for fair trade and food security (KAISAMPALAD), I already raised the howl about hunger and recommended policy and institutional intervention.

Since other experts, notably nutritionists, already highlighted many factors to hunger and under-nutrition, such as lifestyle problems, economics, and lack of appropriate public policy, I preferred to highlight in that study the factor of trade on food insecurity and the hunger malaise. Let me cite some cases here to show how trade and hunger are directly related:

·        Immediately after the termination of the sugar quota of the USA for Philippine-sourced sugar in the early 80s, the domestic sugar industry collapsed. 500,000 hungry sugar workers and their dependents had to line up for food, a tragedy and calamity that shamed the country before the international community. Till these days, the trauma caused by that ‘line up for porridge’ solution remains among those children of those days who are now adults, one of whom became my student at the University of the Philippines Manila campus (a girl).

 

·        Two years ago, a cargo ship carrying PETRON oil to the Visayas got struck with leaks and a tragic spillage covering wide swaths of sea waters. The island province of Guimaras suffered catastrophically from that incident, its economy was as bad as a war-torn economy for one year. Its marginal fishers couldn’t fish for at least one year as the sea spillage had to cleaned up. The hunger and under-nutrition caused by that tragedy is indubitably related to a trade activity: oil being transported to a predefined destination.

 

·        At the instance of trade liberalization on fruits upon the implementation of a series of GATT-related and IMF-World Bank sanctioned measures that began during the Cory Aquino regime, the massive entry of apples and fruit imports immediately crashed tens of thousands of producers of local mangoes, guavas and oranges, as domestic consumers (with their colonial flair for anything imported) chose to buy fruit imports in place of local ones. Economic dislocation and hunger instantly resulted from the trade liberalization policy.

The list could go on and on, as we go from one economic and/or population to another. What is clear here is that trade measures and activities do directly lead to food insecurity and the attendant problems of malnutrition and hunger. In the case of the Guimaras oil spillage calamity, humanitarian hands such as the Visayan provinces and Manila’s mayors’ offices, added to private and NGO groups, quickly moved to help the affected residents. Of course the PETRON itself took responsibility for the spillage, clean up, and offered humanitarian help as well. But did trade stakeholders ever paid for the hunger malaise suffered by the sugar workers and families, fruit small planters, and other families in the aftermath of shifting trade policy?

A strategic solution to trade-related hunger would be to constitute a Hunger Fund, whose funds shall come from at least 0.1% of all tariffs (on imports). A 0.1% tariff alone today translates to P800 million approximately, or close to $20 Million. This can serve as an insurance of sorts for trade-induced hunger. The funds will then be administered by an appropriate body, comprising of representatives from diverse sectors and headed by a nutritional scientist of international repute (e.g Dr. Florencio) rather than by a politician or ignoramus species.

Furthermore, insurance groups here can begin to innovate on food production-related insurance to cover force majeure damages. Cyclone insurance and earthquake insurance would be strong options for agricultural producers, even as other options can be designed most urgently.

I would admit that trade-related hunger and its solutions are practicable for the productive sectors of our population. There are 2.3 million street people today who comprise the relatively ‘unproductive sectors’, who all suffer from hunger. This need to be tackled as a distinct sector and problem, and discussed separately.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila] 

MANILA’S HUNGER PANGS

July 30, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

In a previous article about obesity, I already touched on the hunger issue. It is particularly interesting to study nutrition issues in Manila today, nutrition patterns render the Philippines among the ‘transitional populations’ that characterize emerging markets.

Needless to say, in a transitional population as defined in demographic theory, both problems of hunger and overweight co-exist, with obesity rising at faster paces than hunger. Depending on current circumstance, hunger could fluctuate from low to high. The difference between the two problems is that while hunger fluctuates or varies in occurrence, obesity steadily rises.

When I did an intensive study on fair trade & food security in 2005 for a national center entrusted with addressing fair trade & food matters, I did stumble upon the reports of the Social Weather Stations or SWS about hunger. I also got updated about under-nutrition problems reported by experts of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute or FNRI, which indicated very serious nutrition gaps among children and women, and those for fisherfolks too.

What surprises me till now is that food producers themselves, fisherfolks most especially, suffer from under-nutrition problems. Food producers are abundant with food resources, and so expectedly they should show the least signs of under-nutrition. But this isn’t the case, and in a very informative manner, our nutrition experts led by Dr. Cecilio Florencio have used satisfactory factor analysis to unlock the causes and correlates of the problem.

From the late 1990s till 2004, the hunger incidence fluctuated from 8% to 12%, going up and down as data indicated. However, from 2005 through mid-2008, the pattern shifted to the 12% to 16% range, which surely makes the problem alarming.

As early as 2005, I already raised the alarm bell for hunger, recommended policy measures and the launching of a Hunger Fund as executor of the hunger mission. Unfortunately, state officials were not in the mood to listen to such problems then, and it seems that the FNRI’s own alarm bells to the Office of the President and to the Legislative fell on deft ears. Only when economist Dr. Mahar Mangahas and the SWS experts began raising the alarm bells over media did government respond.

To my own dismay, government response has been re-active. Nary can one find a new, fresh solution to the problem. It’s the same old fogey ‘give-the-poor-porridge’ solution, the same solution that one offers to folks during wars and calamities when people have to line up for scarce food preparations. Porridge & food stumps remain, till these days, as the intervention tool of state.

How to solve hunger in the long run, which our very own nutrition experts are adept at but which continue to fall on deft ears among top state officials and our own people who refuse to change lifestyles, isn’t anywhere in the Presidents’ nor Congress’ list of strategic solutions to the problem.

Let our state officials be reminded of the last years of the monarchy in Old France. When asked for a solution to hunger, Marie Antonette replied “offer the poor cake.” Whether the cake or porridge solution leads to food security is no longer an issue in fact. One need not be reminded that the French monarchy then, too immersed in its own vanity as to be so out of touch with reality, was decapitated.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]   

MANILA’S EMERGING OBESITY: IGNORE OR ADDRESS IT?

July 30, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Nutrition-related issues and problems in the Philippines constitute a long list. Among all the related issues and problems, hunger stands out as the most highlighted today. While there is no question about highlighting hunger and addressing it with determination, over-focusing on this single issue tends to mask the other issues involved.

Among the emerging issues and problems in nutrition, I would handily pinpoint obesity as the most focal. Needless to say, it challenges development stakeholders to highlight the issue as well, and address it on the same level as hunger is being addressed today. Addressing it would mean resorting to public policy tools, strategies and programs at a national level, and creating necessary institutional frames to accelerate the problem’s solution.

While doing the study on fair trade & food security for the KAISAMPALAD in 2005 (this NGO is a national center for fair trade & food security), I stumbled upon both problems of hunger and obesity. At that time, the latest data from the Social Weather Stations regarding hunger indicated a 12% incidence, a figure that I found alarming as anything past the 8.5% index is considered significant. So I included the hunger issue among those food insecurity ailments that must be salved pronto, recommended policy measures, and even recommended the formation of a Hunger Fund as the multi-stakeholder executor of the anti-hunger mission.

The same study made me stumble upon the findings of nutritionists of the state’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, which indicated a 25% obesity at the turn of the millennium. That average had its expressed distribution among age groups, with varying indices per age bracket. What was alarming at that time was the 25% Phliippine obesity rate was already 5% above the global average of 20% (the USA’s was 66%).

While I was aghast at the obesity incidence, admittedly I wasn’t prepared to tackle it then, and so I remained silent about the matter in the final research report, save for citing indices of over-weight across age brackets. Today the obesity incidence had risen well above the previous 25%, and certain popular media estimates indicate well pass the 30% mark already (we still need some more update nutrition research on the subject).

Obesity is markedly higher than hunger in the Philippines, surpassing the latter by over double the incidence. The problem with hunger studies is that the methodology is often subjective, since they employ surveys (e.g. asking the informant if s/he has been eating sufficiently or not. In contrast, obesity measures are objective and very exact, as calibration entails the use of weighing scales administered by licensed nutritionists.

I admit that I still am relatively unprepared to tackle the issue as of this day, that is as a development issue. I can only think now of the typical lifestyle intervention to address it, such as combining physical regimen with diet program and a total lifestyle change. Being athletic and a health buff (I was formerly Silver Medalist in national powerlifting –middleweight division), I often offer myself as a prototype of an optimally balanced physical-nutritional wellness person, even as I can easily lecture on lifestyle change and personal intervention to address obesity.

I would end this piece by tossing the query to my fellow Filipinos in the country and to friends overseas: will Manila continue to ignore obesity altogether?

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

SALTY FILIPINO FOODS: ANTIDOTE TO ASWANG, GOBLINS, DARK CHANGELINGS

June 13, 2008

Erle Frayne  Argonza

Let me get back to Filipino food, to highlighting the salty taste of our foods. Whether one eats Filipino foods in the archipelago or overseas, the deli-taster will notice this salty facet of Filipino foods.

Saltiness of food is like a 2-bladed sword. One sharp side of it has to do with the positive effects of salt on the body, of salt’s function to preserve body water in high temperature and humid environments. The other sharp side has to do with salt’s inducement of hypertension.

Coming from a family with a history of cardio-vascular ailments, I already decided to cut down on salty foods. Cardiovascular ailments are now among the top killers in the archipelago, surpassing the once endemic tropical diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, malaria and broncho-pneumonia. Well, the latter ailments are still prevalent among our poor folks, but among the middle and upper classes cancer and cardiovascular diseases are the tops.

The question is, why do Filipinos love to eat salty food? This is a tough though fulfilling theoretical problem, and as a former professor I loved to challenge my students to think hard by giving them theoretical problems. My students often end up feeling smarter with these kinds of exercises.

In this piece, I’d choose to highlight the mystical-esoteric side to the problem. As a mystic, I am aware that salt is a very powerful substance to neutralize and scare away goblins and other earth elementals. During my training as a mystic (by a Guru of Light), depowering goblins and malevolent spirits was among my menu of courses, and salt was a standard substance taught to us in our neutralization of goblin psychic attack.

I can very easily see, based on this information, that the ancient Filipinos (called Maharlokans, or the inhabitants of the Maharloka subcontinent of the larger Lemurian continent) could have known well the power of salt applied to neutralizing negative energies most specially earth elemental energies. Till these days Filipinos are aware of elementals of earth and water (not much about air & fire elements), aware about possible attacks from bad elementals (not all are bad please).

Another purpose of salt could be that it is, together with garlic, a strong neutralizer against Dark changelings more so the Aswang variety. The Aswang is human at daytime, who by nighttime changes into an animal such as a dog or a giant chicken with half-body and wings (manananggal).

Well, as to the authenticity of changelings, this a subject that I wouldn’t rather touch, as it borders superstition. I would leave the matter to a mere belief for now, a belief that evil spirits can transmogrify a ritual practitioner into an abominable animal that sucks the blood of babies (manananggal). The dog-shaped Aswang will kill and taste blood of victims of all ages, as the belief goes.

Taking the above belief as a basis, the inclination to cook salty food could be a preventive measure to keep aswangs and goblins away. Not only that, maybe the old generation folks were even admonished to always keep a pack of salt with them along the road, as this could deter some bad spirits from tailing them.

Now, dear reader, are you satisfied with this kind of explanation? Please try explaining it yourself, and do feel some fun in the process. Theorizing is a tough thing, but full of fun too. Try it.

[Writ 03 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

WHY FILIPINO FOOD IS SALTY: JOLLIBEE, ANCIENT SCIENCE, LEMURIANS

June 12, 2008

Erle Frayne  Argonza

Filipino taste is peculiar in that it loves salty food. One who is accustomed to less salty food, such as those cooked in the USA and Japan, will easily recognize the peculiarity of Filipino food.

One is free to think of the cultural behavior as either good or bad, depending on where you are in the health & wellness scale. If you are in a hot region where water is relatively scarce, salty food may serve you well as the salt can help in retaining the body’s water and prevent dehydration. On the other hand, if one suffers from perennial hypertension, salty food could be bad.

Take a look at the Jollibee hamburger. Why do you think is this burger, which doesn’t taste like the originals (European/American), did good in the Philippine market? So good did this burger start off in its early origins that the love for it spread like wildfire, and had already crossed the borders to as far as the USA. Jollibee Corp itself is now a global corporation, thanks to people’s love for its burger.

Packaging has got nothing to do with it. Branding could possibly explain it, most specially the mascot of a (a) ‘jolly bee’ that signifies the happy side of Filipinos (jolly) and (b) the capacity to do things impossible even under the most rigorous circumstances (bumble bee’s wings are too small to carry it theoretically, yet it can fly! Impossible!).

But no, those marketing strategy things of packaging and branding are merely secondary. The real reason is that the originator of the burger, Mr. Tony Tan himself, was able to capture the Filipino taste in the burger, resulting to a Filipinized or salty burger. This successful consumer story is a case of indigenizing foreign food so as to suit the local taste and, ergo, create a big market for the product.

Now, the deeper question is, what explanation can be advanced to explain the salty taste of Filipinos? This is the tougher question which is a good problem for students of social and cultural theories.

One explanation could be that ancient science—of the Lemurians, the forefather of Malayo-Polynesians including Filipinos—could have resulted to prescribing food that are salty. The Philippines, located near the equator, always exudes humid and hot climate throughout the year, save for the few months of rainy monsoon season.

Salt, mixed with the proper diet of fish, vegetables, and fruits, may have served well the need of the islanders to preserve water in the body. No matter how abundant the archipelago may be in waters, surrounded as it is by oceans and seas, it is hot and sultry almost the year round. And so the ancient islanders, who were the survivors of past cataclysms (including the ones that destroyed the Lemurian continent), easily recalled from their collective memory those bits of science that could make them survive in a drastically changed terrain and climatic condition.

Nice thought for the day. Meantime, for those who haven’t tasted the Jollibee burger, please try to savor one yourself. Enjoy your meal!

[Writ 03 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]