Seven out of ten rural farmers in the Philippines do not own the land they farm. Often, more than 75% of what they harvest goes to the landowner, a system which perpetuates an indebted peasantry, with farmers barely subsisting. Without a clear land title, it is exceedingly difficult for farmers to attain food security or to invest in the long-term work of building healthy soils that draw down carbon in the atmosphere.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, is a democratic mass organization of Filipino peasants that fights for social justice and genuine agrarian reform, as distinct from the half measures which politicians have so far advanced.
For the past 35 years, KMP’s more than 2 million members nationwide have participated in campaigns against the displacement and human rights violations wrought by local and foreign landlords, agricultural corporations, and plantations. Filipino farmers fight to preserve their role in building a climate-resilient food system and to defend peasants’ right to make the land productive for their families and for the country. They advocate for the redistribution of land so landless peasants can attain food sovereignty and food security. Through educational training and workshops, KMP implements programs that encourage the youth to stay in agriculture.
One of KMP’s central initiatives is the Bungkalan -- collective land cultivation in degraded areas of the countryside. The Bungkalan revives the spirit of peasant cooperation and solidarity. Together, peasants decide which crops to cultivate, using agroecological farming practices. United, they are empowered to earn better wages and gain access to markets as they continue to learn and adapt through peer-to-peer exchange and dialogue.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, KMP set up an online farmers’ market to deliver healthy and affordable produce from farmers’ collectives in the northern provinces to urban centers. The platform has sold more than 13 tonnes of produce, including leafy greens like camote tops, snow cabbage, and mustard leaves, as well as root crops and fruits like banana, papaya, and avocado. The group’s efforts provided an alternative when food supply chains collapsed during the pandemic, securing resources for displaced and landless farmworkers across the country.
KMP is continuing to implement diversified agroecological gardens for displaced farmers to ensure access to healthy food at all times. The organization is also training peasants in food preservation and processing techniques to reduce food waste and ensure food security and stable incomes for families, even during emergencies. The peasant movement is planning a land and food summit to share their experiences and learnings after the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted.
With additional resources, KMP seeks to establish a dozen more collective cultivation areas (Bungkalan) where agroecology is practiced. Farmers and Indigenous peoples will be the main beneficiaries, as they’ll be able to produce healthy food for their families and for the market, resulting in self-sustaining rural communities, and carefully stewarded lands.
Through this project, KMP will set up five food security clusters in the Philippines, comprising producers, processors, traders, and consumers. All will benefit as a result -- especially women and youth -- who will have more opportunities for taking on leadership roles as they engage in workshops, seed banking, and local food processing within the clusters.