Correspondence Peasant struggles amid El Niño advance in Negros

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Amid the drought induced by El Niño, the collective action of masses of peasants and residents in several barangays in Negros achieved success for just aid and support from the reactionary government. Hundreds of farmers have stepped forward and engaged in dialogue with local agencies for their demands.

In one barangay, nearly 500 peasants attended an assembly on March 30 to express their grievances and deliver their demands to barangay and town officials. They discussed their actual experiences and hardships caused by the drought. They appointed representatives from each sitio to address the assembly.

Farmers complained of widespread water shortages (for drinking and farming), crop failure leading to debt and extreme poverty, lack of food including rice, and ailments such as coughs, fevers, flu and others due to excessive heat.

In the face of strong peasant advocacy, the local government promised to provide the materials for constructing a centralized irrigation system. The system will service 33 sitios of the barangay and at least 8,000 people. The local government also promised to provide rice, seeds, fertilizers and financial assistance.

People in another village also won a centralized irrigation system after holding a dialogue with the local government. The three big sitios in the village immediately accepted the hose and other urgent aid such as rice, sardines and meager financial aid. This project will benefit 100 households or 500 people in three sitios.

The initial successes achieved by the farmers served as a spark and inspiration to the neighboring barangays in Negros. Farmers, both organized and spontaneous, are now taking action to fight for their rights and needed state support amid the drought caused by El Niño.

The peasant masses of Negros have a rich history in the struggle for land and their well-being. For decades, they fought against the fascism of the big landlords and the reactionary state. They have been successful because of their strong unity and unwavering commitment.

ACCORDING TO the Department of Agriculture on April 19, the damage caused by El Niño to agriculture in 11 regions has reached ₱3.94 billion. The department said 66,065 hectares of farms and 73,713 farmers have been affected. The hardest hit are the islands of Mindoro, Palawan, Negros and Panay. The estimated damage to rice crops (₱2.36 billion) is highest, followed by high-value crops (₱868.84 million) and corn (₱669.44 million). Fisherfolks have also suffered damages amounting to ₱33.83 million.

Peasant struggles amid El Niño advance in Negros