Marianas Variety

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Sept. 15, 2009 ) – Guam, a once self-sustaining island where people fed on their own harvests, has deplorably developed dependency on imported food as farming and fishing have been bumped off by tourism and military industries. Compounded by the awful neglect of successive administrations, agriculture has since been relegated to the background, standing as a negligible sideshow to the local economy.

Most of the fruits and vegetables sold at island supermarkets come from off-shore, while local produce has become rarities on store shelves. Such dependence on imported goods exposes the island to enormous risks to its food security, especially during the times when food crises beset the world.

Small-scale peasant farmers, who form the bulk of those engaged in agriculture, have almost lost hope in the willingness of our government to lend them the necessary support to boost output.

But farmers’ hopes have been renewed as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Chamorro Affairs have teamed up and taken a step to bring agriculture back to the front burner. Local farmers will get a much-needed shot-in-the-arm with the launch of the farmers’ market at Chamorro Village yesterday. The project is aimed at "connecting farmers with a larger customer base" by providing an accessible venue for selling their produce at more affordable prices.

We call on other tiers of government to take a cue from this resolve by investing in agriculture and supporting this sector.

Our hope for increased production rests largely on our farmers. If they are supplied with the necessary farm inputs and implements, re-trained and guaranteed good prices for their produce, they can deliver our food requirements and save us a lot of dollars that would otherwise go into food imports. If farmers are given tax breaks under the qualifying certificates program, the agriculture sector can expand into a bigger industry that can generate jobs. A healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome hunger and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth.

Imagine what this huge amount of money could do to local food production, if it was ploughed into farming, particularly as assistance to the local peasant farmers, to provide better seedlings and to build small earth dams for irrigation.

Farmers deserve more attention than they are getting now and agriculture should be included into Guam’s development agenda. Agriculture makes even better sense as it feeds the population, reduces food dependency and ensures the vital goal of food security for the island.

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