Hiraya 2017 probes issues in education, agriculture, nutrition

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FOUR ADVOCATES joined “Hiraya,” a panel discussion on Quality Education and Responsible Consumption and Production (Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 12, respectively), on October 14 for Talakayang Alay sa Bayan (TALAB) 2017.

Hiraya 2017 was held at the Leong Hall Auditorium, in collaboration with AIESEC ADMU. The two-hour event welcomed members of the Loyola Schools community and student leaders from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Los Baños, De La Salle Zobel, Philippine Science High School, and Ateneo High School.

‘Wicked problem’

Advocating for literacy, Teach for the Philippines fellow Raya Esteban talked about sustainable education. She discussed the “alarming” dropout rates of high school students in the Philippines.

Esteban mentioned that the blame is being put on teachers for these rates. However, she said that shortage in financial resources is usually the cause of this “wicked problem” in Philippine education.

She acknowledged education as a “crucial part” of a person’s formative years, saying that everyone is accountable when it comes to making sustainable and quality education a national priority.

The solution?

Account Manager for EON Stakeholder Relations Group and Teach for the Philippines volunteer, Adam Crayne, introduced his talk “Para Kanino Ka Bumabangon?” by narrating his experience of being a teacher at Barangay Krus na Ligas in Quezon City.

Crayne said that the life stories of the children both humbled and motivated him to act on his personal advocacy for education.

When asked to suggest tangible solutions that could help alleviate problems in education, Crayne advised to “study hard and study well” because the students today  will be the ones to instigate change in the future.

Crayne ended his talk on a high note: “We have to believe that we have the solution among ourselves.”

Pride in local produce

Siembra Directa President Nico Bolzico shared that his earlier experiences in Manila revealed how Filipinos have a propensity for import materials and laborthe cause of which, he considered, was because Filipinos “greatly underestimated themselves.”

Filipinos think import is the best, [but] Filipino is best!” he said.

Bolzico further discussed the importance of sustainability in business through quick narratives about LM10, a corporation he ran that promoted responsible production by way of energy-efficient agricultural practices.

He also commented that the situation of Filipino farmers is dire compared to Argentine farmers. According to him, local farmers live poorly and are always given the least priority in Filipino society.

“In Argentina, we respect farmers because everything begins with them. So when I came to Philippines, we saw the reality [that Filipino farmers are not as highly regarded and privileged as Argentine farmers],” he said.

Prudence in one’s purchase

Greenpeace food and ecological agriculture campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin led the discussion on responsible consumption. Llorin stated that in the Philippines, adults are obese while children suffer from malnutrition.

According to Llorin, sustainable living also meant being prudent with one’s purchases. She explained that local agricultural practices are not sustainable because some farmers use chemical inputs which damage the environment and consumers’ health.

Because of this, she urged the audience to start eating healthy and buy only what one ought to consume. She ended her portion by saying, “Do your country a favor and eat healthily. What you eat affects trends in agriculture.”

Troubles in farming

During the open forum, Llorin identified land ownership and conversion to be two of the biggest problems being faced by the country’s agricultural sector. She emphasized that many in this sector do not have access to materials that could help them live sustainably.

Bolzico, on the other hand, maintained that farmers lacked support from various stakeholders which could aid them to develop long-term plans and solutions for the farming and livestock sector.

“UP Los Baños is the [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] of agriculture. The problem is that a lot of [studies] happen in there, but there are little implementations and communication to the farmers,” he said.

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