PCFS salutes Lumad bakwit school for the 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) organized “Solidarity with Lumad Youth: Discussion on the Role of Indigenous Youth on Agro-Ecology” in partnership with PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Save Our School (SOS) Network last October 15. This activity is one of the globally-coordinated activities for the 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology themed “Youth March On for Agroecology and Food Sovereignty!” of PANAP.

This year’s 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology gave focus on the youth’s role in agroecology and consists of a series of collective action of youth groups, farmers groups, women’s groups, movements and advocacy groups from different countries from October 1 to 16.

The discussion was attended by 20 bakwit (evacuee) Lumad students asserting their self-determination and rights despite the continuing harassment and attacks of the government against them.

Chricelyn Empong, representing the SOS Network and one of the students of the bakwit school, highlighted the struggles and challenges that Lumad youth and children face after the closure of their alternative schools in Mindanao due to military and paramilitary operations.

“Mindanao is a very rich region especially in its agriculture. There is an abundance of food enjoyed by the people. However, the domination of foreign agribusiness and their plantations of banana, palm oil, and rubber, and the destruction brought about by large-scale mining operations caused eviction of the Lumad from their ancestral lands,” Empong shared. “It is true that the youth has a massive role in defending our lands, our rights, and our future. We, the Lumad youth, believe that we need to go out of the constricting corners of the classroom to achieve that,” Empong said.

Sr. Emma Teresita Cupin, MSM, Sub-Regional Coordinator of RMP Northern Mindanao, expressed their solidarity with the Lumad, citing their experience with red-tagging by the state as they continue their mission in helping depressed and marginalized communities. She said, “These attacks on our schools are not merely attacks on the children’s right to education; these are attacks against their culture, against the environment, against the caretakers of earth, and against the future. It is immoral.”

John Carlo Mercado, Research and Policy officer of PCFS, discussed that corporate-controlled agriculture, destructive large-scale mining, evictions, harassment, and other issues are also experienced by peasants around the globe.

“As long as the production of food is directed by the very few, food that is healthy, safe and adequate will remain a pipe dream for the majority,” Mercado said.  He also highlighted how the current climate crisis will further exacerbate the demarcation between the rich and the poor.

“The Lumad schools are the very example of a thriving community that marries food production, education, and political participation,” he said.

The afternoon program ended with the Lumad youth chanting “Fight for right to food! End hunger now!” ###

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