Farmers, Fisherfolk, and Indigenous Peoples Amidst the Pandemic

Tiyan | January 17th, 2021

For those whose lives depend on the providence of the land and sea, working from home is not an option. For the farmers, fisherfolk, and the indigenous peoples, COVID-19 has prompted another increased state of precarity. For the indigenous peoples, many of whom are also farmers and fisherfolk themselves, the pandemic has prompted an additional layer of difficulty in the struggle for their ancestral lands and the conflict with military groups and opportunistic corporations. 

In these far-flung areas, healthcare is scant and underfunded, resulting in low health indicators and greater vulnerability to not only the virus but to other diseases. Thus the pandemic is yet another health crisis to add on top of existing issues that are yet to be resolved. This sector remains to be one of the most neglected and sometimes even oppressed portions of society, and the onset of the pandemic is no exception.

Livelihood amidst the pandemic

The challenges that farmers and fisherfolk face everyday date themselves to much earlier than the pandemic. The onset of climate change and numerous calamities, the aging population of farmers, and unfair land distribution are only some of the issues that are plaguing the agricultural sector. However, the onset of the pandemic has not only made the faults in the system clear, it has also exacerbated and heightened the already precarious state of the sector.

Farmers and fisherfolk who need to go out to the city to sell their goods have found themselves unable to do so due to lockdown restrictions. This has resulted in food wastage — leaving farmers no choice but to throw away crops and leave them to rot. Moreover, the lockdown’s limited movement has also prevented maintenance of important facilities such as dams for irrigation — resulting in more problems in farms, especially so for rice growers whose crops hinge on an abundance in water. Buyers of crops are also paying them in installments (due to their own financial difficulties), resulting in more struggles for farmers. Fisherfolk also have to face the spoilage of their fish due to many ice plants closing down in the midst of the pandemic. Illegal fishing has also increased, further damaging the industry. 

Moreover, the damages incurred by the recent typhoons Ulysses, Rolly, and Quinta has incurred losses of up to P2.1 billion in farms and fishing grounds. Commodities that were affected include rice, corn, livestock, and fish, and caused damages in equipment and infrastructure in Cagayan, the Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Bicol Region among others.

Indigenous peoples amidst the pandemic

Indigenous communities, especially ones in Luzon, have imposed their own concept of community quarantine called by many names among different ethnolinguistic groups, such as tengao, te-er, to-or, sedey, far-e, ubaya, or tungro. Aside from usual measures such as mask wearing, handwashing, physical distancing, and limited persons going out per household, rituals have also been decreased, being limited to meetings among leaders. Uniquely, however, it was mentioned that households conduct rituals and prayers among themselves, and communities as a whole agreed to help each other cope and survive the pandemic by helping any member who may be facing difficulties and food shortages. Using traditional concepts of community, voluntary isolation, and other preventative measures, indigenous nations are curating their own solutions to cope with COVID-19.

The onset of the pandemic has also prompted yet more precarity to the already fragile state of the indigenous peoples in the Philippines. Throughout the years, groups such as the Lumads, Aeta, and Dumagat have faced increased hostility from the state in the face of land disputes and accusations of housing rebel groups. In areas where military forces abuse their power, the orders of the President to shoot down quarantine violators greenlights yet more violence and oppression. During the year, attacks on the Lumad schools have continued, including forced closures, vandalization of facilities and textbooks, harassment of students and teachers, and aerial bombings have been documented. The issue of the Anti-Terrorism Law also threatens yet more violence to indigenous communities; flyers of red-tagged teachers of Lumad schools have been spotted in Davao City. Sources on the ground, such as those from ALCADEV Lumad school, have confirmed that military groups have been further emboldened to camp in Lumad communities.

Ending Statement

The pandemic is more than a health and security issue, it is a crisis that extends to even our basic needs of sustenance. Farmers and fisherfolk, and the IPs that also identify as such, have always played vital roles in food security, more so in this pandemic. Despite this, resources continue to not be allocated for their needs, in a context where they are faced with not only neglect but open violence.

Something to think about: How can we help marginalized communities whenever disaster strikes during these times?



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Conde, M. (2020, May 7). For Philippine farmers reeling from disasters, lockdown is another pain point. Retrieved from 

Evangelista, S. (2020, August 20). Planting Seeds of Growth: Plight of Filipino Farmers in the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from  

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Novio, E. (2020, May 19). Webinar Report: Farmers, fisherfolk lament limited aid, logistical challenges brought by COVID19. Retrieved from 

Keyword: C19AS,DMCA