From landless to landowner: Collectively empowering young farmers

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By Karen Tuason.

Photo by Jimmy Domingo/ Task Force Mapalad.

Karen will be sharing her success story at Youth: The future of sustainable landscapes to be held at the Global Landscapes Forum at 9am CET November 16, 2013.

If you can’t make it to Warsaw, watch the event online at

When you know the law, you know your rights. Such a statement may seem obvious, but for many landless young farmers in the Philippines, this statement does not ring true enough.

Landlessness is among the most crucial problems of farmers in the Philippines. Lands are concentrated in the hands of a few powerful and influential families. Most Filipinos are landless; the youth are landless. Continued obstruction to farmer beneficiaries’ access to their own lands through outright violence or threats has put their and their families’ right to adequate food in jeopardy.

I have witnessed first-hand the bleak future of young Filipinos living in the countryside who do not own their own piece of land. They are mostly seasonal farm workers, if not jobless. They do not have other opportunities but to work as contractual labourers during harvest season. They are involved in agriculture but in oppressive conditions. With no other options for a better income, they are forced to move to the big cities to work in the service sector – as waiters, construction workers, drivers, house-helpers and other exploitative informal jobs.

So without land and without education, their problems just grow exponentially. They get poorer.

For young farmers in the Philippines, owning their own piece of land can make a difference. It impacts directly on their household income and it builds self-esteem. If they own the land, they decide on what to plant. They harvest what they plant. They invest and work harder on their own land to earn more. They decide their own value-adding activities.

In my speech at Youth: The Future of Sustainable Landscapes I’ll talk about my work with Task Force Mapalad – a Philippine peasant federation — to empower young farmers to take active part in campaigning for access to land (through paralegal trainings, communication trainings, tactic sessions, leadership trainings, mobilizations, dialogues and community organizing) and productivity resources.

I’ve seen how the transformation of socio-economic roles – from mere landless farm workers to new land owners and managers – has enabled young farmers to collectively address and improve food security, purchasing power, education and health of their community. It has encouraged them to continue safeguarding the land tenure gains of their families and empowered them to take part in community activities.

We have been able to help young farmers establish producers’ groups – giving them a collective bargaining position, credible image and track record in accessing finance and other resources from various national and local government and non government agencies.

I’ll also talk about the importance of training young farmers in sustainable agricultural technologies so they then pass that knowledge to other communities. When more and more young people are able to find attractive opportunities in rural areas, mobility and migration of young farmers will decrease.

By Karen Tuason

Photo by Jimmy Domingo/ Task Force Mapalad

Karen will be sharing her success story at Youth: The future of sustainable landscapes to be held at the Global Landscapes Forum at 9am CET November 16, 2013.

 If you can’t make it to Warsaw, watch the event online at