Leaving is not the best option

“Don’t worry, I can handle this. Back home, I used to clean a lot of dishes.”
“Ah, why so?”
“Because my father used to feed a humongous group during planting season.”
“So you own huge tracts of land? But why did you choose to work here?”
“No, not really. Because working in the field is difficult; I’d rather work overseas.”

I was about to tell that she could have majored in agriculture and stayed in Diadi, Nueva Vizcaya with her family, than be a teacher here in Bangkok. But who am I to judge? Of course, I have nothing against Filipino English teachers here in Thailand. They are well trained and professional. My point is, had she be given more opportunities (and tools) to make the most from the land that they have, I suppose, she won’t have to come here and work.

“You grew up in the city?”
“Ah yes, but we usually go to the provinces during the summer break.”
“In our field, my father invites our neighbors to help him plant in the fields. That’s why we have to cook for a lot of people.”
“And wash a lot of dishes, maybe?”
“Yes! The last time I visited our place was, I think, a year ago.”
“We’re still behind. There is still no internet or even computer shops. For farms, community dryers are still not around, unlike those I see in nearby areas. I wonder when that will change.”

It appears to me that the issue of rice is more than just about food security. Changing times have led to increasing investments in the rice sector. Even by 2021, ADB projects that 111.3 million tons of rice will be consumed by the whole ASEAN .

However, these are only misty facts for my friend. For her, planting is difficult and her place is obsolete.

And she doesn’t find the field worth the toil.Recently, innovations in rice are bridging opportunities to better provide food for the nation. And I believe, this issue spans across various sectors of development—touching poverty, health, and public policy. It may be an injustice that these are still yet to be harnessed. These problems, for an instance, outdated technologies and dwindling rice yield, have been in existence long before. And while more and more lose interest in rice farming, the demand for this staple never stops.

“We still need a lot. Better irrigation and more modern equipment. If the government will make these available, borrowing or sharing it with other farmers from time to time, is just fine.”
“As long as it’s there.”

Contrary to popular belief, innovations in the global rice sector aren’t only about technologies, new system of farming, and techniques to increase gains. The heart of all innovation is working together. While efforts continue globally in empowering farmers in adopting rice technologies, working together could bring profound benefits that can surpass statistics and research alone. And if there are people who should benefit from innovations on hand, it should be those who are least fortunate.

“You know what, even if planting is difficult, we enjoy our sense of community.”

As she wipes the dishes from the edge of the sink, her eyes speak to me. Life back home is better because of family. But if opportunities from where you live are in limbo, how far can staying go? My friend might have mirrored those who have to work outside our country and have left toiling the ground. Or perhaps, even those living in the provinces who might have moved to the cities for the better. To influence them to come back is an understatement. But to begin renewing their perspectives that there is life in rice, provide opportunities where they can work with others, and enhance their involvement in the work that is on hand, leaving again will not be their option.

Note: The views and opinions on this essay are those of the author's and do not reflect those of the institute and its partners.

Aliyah Lou EvangelistaAliyah Lou Evangelista

Aliyah Evangelista is a development communication specialist versed in planning, coordinating, and organizing communication approaches and interventions for ICT4Development efforts. Currently, she is a Master’s student at the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University – Thailand where she studies how technology in health care could improve capacities in the Asian region.