Today is sort of a coming out for the “Food for 9 Billion” project, with features airing on American Public Media’s Marketplace and PBS NewsHour. Both stories look at the links between population growth and food security in the Philippines, and both were reported and produced by freelance journalist Sam Eaton. The TV piece was edited by Charlotte Buchen, a freelancer working with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
We hope you can catch both stories—we think they complement each other nicely. In the Marketplace piece, Sam takes us to the slums of Manila, where migrants from the countryside pick through mountains of garbage and maternity wards are packed two to a bed. He also takes us outside the city, where rice farmers in the country’s agricultural heartland are being displaced by urban sprawl.
The NewsHour piece introduces us to an innovative program in a fishing village in Bohol, in the central Philippines, where poor fishing families are embracing birth control both to escape poverty and to ease the pressure on overfished reefs. It seems that access to family planning doesn’t just change people’s attitudes about their own futures, but also about the world they’ll be leaving to their children.
Population growth is an important part of the feeding-the-world equation, but it’s not always clear what to do about it. Growth tends to slow when people get wealthier. But some say the Philippines has lagged behind its southeast Asian neighbors largely because it hasn’t taken measures to slow its growth. The country, home to the International Rice Research Institute, is now the world’s biggest rice importer, and its natural systems—reefs, forests, rivers—are badly degraded. Philippine congressman Walden Bello, a Princeton-trained sociologist and former director of Food First, has been trying to make government funds available for family planning, but the powerful Catholic church has resisted.
On a purely journalistic note, our hats are off to Sam, a longtime radio reporter, for his own coming out into the world of television. We sent him to the Philippines to do a radio story, but he came back with video of everything he did, shot on a small SLR camera. When the folks at CIR and PBS NewsHour saw his footage they were floored, and helped him craft it into a very strong piece. Marketplace and NewsHour decided to broadcast the stories on the same day, and to make some noise about the collaboration. To which we say: Woo hoo!