This is probably an attempt - sort of an anti-media attempt - to present Jolo as a place where real people live, who yearns for peace and order to come back so that they can exploit the rich natural resouces that Sulu has to offer.
There are a lot of reasons why people in Jolo should return to farming. But, there are also a lot of reasons why they do not or can not.
Sulu is part of chain of Islands that is volcanic in origin and as such, the soil is fertile for farming. Additionally, it is out of the tropical cyclones (typhoons) areas that usually hit the Philippines.
Farming and fishing are the main livelihood activities although fishing is predominant because the Sulu Sea is one of the richest fishing grounds in the country.
However, there are vast tract of lands that remain undeveloped to produce varieties of agricultural products due to several reasons. Many people are afraid of cultivating the land because of the peace and order situation. Many a times, successful individuals may receive ‘love letters’ – a sarcastic term that refers to the letters sent by gangs to solicit for money. Rejection of such may lead to harassment and threats of kidnapping and even death. More often than not, military operations against rebels and bandits make it unsustainable for farmers to invest in new agricultural ventures. Mostly, farmers just harvest what is already planted like coconuts or invest in plants that requires shorter time to plant and harvest such as sweet potatoes and others.
So instead of cows and goats being herd by farmers to populate the agricultural land, wild boars multiply and roam about which makes the armies stationed in those areas happy, as it would make for a less fat and exotic meal.
Further, people have less access to modern technologies in agricultural practice. In contrast to other places in ARMM, I cannot even find a contact number for the office of Department of Agriculture in the Island. There is a great deal of poverty of information and this prevents people from diversifying their produce. For instance, Abaca and coconut have been the main crop produce of the island but the rest of Mindanao have already diversified to other more lucrative produce such as palm oil, cacao and mango.
Years ago, when my father was still an OFW, he dreamt of a mango farm in his native place Bud Uwak, a hill located just within the boundaries of Jolo and Patikul. Thus he instructed relatives to plant mango seedlings in the few hectares of his land.
Thus here we are now, a few weeks time from the first harvest. God Willing.