The government has been consistent in its promotion of the organic agriculture to address food security, sustain human health, and protect environment. However, most farmers still prefer conventional farming due to a widely-held public perception that shifting to organic farming will decrease their production. With years of practicing conventional farming, farmers have come to associate high crop production with the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
One farmer that is going against the tide is Nicolas Dulawan, 59, a vegetable farmer from Asipulo, Ifugao and a farmer-cooperator of the “Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) on Organic Vegetable Production”. The project is being implemented by the Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resource Office (PAENRO) of Lagawe, Ifugao and funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).
CPAR on organic vegetable
Asipulo is conducive for vegetable production. The locals live mostly from growing different kinds of vegetables which serve both as their source of food and livelihood. Common vegetables grown are snap beans, wing beans, pechay, string beans, squash, cabbage, tomato, and eggplant.
Given the high cost of inputs and limited know-how on vegetable production, it often results to low profit margin and subsistence level of production. Most farmers in the area are engaged in conventional farming. After years of dependency on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the fertile soil has slowly depleted making it acidic and unsuited for planting.
The PAENRO, led by the group of Dr. Catherine V. Buenaventura, supervising agriculturist, looked into the posibility of introducing interventions and technology that would help the vegetable farmers in Asipulo, not only to improve their production but also to give them a better perspective on vegetable growing, the organic way. They also looked at organic farming as an effective means to regain the nutrients in the soils that were depleted due to years of using chemical fertilizers. It was from here that a CPAR project on organic vegetable production came about in 2009.
Dr. Buenaventura, also the CPAR project leader, said that in order that this initiative on organic farming be effective, farmers must appreciate first its “goodness” both for the people and the environment. There’s a need to capacitate the farmers on how to grow good food the organic way. “To be effective, farmers need to be taught on integrated pest management (IPM) through Farmer’s Field Approach (FFS), improve husbandry practices, fertilizer applications, insect pests and diseases control measures, thereby reducing input costs and optimizing profit,” explained Dr. Buenaventura.
Specifically, the CPAR project aimed to increase production and profits through efficient application of improved farming technologies and the adoption of sustainable, ecologically-sound, and economically-viable production system. It has three essential components: 1) introduce approved POT on organic production, 2) train farmers on organic production technology, and 3) provide marketing assistance to farmers’ organic produce.
The project started with 40 farmer-cooperators (FCs) from the two municipalities of Asipulo: Amdugdog and Antipulo, which were chosen as sites for the CPAR. The FCs underwent eight sessions of Farmers’ Field School (FFS) to learn several topics on organic farming. Among the topics were on: formulation of Indigenous Micro-organisms (IMO), Oriental Herbal Nutrients (OHN), foliar fertilizers, fermented plant juice (FPJ), and fermented fruit juice (FFJ). Farmers were also taught how to formulate their own gardens, make compost, and carbonize rice hull. Other topics were on: pest and disease management of crucifers and legumes, controlling diseases in seedbed, and insect trapping. To further their technical know-how, the FCs had cross farm visits and educational tours featuring different organic vegetable gardens and vermicompost technology demonstrations.
As cooperator of the project, the farmers were provided inputs (UV treated cellophane, sprayers, watering cans, and other materials for the construction of rain shelters).
For the marketing component of the project, a display center for organic vegetable was constructed at the provincial capitol in Lagawe to serve as market outlet for the harvests of the farmers. This also serves as display area for the organic produce. “Likewise, a regular market day (every Wednesday) was set for the selling of organically-produced products,” explained Dr. Buenaventura. The market day was launched in June 2013 and as reported, six from the 40 FCs are regualrly bringing their produce for the market day.
Currently, the provincial office of Lagawe is exploring the possibility of a contract growing scheme through the Organic Options that will be provided with the produce of the organic vegetable growers in Ifugao. Organic Options will provide the technology and seeds while the cooperators will produce the organic vegetables.
Nick proves why organic is the way to go
Nicolas Dulawan or simply “Nick” to his fellow farmers is a vegetable farmer from Brgy. Haliap in Asipulo, Ifugao and one of the active advocates of organic farming in his community. “Mas malaki ang kita mo sa organic! Sinasalungat ko nga yung common notion ng mga tao na walang pera sa organic farming. Hindi lang nila alam ang mga tamang paraan pero pagnatutunan na nila, makikita nila ang ganda epekto ng organic farming hindi lang sa kita, pati sa kalusugan ng tao at sa kapaligiran na rin” (You have bigger profit in organic! I often dispute common notion of people that there is no money in organic farming. They just lack the technical know how of production but once they learned it, they will see the good effect of organic farming not only in profit but also human health and environment), expressed Nick in an interview during a visit to his farm in Asipulo.
Nick is among the first 20 FCs from his municipality that availed of the training under the capacity building component of the CPAR project. Learning organic production did not ony equip him with the skills and the know-how but it also strengthened his earlier confidence on growing organic crops. He mentioned that ever since, he was already interested in organic farming but with limited technical know-how, he was into semi-conventional farming. He was only engaged into it organic farming in 2010 when CPAR came and he became an FC. Currently he is tilling the 200 sq. m farming land, which he is renting to grow organic crops like pepper, tomato, beans, upo, cabbage, brocolli, kamote, pechay, adlai (for feeds). Come harvest time, most of his produced are consumed by his family and the rest are sold in the market.
As an organic farmer, he tells his fellow farmers the advantage of growing crops the organic way. “Kase kung ikaw farmer tapos ikaw na ang gumagawa ng sarili mong abono, libre naman yung mga gagamitin tapos may technical knowledge ka na kung paano, hindi ka na bibili ng kamamahal na pestisidyo. Kapag gusto mo talaga mag-organic dapat alam mo din paano gawin ang mga inputs” (If you are the farmer and you make your own fertilizer, the materials are free and you have technical knowledge on how to do it, you need not to buy those expensive pesticide. If you really want to go into organic, you have to know how to make your own inputs), said Nick.
More than the profit from farming, Nick mentioned that health is one of the important aspects that organic farming is giving importance, knowing that many people nowadays, particularly the consumers, are health-conscious. “Kaya kami, konti lang ang binebenta namin sa display center kase kinakain na namin. Yung sobra yun lang ang binebenta namin kase sigurado kami na healthy ang kinakain ng pamilya namin.” (We only sell a small portion at the display center because we eat most of our produce. We only sell surplus produce because my family is ensured that what we are eating is healthy.)
This habit of ensuring that the family has food to eat first before selling their produce to the market can be rooted to the culture of the people in Asipulo. “Our culture here is that we eat most of our produce and sell them only if we really need the money, say for the tuition of our children. Importante ang sikmura muna!” explained Nick.
Nick is also the chairman of the Asipulo Organic Producers Cooperative (ASOPCo) which initially started as an association with two groups of farmers from Amduntog and Antipolo. The members decided to merge the group to become an association. In 2013, the association was approved and registered as a cooperative providing them better benefits particularly in selling their products.
As a cooperative, ASOPCo became municipal-wide with members from Asipulo mainly from Brgys. Haliap, Amdugdog, Antipulo, and Pula. Currently, it has 40 members, more than half are women and majority owns their farming lands.
Having tried both conventional and organic farming, Nick preferres the latter. He confessed that it is much profitable “because one, it’s not risky to your health, second you can grow vegetables even without money to buy fertilizer since you are making your own, third you can eat your own produce if you don’t have money to buy food.”
Nick was able to convince other farmers to also engage in organic farming. He said that most of them got interested but they don‘t know how to do it. “Di sila naniniwala na may pera talaga sa organic farming. Di nila alam na mas binobomba nila ng pesticide at nilalagyang fertilizer mas nadedeplete ang nutrients ng soil.” (They don’t believe that there is money in organic farming. They don’t know that the more that they apply pesticide and fertilizer, nutrients in the soil are being depleted.)
When asked what change did the CPAR project brought upon him, Nick said that more than the profit, it’s the awareness on organi farming that he was more thankful for. “Sa ngayon pag wala kaming vegetables parang natatakot na kaming kumain kase naranasan na namin yung awareness.” (We are scared to eat other vegetables that we do not produce). He added that, their family basically grow organic, from the chicken that they raise, the vegetable that they grow to the rice that they plant. “Yung organic palay na pinapatubo namin, yun din ginagamit naming patuka sa mga manok namin” (We also produce our own organic rice that we feed to our chicken) concluded Nick. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)
Dr. Catherine V. Buenaventura
Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources Office
Landline: (074) 382-2063
Source and image: bar.gov.ph