“The Group of Army and Rebel Returnee Trained Mushroom Production and Vermi Composting”

Documented by: Lorela V. Locsin – FSN Senior Researcher

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) initiated an activity for the rebel returnee to be trained together with the Army in Organic Agriculture.  Last November 11 to 12, 2019 at Central Philippines State University (CPSU), Hinobaan Campus, together with their Extension and Project Coordinator, Ms. Joe-an Escobar, made this very meaningful training successful.  The two-day trainor’s training ended with the taking home of citronella, “night crawler” for their “vermi compost”, fruiting bag for their start of oyster mushroom, and a certificate for their participation.  These take home and the technical knowledge will be the start for their livelihood project towards sustainable agriculture.  The messages from the participants; CPSU-Hinobaan Officials; the Program Coordinator of OPAPP; and the challenging words from their trainer, and an advocate of organic agriculture to continue what is being started in this training.  Among these challenges to note are:

  • Use the non-chemical;
  • Go into natural farming;
  • Condition your mind;
  • Practice Sustainable farming;
  • To leave the next generation  a good quality of soil; and
  • Continue the partnership through this training

With these challenging words, the participants clearly and absolutely YES.

It is a privileged to witness this happening that the military together with the six rebel returnee become classmates for two days training.  That, through the OPAPP the government provided new beginning among the rebel returnee to start a new life. And in this training, they choose it to be into Organic Farming. 

Though the two groups benefited from the training that they could apply in their different camps or personal lives, but the essence of bringing them together as classmates was beyond this fruitful technical learning.

I may not able to witness the whole two days activity, but I am still thankful that I was able to attend the last day of the training.  The trainer shared that the first day was theory and practical activity on mushroom propagation and “vermi” composting.  And on the second day, I witnessed that the attendees, apart from their status, stand on the same and equal ground to actually put the mushroom spawn into a fruiting bag that they prepared on the previous day.  They forget their previous differences on these moments of their lives.  They are holding the pens, paper, “vermi”, mushroom spawn, and fruiting bag, and not guns.  They are listening not to their commander, but to their instructor of organic farming.  They are strategizing not to fight their enemies, but how to learn the sustainable way of living.

The master of the program encouraged further the participants and to help the spirit of organic farming live in them when they parted from this training the three letters “OMV”.  It is OMV because it is Organic Farming, Mushroom and “Vermi” Composting.

According to Ma’am Joe-an Escobar it was not the first time that she trained these technology to the military. Month before, a camp at Himamaylan, Negros Occidental undergone the same and they are about to harvest their mushroom.  True enough; taking this good opportunity and collaboration, the CPSU team led by their President, Mr. Aladino Moraca, also an organic agriculture advocate visited the camp to witness the success of the training and to strengthen the partnership of CPSU and the Armed Forces.  Words appreciations were exchanged among leaders (CPSU & Military) and the plans to be done to further this beginning. 

A symbol of commitment to the delivery of technology, the CPSU President wanted to enhanced what was the current state of “vermi” composting and promised to deliver within the day additional five kilos of “African night crawler” beside a very hectic schedule. The President himself together with the CPSU team practically demonstrated how to properly do and care this “vermi” composting.  The sincerity in advancing the sustainable agriculture is very apparent among them.

Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative Organized Farmers Dialogue with 3 government Agencies

By: Enrique Canizares III

Last September 20,2019 a Farmer’s Dialogue among the 3 National Agencies was organized by the Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative and ESSA was invited as an observer for the event. The Department of Agriculture (DA), the National Food Authority (NFA) and the National Irrigation Agency (NIA) has to send their representatives as the coop facilitated a dialogue between the agencies and the farmers to formulate solutions to the on-going crisis in rice prices. Sadly, the Department of Agriculture has no representative and it somehow set a precedence to what will day might look like.

Jocelyn Pere-ira the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the cooperatives and Kim M. Gallego gave the the opening remarks and rationale for whole program respectively. Both BOD gave passionate remarks on what Agriculture means as a foundation and driving force of our modern human civilization.

Engr. Randy C. Alipis from NIA discussed the current programs of the agency and how the farmers can avail of their free services. The agency only deals with organizations so if small scale farmers would like to avail of irrigation services they have to be affiliated with organizations. Many areas in Zarraga are still struggling with their current supply as their current supply of water is not enough especially for rice farmers. The continued challenges on water supply from storage to distribution are continuously adding up to the burden the farmers are carrying now. Equipment have not been maintained, canals are clogged and some farmers block the irrigation systems to store water for themselves. These problems are but symptoms of a deeper societal problem when looking at real sustainability.

Merlyn Chua the representative from NFA gave a background of the agencies establishment and what programs they were focused on. Many of the programs have been change since the advent of the rice tarification. To help out small-scale rice farmers, NFA is currently establishing scheduled “Buying Stations” all throughout the province to buy rice from local farmers, the purchasing price from NFA is at 19 Php per kilo compare to the 17Php in the market. The Agency requires for rice to be with 14% moisture, clean and dry requirement to ensure the best state for storage. The prices go down when moisture content is higher, and currently, there is insufficient dryers that are able to meet the demand for drying rice harvest since the number of the equipment NFA owns is limited and the both dryers that Zarraga owns are not operational. Drying rice also take time. For rice to reach 14% moisture content take an average time of 36hours per 50 sacks or depends on the capacity of the dryer.

The Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative is also ensuring the produce of the members who are rice producers. The coop will buy all the rice produce of their members because the harvest is due in the coming weeks. The coop though will not be able to buy-out rice from non-members because of the limited funds and at the same time the long turn-over of rice because of the huge supply right now.

The Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative deserve commendation because of their intentions to create real dialogue between the government agencies and the stake-holders in agriculture. Though there were solutions to pacify the urgent concerns of the farmers, there was no real view or picture of what real sustainability might look like. Also, there little dialogue between the farmers and the agencies concerned. The framework was compartmentalized when the problems where systemic. So the solutions offered where but short term solutions.

Western Visayas 7th Regional Organic Agriculture Congress

By: Enrique Cañizares III (ESSA Researcher)

Last September 17 and 18, 2019 the 7th Regional Organic Agriculture Congress for Western Visayas was held at Casa Real of the Provincial Capitol.

Farmers and organic agriculture advocates from all over the region came together to take a closer look at the Organic Agriculture Roadmap for Western Visayas.

The program started with opening remarks by Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. of the Province of Iloilo. The governor also an advocate of organic agriculture states that one of his intentions is, for organic food to be the center piece of tourism, and that organic agriculture should elevate into a thriving business because of the opportunities brought by farm tourism.

To address the challenge of sustainability is to provide support especially to young Agri-Preneurs for them to generate their interest to go back in agriculture. The Governor plans to have further dialogue with the farmers about their needs so that the province can align its program to meet these needs.

The sequence was followed by presentations of Organic Agriculture Programs and roadmaps both from the Department of Agriculture Western Visayas and the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP) for 2017 – 2023.

A representative from La Granja Crop Research and Development in the person of Jennifer L. Ferrer gave a presentation about Organic Seed Production for peanuts, soybeans and mung beans. The presentation includes results of production as well as applied interventions for the period of 2 years with the inclusion of factors such as drought and heavy rains.

The credit programs that can be accessed by small and medium farmers through Landbank was presented by its representative. Though there was no specific credit program for Organic Agriculture. The acknowledgement of the bulk of application they receive throughout the day is one of the main factors that leads to the delays in the release of funds.

An update of the Organic Agriculture Resolutions was also presented by the representative of NOAB. A total of 22 approved resolutions as of July 31, 2019 that was sponsored by different regions all throughout the country.

The said resolutions are the following:

  1. Requiring NOAB Government Permanent Representatives to Designate Organic Agriculture Focal Persons in their Departments
  2. Recommending the NOAB FY 2020 Plan and Budget
  3. Recommending the Approval of the Guidelines for the Preparation of the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP) FY 2020 Plan and Budget Proposal
  4. Requiring NOAB Government Permanent Representatives to Attend the Regular Meetings
  5. Adopting the 15th National Organic Agriculture Congress (NOAC) Resolutions
  6. Approving Camp Benjamin in Alfonso, Cavite as the Official Venue and November 11 – 15, 2019 as the Official Date of the 16th National Organic Agriculture Congress with the Theme

“OA4K: Organikong Agrikutura sa Kumikitang Kabuhayan para sa Kalusugan at Kapaligiran”

  1. Recommending the Approval of the Revision of the National Organic Agriculture Achievers Awards (NOAAA) Guidelines
  2. Recommending the Approval of the Guidelines for the National-On-the-Spot Essay Writing and Poster Making Contest
  3. Recommending the Approval of the Guidelines for Organic Agriculture Research Category
  4. Recommending the Approval of the Guidelines for Kabataang OA 2019
  5. Requiring National Organic Agriculture Board NOAB Government Permanent Representatives to Designate Regional Organic Agriculture Focal Persons in their Department
  6. Adopting the Recommendations of the End of Program Assessment Report for the National Organic Agriculture Program
  7. Recommending the Department of Education through its Gulayan sa Paaralan Program to establish organic gardens based on the provisions of the Philippine National Standards on Organic Agriculture
  8. Recommending the Department of Interior and Local Government Units through its Gulayan sa Barangay Program to establish organic gardens based on the provisions of the Philippine National Standards on Organic Agriculture
  9. Recommending the Department of Interior and Local Government to include the implementation of Organic Agriculture Program as one of the Criteria for the Seal of Good Local Governance
  10. Recommending the Department of Health to instruct all accredited hospitals to serve organic food
  11. Recommending the Department of Social Welfare and Development to integrate the organic agriculture program in its Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program
  12. Recommending the National Organic Agriculture Program – National Program Coordinating Office to explore the adaptability of the Information Technology Enabled Maturity Assessment of the Department of Agrarian Reform to the implementation of the National Organic Agriculture Program
  13. Recommending the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Offices to conduct random monitoring of organic farms and surveillance of markets retailing organic produce, and use the Rapid Bio-assay for Pesticides Residue in the analysis of organic produce.
  14. Recommending the Department of Agriculture to include organic rice production in the Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap 2040
  15. Recommending the Approval of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations on Accreditation of Private Organic Agriculture Extension Service Providers, and
  16. Requesting the Conduct of Value Chain Analysis of Organic Agriculture by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry

The National Organic Agriculture Program is currently focused on these themes.

  1. Institutional Development and Strengthening and Results-Based Monitoring and Evaluation
  2. Research and Development
  3. Extension and Capacity Building, Promotion, Advocacy and Education
  4. Production and Post-Production Support
  5. Market Support Services
  6. Regulatory Support Services

The second day started with the presentation of the Regional Organic Agriculture Program Direction by Glenda A. Himatay as the former focal person of the program and at the same time an informal turnover to the new Regional Focal Person for Organic Agriculture, Mr. Andrew Palomar.

The activities were followed by a discussion on the health benefits of organic products by Dr. Arleen Joy Vallejo. This is in relation to the new and emerging community of doctors who are moving away from the usual prescription approach of medication to a holistic medicine now popularly known as Lifestyle Medicine.

From a new form of health consciousness, an inspiring and success stories follow from a Doctor and from an Accountant.  A growing trend of Professionals engaging into farming. A former Resident Physician at the Western Visayas Medical Center, Dr. Alfredo Gulmatico now owns Doc Haven’s Farm together with his family who are also involve in the operations of the farm.

Mrs. Nhilda Rhanee L. Causing who is an Accountant is on the process of developing their family farm which showcases Organic SRI production. Both farmers have established their market through quality production and trust built through the years.  And with the advent of farm tourism both farms are now on the process of developing to meet its demands.

The program ended with additional resolutions from the participants that was facilitated by Mr. Elias Sandig from the Department of Agriculture and was followed by the awarding of winners for the cooking and poster making contest held in this program. The National Organic Agriculture Congress and Organic Agriculture in general are crucial in threading a new pathway for the Philippine society

First ever Organic Agriculture Congress in Davao

By: Enrique Cañizares III (ESSA Researcher)

The participants of the first ever Davao City’s Organic Agriculture Congress on August 22, 2019

Last August  22, 2019, the City of Davao held its first ever Organic Agriculture Congress. The city wide congress was organized by the City Agriculture Office in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Municipal Agriculture Office in Davao City and was attended by the district representatives comprise of farmers, NGO’s,  and 1 Brgy. Captain

Included in the program was the Awarding of 3 outstanding farmers of Davao, and one of the awardee was Mr. Janel Juaton, a 26 year old young farmer which is very inspiring because he is one of the few young farmers who were present during the program.  Janel Juaton was trained under the guidance of MASIPAG, a non-government organization working with the youth who are interested in farming and help them rediscover and give value to what it means to be a farmer scientist at this day and age.

The NOAB’s strategic plan until 2020 for organic agriculture was presented,  but worth mentioning are the following discussions of Mr. Percy Ponciano, a Department of Agriculture representative:

  1. That the price of rice in Davao has dropped due to the application of tariff on products and the effects of Train law. Many of the farmers now are suffering due to drop in prices of their goods due to the bulk of import coming from outside the country.
  2. That Davao city is mainly producing banana and that the current rice production in the city is not enough to support its demand.
  3. That the Organic Trading Post funded by D.A Davao was demolished  by the City Government to give way to road widening.
  4. The National Organic Congress will be held this November 2020 in Tagaytay.
  5. There will be a meeting by the Department of Agriculture to assess the status of existing OTP’s all over the country
  6. The Department of Agriculture in Davao has programs for farmers who are interested to acquire Ramp Pumps and Mokosaku Equipments.
  7. The budget for the Department of Agriculture was cut to 50% during the current administration.
  8. The reason why chemical fertilizers prices go up is because it is affected by Global prices in gasoline as it is a byproduct of gasoline production.

Also tackled in this event were the issues on coconut industries because gracing this event also was the representative  of the Philippine Coconut Authority who gave a short presentation of its programs.

One of the most interesting question raised by the participants was, is there an increase of farmers going into organic farming. The representative from D.A. said that over-all their work in D.A is very difficult. Not only that the department’s budget was cut in half, the problem of resilience and consistency from the farmers who are converting their farms from conventional farming to organic farming is also one of the main reasons these farmers in the end revert back to chemical farming. In other words “Wala ka lahutay” in bisaya, meaning “They can’t finish the whole process”, or in FarmSci NASSA’s term, the inner condition of the farmer was not there. And all throughout the program this statement keeps popping not only from the government representatives but as well as from NGO’s and from the farmer themselves.

The participants were served with organic food and at the same time no plastic packaging except for the dessert which was durian flavored. None the less the City Agriculture office was making efforts to lessen the carbon footprint of the event.

Six (6) motions that were considered by the organic agriculture congress to be included in the passing of resolution in the Sangguniang Bayan that arose coming from the organic farmers and advocates:

  1. Only organic products will be provided in all organic agriculture events.
  2.  To ban all chemical fertilizers not only in Davao but nationwide as well.
  3. To include the Participatory Guarantee System in R.A 10068.
  4. For the City Agriculture Office of Davao to explain why the 1.5M Php fund from  the Department of Agriculture was not utilized to create a techno-demo farm for Davao City.
  5. The supervision to include Organic Agriculture in the Department of Education.
  6. The allocation of 5% of the Barangay funds for Organic Agriculture programs.

Though many of the organic farmers of the Davao City weren’t able to attend and that no media was involved for the first ever City Congress for Organic Agriculture, none the less it is a big step towards the advocacy of organic agriculture all throughout the country.