Organic farming gains ground

Business Mirror - 02 July 2012

ORGANIC farming is the way to go for food security and healthier Filipinos.
A total of 270 rice farmers in Pangasinan graduated last week from the Organikong Palayan (OP) field-school program organized by the La Liga Policy Institute. They will now apply in their own farms their newly acquired knowledge and skills in organic agriculture.

Organikong Palayan is an innovative agriculture development strategy. It taps local agri stakeholders—farmers, nongovernmental organizations, local government units, technicians and the national government through the Department of Agriculture—in a partnership to demonstrate organic agriculture as a viable and sustainable option for farmers and to institutionalize the program in the planning and budget priority of participating LGUs.

The OP program is consistent with the agriculture department’s own program called Agrikulturang Pilipino or Agri-Pinoy, which aims at food security and self-sufficiency, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, natural resource management and local development.

The farmers, from Pangasinan District 1’s Alaminos City and the municipalities of Bani, Burgos and Dasol, received their certificates of completion of the OP Season-Long Training (SLT) during the graduation ceremony held at the city’s Leopoldo Sison Auditorium. On hand during the occasion were officials from the partner-LGUs, headed by Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, DA Regional Director Valentin Perdido and other officials from the DA Regional Office and Bureau of Agriculture and Fishery Products Standards (BAFPS).

“The graduation of hundreds of new organic rice farmers is a milestone in our advocacy of sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture,” said La Liga Managing Director Roland Cabigas.

Organikong Palayan is a viable alternative that helps restore soil fertility, reduce expenses for agricultural inputs and increase the incomes of farmers and the farming community. In the medium term, it significantly contributes to the DA’s strategy of attaining food and staple sufficiency during the administration of President Aquino.

La Liga and the Go Organic Philippines movement have been advocating sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture in the country for years now. These two groups earlier pushed to have an organic agriculture legislation in the country. In 2010 the Philippine Organic Agriculture Act (RA 100681) was signed into law.

Organikong Palayan is La Liga’s response to the opportunities and challenges brought about by the enactment of the Philippine Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 and the National Organic Agriculture Plan (NOAP).

In July last year La Liga formally launched the OP program in the four Pangasinan localities in simple rites held in Alaminos City.

The farmers then enrolled in the SLT and participated in its 14 sessions of production of organic fertilizer and actual organic rice farming in eight designated learning farms (two for each of the LGU project areas).

The farmers have vowed to devote at least 105 hectares of combined farm areas to organic production in this year’s rice season.

Organikong Palayan is regarded as a success story as it was able to sustain the interest and participation of farmers in organic agriculture. Prior to this program, the farmers were engaged in chemical-based farming.

La Liga provides the farmers with their initial organic rice-production needs consisting of rice seeds; equipment and materials for production of organic fertilizer such as worms for vermiculture, rice-hull carbonizers and vermicast or vermicompost; as well as high-grade shovels and resource materials. The group will also continue the mentoring and monitoring component of the program for the farmers.

Local chief executives of the program’s partner-LGUs, namely, the mayors of Alaminos City, Bani, Burgos and Dasol, for their part, have committed to further promote this environmentally sound agriculture model in their respective localities.

This initiative in the four LGUs will be replicated in other towns of Pangasinan and the Ilocos region. Pangasinan is one of the leading agricultural commodity producers in the country.

Alaminos, Bani, Burgos and Dasol, all in Western Pangasinan, are members of the One Pangasinan Alliance of LGUs, an economic partnership that promotes resource sharing for local economic development.