CREATING A SUSTAINABLE FARMING COMMUNITY THROUGH A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
AS HE STOOD in the scorching heat, 57-year-old Mang Kikoy wondered if he still had crops to harvest that season. For the past four months, rain had been scarce and the prolonged heat eventually shrank and withered his plants. He relates that the natural calamity was a big blow. Because of the drought, he lost his source of livelihood and three of his children were forced to work in nearby provinces to help feed the family and send their youngest sibling to school.
His experience is typical of the lives of 180,000 farmers in Isabela after a dry spell hit the province in 2013. In four months of reduced rainfall, more than 3,000 hectares (ha) of land dried up, decimating over PhP 33 million worth of crops.
While it is considered the “rice and corn granary of the Philippines,” Isabela faces strong typhoons, frequent drought patterns, and other problems aggravated by climate change. After a major disaster, food supplies are cut short, children have to stop going to school, and as they have little or no savings at all, farmers are often forced to borrow capital from loan sharks who charge extremely high interest rates and force farmers to sell their produce to them at bargain rates after harvest.
Organic agriculture as a primary advocacy Realizing the vulnerabilities of farmers, several Belgian missionaries headed by Dirk Detemmerman visited the municipality of Gamu in Isabela in 1985 to assist the farmers through the non-government organization Parish Youth of Gamu (Payoga NGO). Originally formed to give free education to the children of farmers who cannot go to school, the organization began to promote organic farming upon realizing that the poor conditions of farmers stemmed from the acquisition of costly synthetic chemicals and fertilizers, which often plunged them into recurring debts after the inevitable natural calamities occurred.
Organic agriculture is a farming technique that uses natural inputs such as animal manure and crop wastes to produce quality crops without compromising the environment and the people who live and work with it. In contrast to chemical farming, when properly practiced, organic agriculture can help enrich the soil and can be cheaper as it uses resources existing on farms.
The members of Payoga/Kapatagan MPC manually process compost and chicken manure to produce the organic fertilizer “Greenfriend” that is sold to government agencies, private companies, and individual farmers at a lower price compared to chemical fertilizers.