Agriculture - - Or­ganic Farm­ing - BY KATH­LEEN P. LUN­GUB

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.

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