■ FARM­ING IN THE CITY

Sun.Star Cebu - - TOP STORIES - JUJEMAY G. AWIT / Editor @yourJGA

The City Gov­ern­ment is in­tro­duc­ing ur­ban farm­ing with the aim of mak­ing the city a little less de­pen­dent on the pro­duce sup­plied by the moun­tain barangays. In 2016, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Os­meña in­tro­duced the news­pa­per tech­nol­ogy to the City Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment (CAD), a tech­nol­ogy he learned abroad. News­pa­pers are placed on a plant box to serve as foun­da­tion layer. They will also serve as stor­age tank. A pipe then is placed in the mid­dle of the box, an empty wa­ter bot­tle will do. “Pour the wa­ter into the pipe. It will hit the news­pa­per, and the news­pa­per will ab­sorb it. If there’s too much wa­ter, it will go to the side,” ex­plained Os­meña, who earned an agri­cul­ture de­gree in 1971 at the Xavier Univer­sity-Ate­neo de Ca­gayan.

With the right tech­nol­ogy, even those living in high­rise build­ings can grow their own food Ur­ban farm­ing pro­moted to re­duce reliance on moun­tain vil­lages for agri­cul­tural pro­duce

Cebu City is not an ideal place for agri­cul­ture. Agri­cul­tural lands are lim­ited to the moun­tain barangays, a lot of which have steep slopes that are hard to farm on. Then there are the other chal­lenges: the fi­nan­cial as­pect, lack of wa­ter and the fail­ure to in­no­vate.

This is why the City Gov­ern­ment is in­tro­duc­ing ur­ban farm­ing. So peo­ple don’t have to de­pend so much on agri­cul­tural pro­duce from the moun­tain barangays.

In 2016, Mayor Tomas Os­meña in­tro­duced the news­pa­per tech­nol­ogy to the City Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment (CAD). The tech­nol­ogy, which he said he learned while living in Los An­ge­les, doesn’t need a large area—a plant box will suf­fice.

In the plant box, news­pa­per is placed inside as a foun­da­tion.

“The layer of news­pa­per will serve as a stor­age tank,” said Os­meña.

Next, a pipe is placed in the mid­dle of the box. The pipe can be any­thing with two open­ings— an empty wa­ter bot­tle with both ends cut off will do. Soil is placed on top of the news­pa­per and around the pipe. Then the seedlings are planted in the box. To wa­ter it, one just needs to pour wa­ter into the pipe.

“Pour the wa­ter into the pipe. It will hit the news­pa­per, and the news­pa­per will ab­sorb it. If there’s too much wa­ter, it will go to the side,” ex­plained Os­meña, who earned an agri­cul­ture de­gree in 1971 at the Xavier Univer­sity-Ate­neo de Ca­gayan.

CAD of­fi­cer-in-charge Ap­ple Tri­bunalo said the of­fice named it Tom’s News­pa­per Tech­nol­ogy and in­tro­duced it to the city’s 32 ur­ban barangays.

“Af­ter putting wa­ter, be­lieve me, it will not dry up for a few days. Your wa­ter re­quire­ment will be greatly re­duced,” said Os­meña.

Os­meña’s “news­pa­per tech­nol­ogy” has also gained the sup­port of the leg­isla­tive depart­ment’s com­mit­tee on agri­cul­ture.

Coun­cilor Joy Au­gus­tus Young said wa­ter is the big­gest agri­cul­tural prob­lem in Cebu City.

The moun­tain barangays don’t have a steady sup­ply of wa­ter. So the city some­times aids the farm­ers by send­ing truck- loads of wa­ter to the area, which can be im­prac­ti­cal.

Coun­cilor Alvin Ar­cilla said one may also add ver­min to the soil in the plant box as fer­til­izer. Or plain old urine mixed with the wa­ter, quipped Os­meña.

Even those living in high-rise build­ings can have their own little back­yard farm with this tech­nol­ogy even if they don’t tech­ni­cally have a back­yard.

The point is that even if Cebu City can­not be food suf­fi­cient be­cause of de­clin­ing agri­cul­tural lands and wan­ing in­ter­est in farm­ing, ev­ery fam­ily has a chance to be food suf­fi­cient with this tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s re­ally bla­tant—the way you used to see green but now you see struc­tures,” ob­served Tri­bunalo.

In­no­va­tion

But CAD is not giv­ing up on en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to farm.

Tom’s News­pa­per Tech­nol­ogy is now show­cased at Cebu City’s Nurs­ery in the North Recla­ma­tion Area.

The nurs­ery is only 4,000 square me­ters, but it is packed with tech­nol­ogy.

Aside from the news­pa­per tech­nol­ogy, the nurs­ery shows how ur­ban farm­ing can be un­der­taken us­ing the ver­ti­cal gar- den­ing method, where one could stack two or more five-gal­lon wa­ter bot­tles with the top capped off. Soil is placed inside the large wa­ter bot­tle, which one will then slash to make a flap where one could plant the seed or seedling.

There is also the hang­ing gar­den. Ur­ban res­i­dents could hang their pot­ted plants to con­serve space. They could also use old rub­ber tires as a small gar­den plot, just enough for their daily veg­etable con­sump­tion.

An­other method is the Magic Square, where one could plant at least four dif­fer­ent kinds of veg­eta­bles in a one-square-me­ter plot of land or boxed gar­den. Nurs­ery in-charge Vi­cente Al­cesto showed Sun­Star Cebu a sam­ple of the Magic Square at the nurs­ery, which was planted with

malung­gay (horseradish), camote (sweet potato), alug­bati (spinach) and tanglad (lemon­grass).

“These are al­ready in­gre­di­ents for utan Bisaya (boiled veg­eta­bles). You just need to add meat,” said Al­cesto.

There is also the ter­race method where pot­ted plants are lay­ered over a stair­well or a makeshift one.

Lastly, there is the hy­dro­pon­ics, a method of cul­ti­vat­ing plants with min­i­mal to zero soil. Al­cesto ex­plained that one just needs to mix wa­ter with earth­worm waste in a Sty­ro­foam crate, then bore holes on the crate cover, just enough to hang some cups—like Sty­ro­foam cof­fee cups. These cups will have a little bit of soil mixed with earth­worm waste and the seedling. The bottom of the cups, with small holes, should touch the mix­ture in the crate.

All the meth­ods show­cased re­quire min­i­mal space.

“Yeah (agri­cul­tural area is de­clin­ing). But you know, if you go in­ten­sive farm­ing, you won’t need much space. You can even grow on your roof,” said Os­meña.

Pro­tect­ing plants

For those with more space, the City Re­source Man­age­ment and De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter (Cremdec) in Barangay Tap­tap also has an agri­cul­ture in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy cen­ter to showcase in­no­va­tions to help farm­ers im­prove agri­cul­ture prac­tices. The one-hectare cen­ter has a va­ri­ety of veg­eta­bles, flow­ers and fruits.

Soon, peo­ple won’t need to go to Baguio to en­joy straw­ber­ries. Through the rain-shel­ter tech­nol­ogy, Cremdec is try­ing to grow straw­ber­ries at the cen­ter. The tech­nol­ogy aims to pro­tect the plants from the pierc­ing heat of the sun and a pos­si­bly un­for­giv-

ing rain, said as­sis­tant CAD head Ar­lie Gesta.

There were no fruits yet when Sun­Star Cebu vis­ited the new straw­berry showcase, but farm­ers look­ing af­ter the nurs­ery were pos­i­tive about its prospects of sur­viv­ing and bear­ing sweet pro­duce.

The cen­ter’s veg­etable showcase is wrapped in plas­tic mulch tech­nol­ogy, which also pro­tects the plants from di­rect sun­light, con­serves soil mois­ture and pre­vents ex­cess mois­ture. The tech­nol­ogy also pro­tects the plants from in­sects be­cause it re­flects light.

Or­ganic live­stock

A lone pig is also be­ing raised to showcase or­ganic farm­ing. Ev­ery­thing the Cremdec-owned pig eats is a prod­uct of the cen­ter.

Gesta said farm­ers are usu­ally in­tim­i­dated by the prospect of go­ing into or­ganic farm­ing be­cause it is more ex­pen­sive and la­bor in­ten­sive. But the pay­off is great.

“The meat is safe, and the fat is an inch or less thick com­pared to the two-and-a-half-inch fat that reg­u­lar pigs usu­ally have,” ex­plained Gesta.

It’s a mar­ket that is still un­tapped. But as peo­ple get more con­scious about the food they eat, rais­ing or­ganic an­i­mals will even­tu­ally pay off. Or­ganic food is gen­er­ally more ex­pen­sive than in­or­ganic ones.

At Cebu City’s Nurs­ery, its pig pen is la­beled “Happy Boy.” Why? Be­cause the pigs living in the pen are happy baboy (pigs), or so claimed or­ganic farmer Ronilo Mon­tejo.

First off, the pen doesn’t stink, which is un­usual. This is be­cause of its bed­ding, which is first lay­ered with the biodegrad­able waste from the nurs­ery, covered with char­coal, then covered with saw dust as third layer and topped with rice hulls.

The pigs in the nurs­ery also eat only or­ganic food, which Mon­tejo painstak­ingly pre­pares: duck­weed and azolla mixed with starter feed that com­prises 50 per­cent car­bo­hy­drates, 35 per­cent pro­tein, eight per­cent lipids, five per­cent min­er­als and two per­cent vi­ta­mins.

Train­ing

CAD ad­mits it would be hard to con­vince the younger gen­er­a­tion to choose farm­ing over a white-col­lar job where they are sure not to sweat or get their hands dirty.

“It’s dif­fi­cult, but we con­tinue to give the nec­es­sary train­ing, es­pe­cially in the mar­ket­ing as­pect,” said Gesta. Young agreed. “Agri­cul­ture is not just about plant­ing—there is the plant­ing side, and then there is the mar­ket­ing side,” the chair­per­son of the com­mit­tee on trade, com­merce and en­trepreneur­ship said.

He said that while the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture is tak­ing care of the plant­ing side, it should not be han­dling the mar­ket­ing as­pect be­cause it doesn’t have the ex­per­tise. Mar­ket­ing should be han­dled by the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try.

Tri­bunalo said it helps that the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has in­te­grated agri­cul­ture in its K to 12 pro­gram. In the case of Cebu City, the Bon­bon pub­lic school re­cently tapped CAD to help ed­u­cate the stu­dents on agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy.

And this is ex­actly the kind of op­por­tu­nity CAD wants: to in­cul­cate agri­cul­ture in the younger gen­er­a­tion. Ev­ery­body is wel­come in the nurs­ery, which Tri­bunalo fondly calls the “seat of agri­cul­ture knowl­edge.”

Cebu City res­i­dents could even take home some plants for their own back­yard gar­den—for free. This way, ev­ery­body can start grow­ing his own food.

For the farm­ers, the city es­tab­lished the farm­ers’ mar­ket to pro­vide a space for farm­ers to sell their pro­duce. The farm­ers’ mar­ket is open ev­ery Thurs­day and Fri­day at the Plaza Sugbo, in be­tween Cebu City Hall and Basil­ica Mi­nore del Sto. Niño.

“We just need to show that farm­ing is not dy­ing… There is money in farm­ing with the right ed­u­ca­tion, ad­e­quate train­ing and proper tech­nol­ogy,” said Gesta.

SUN­STAR FOTO/ RUEL ROSELLO

RAIN-SHEL­TER TECH­NOL­OGY. A farmer checks on plants grown us­ing rain-shel­ter tech­nolo�y at the Agri Info Tech­nolo�y Cen­ter of the City Re­source Man­age­ment and De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter in Barangay Tap­tap, Cebu City. The tech­nolo�y aims to pro­tect fruits and flow­ers from the pierc­ing heat of the sun and too much rain.

SUN­STAR FOTOS/ARNI ACLAO

PLANT­ING WITH NEWS­PA­PER. In Cebu City’s Nurs­ery (above left), or­ganic farmer Ronilo Mon­tejo (ex­treme left), City Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment of­fi­cer-in-charge Ap­ple Tri­bunalo and nurs­ery-in-charge Vi­cente Al­cesto show how to lay news­pa­per at the bottom of a plant box, be­fore plac­ing soil and plant­ing seedlings, as rec­om­mended by Cebu City Mayor Tomas Os­meña.

SUN.STAR FOTO/ARNI ACLAO

OR­GANIC. Piglets ar­rive at the Cebu City Nurs­ery to be­gin their lives as or­ganic an­i­mals. They will eat only or­ganic food and sleep in a stink-free pen lay­ered with biodegrad­able waste, char­coal, saw dust and rice hulls.

SUN­STAR FOTOS/ARNI ACLAO

LACK SPACE? No prob­lem. You can hang your plants hor­i­zon­tally ( far left) or stack them ver­ti­cally (near left), as Cebu City’s Nurs­ery in the North Recla­ma­tion Area shows.

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