Organic farming thrives in Isabela
MANILA, Philippines – Francisco 'Mang Kikoy' Cacal, a farmer and father of eight children, was fed up with farming. He was fed up with typhoons and droughts that damaged his crops. He wanted to quit.
“Malaking dagok talaga sa amin ang kalamidad,” he complained. “Nawalan ako ng hanap-buhay at napilitan ang tatlo kong anak na magtrabaho sa kalapit na mga probinsya.”
(We are greatly affected by the calamity. We lost our livelihood and my three children were forced to work in nearby provinces)
Isabela, a province that primarily relies on agriculture, is no stranger to natural calamities. The province was struck by Typhoon Lando in 2013, losing P33 million worth of crops and affecting 180,000 farmers like Mang Kikoy. The provincial government also declared a state of calamity this year due to El Niño.
The Foundation of Sustainable Society (FSSI), however, paved the way for Mang Kikoy to learn about organic farming and the benefits it would bring. It also provided farmers like Mang Kikoy with financial assistance to continue growing sustainable and organic crops.
Previously, soil erosion and uncertainty of his crop yield hindered him from having better yields to sustain the needs of his family. In the end, proper training on the process of organic farming through FSSI slowly changed his situation as a farmer.
“Napagtapos ko ng high school and bunso kong si Armand at ng Hotel and Restaurant Management si Alma, ang panganay ko," he proudly declared. (My youngest finished high school and my daughter Alma finished her course on Hotel Restaurant and Management)
FSSI provides aid in the form of training and farming supplies to calamity-stricken farmers to alleviate the impact of natural calamities. This includes decreasing the farmers’ heavy debt burden.
FSSI gave financial and technical assistance to the Payoga/Kapatagan Multipurpose Cooperative for them to sustain their cooperative and eventually become a social enterprise to benefit more farmers like Mang Kikoy.
“Talagang nakita namin ang paglago ng buhay ng mga miyembro ng Payoga/Kapatagan Multipurpose Cooperative at nakapagprovide kami ng mga livelihood opportunities” said Julie Madrid, general manager of Payoga/Kapatagan Multipurpose Cooperative, on farmers who have shifted to organic farming.
((We witnessed how the lives of members of Payoga/Kapatagan Multipurpose Cooperative improved and we were able to provide them with livelihood opportunities.)
Madrid added that she hopes to influence more people after seeing how organic farming helped the environment and people residing in Isabela. After testing the non-traditional organic farming process, Mang Kikoy has since then shifted to organic farming.
“Maganda pala ang dulot ng organic farming at nakakatipid pa kami, hinay hinay kong na-iahon ang pamilya ko sa kahirapan," Mang Kikoy said. (There are benefits to organic farming and we were able to save money. Little by litte, I was able to lift my family out of poverty)
To increase the farmers’ produce, the Department of Agriculture is making hybrid-rice, inbred seeds, and Green Super Rice available to farmers through its High Yielding Technology Adoption Program.
The cooperative also produces organic “green friend” compost which is a more affordable alternative to chemical fertilizers. One bag of "green friend" costs P6,000 while chemical fertilizers cost P20,450 per 1.8 hectares of land. In Mang Kikoy’s case, this affordable price and environment-friendly fertilizers gave him a chance to grow healthy crops.
Organic farming enriches soil with the use of animal manures and crop wastes to produce quality crops instead without damaging the environment, and is cheaper compared to chemical farming, which is harmful to the soil and people’s health.
In the case of Mang Kikoy, there’s more to a farmer than what he produces. Through organic farming, his family is able to eat healthy food while his children are able to go to school.
“Talagang masaya na ako ngayon dahil sa tingin ko stable na ang hanap-buhay, pamilya at kalusugan naming,” said Mang Kiko. - Rappler.com
Nico Aquino is a Rappler intern from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.