My father is a retired agriculturist. He had served the Department of Agriculture for more than three decades if I’m not mistaken.
Even today in his 90’s, his passion for anything agriculture never ceases. He still reads and collects agriculture magazines, writes short articles about farming, and distributes them to his audience.
A few days ago, he gave me his handwritten article that he plans to distribute again.
It took creative liberty on my part to re-write the article and added a few items as shown below:
I remember the early ’90s when the trend of going “natural” and “organic” started. I just graduated from Nursing then and my first employers were companies that were into “alternative” medicine. My employers were into organic foods and natural-based products. Even their clients were into it, too. Back then, it was these rich people who could afford to buy organic food products everyday.
Then, Congress passed R.A. 10068 or what is known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010. This law mandates to promote, propagate, develop, and implement the practice of organic agriculture in the country.
Although the Act has been around for years, only a few farmers and agriculturists practice it despite the demands coming from the health-conscious consumers.
Why is this so? A study by Lucille Elna Parreno-de Guzman provided conclusive answers. She studied selected towns in Laguna and La Trinidad, Benguet where organic agriculture is now adopted. Her study found out five reasons why small farmers in the rural areas find it hard to implement organic farming.
There are still many things to know about organic farming. Not only does it give our farmers information overload, but also allows the farmers to choose the options available for them. It is up to the farmers to select which methods are best for their farms. But it doesn’t end there, the farmers still need to be constantly monitored and assisted just to assure that they remain compliant to the standards and good practices. The question now lies on how educated our local farmers in organic farming and on how are they receptive to the idea.
Most farmers got used to the quick fixes provided by chemical fertilizers and pesticides. So converting them to gather raw materials and prepare these into organic fertilizers is laborious and time-consuming.
I was in Moncada, Tarlac back in 1999 and saw that the local government implemented the gathering and making of composts. When I returned last year, I asked my father whatever happened to that project. Surprisingly, the project was a failure.
The failure lay on the method of gathering the raw materials. They failed to remove the roots and seeds from plant wastes before composting. So when the farmers put on these fertilizers on their soil, weeds came out. That failure prompted the farmers to return to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
REQUIRES CAPITAL EQUIPMENT
Aside from gathering materials for composting, the process also requires construction of vermi beds and utilization of mechanical shredders. These additional expenses are beyond the reach of small farmers.
INITIAL LOW PRODUCTION
Again, most farmers got used to high-yield production using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And when they converted to organic farming, they produced low harvest during the transition period. This is due to the fact that the organic fertilizers are still slow in releasing plant and soil nutrients. It takes time for the soil to heal and the small farmer may not realize this.
COST OF CERTIFICATION
According to de Guzman, Section 17 of R.A. 10068 states that only third party certification is allowed for any agriculture produce to be labeled as organic or organically-produced. However, the cost of certification ranges from Php 42,000 to Php 150,000. This becomes a stumbling block for farmers and food production/manufacturing companies.
WHAT TO DO
Given these reasons, the government, both national and local, should provide assistance in addressing the five problem points.
The Department of Agriculture should become more active in training and disseminating the information about the Organic Act of 2010. They could partner with the private sector and NGOs just to bring all forms of communication down to the farmers. Not only should they train the farmers about organic farming, but also to convince them that the low production yield during the initial years of the program is just temporary.
Also, the DA could ask help from other departments, agencies, and the private sector in the manufacturing, production, and distribution of organic fertilizers rather than put this labor-intensive task on farmers.
Another suggestion is to have a shared, self-service facility for farmers in each barangay or municipality. So that farmers who could not afford mechanical shredders may be able to produce high-quality composts.
However, not everything should be relied on to the government. The farmers should also do their share. By learning the benefits of organic farming, they should realize that financial gain should be secondary and focus on the primary benefit: healing the Earth.
After all, Earth is the only place we live.