By Julio P. Yap, Jr.
Vegetables grown organically can produce bigger yields compared with vegetables which were cultivated using non-organic commercial fertilizers and pesticides.
This is the experience of Louie Carollo, a farmer-cooperator and the president of the Barangay Bagong Silang Farmers Association. The members of the organization are all residents of Barangay Bagong Silang, a mountainous area in the municipality of Los Baños in Laguna.
According to Carollo, they were able to harvest more vegetables when these were grown organically. Carollo is one of the beneficiaries of the Gender-Responsive Organic Vegetable Production Livelihood Enterprise for Low-Income Communities project in Los Baños, Laguna.
The project, which started in July 2015, is funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), an agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). It is being implemented by the local government unit (LGU) of Los Baños in cooperation with the Bureau of Plant Industry-Los Baños National Crop Research, Development, and Production Support Center (LBNCRDC).
At a recent Friday organic market which was organized by the local government of Los Baños, the members of the Barangay Bagong Silang Farmers Association were able to sell all their produce as early as noontime. Carollo said in Filipino they were surprised by such customer interest, which was not the case during a previous Friday organic market; they’d had to drastically lower their prices just to sell all their produce.
The community farmers of Barangay Bagong Silang grow organic Filipino bok choy or pechay, mustard greens, sponge gourd, squash, eggplant, bitter gourd, tomato, pepper, garlic, lettuce, and cucumber.
It was learned that a concrete rainwater catchment facility was set up in the vicinity of their farm as part of the project.
Carollo said the women play significant roles in the Barangay Bagong Silang communal farm. They do the planting, watering, weeding, bagging of ampalaya (bittergourd) with plastic bags or nets to prevent damage from pests, and harvesting. The women also sell their produce in the Friday organic market at the local government office in Los Baños. The men for their part prepare the land for planting and transport their harvest for selling.
PCAARRD said that aside from Barangay Bagong Silang, the project also identified the barangays of Timugan, Putho-Tuntungin, Bambang, and Malinta as beneficiaries.
The local government of Los Baños considers organic vegetable production as a potential livelihood opportunity for low-income communities like Barangay Bagong Silang as it provides the growers with a regular and continuous source of food and cash for their basic needs.
According to PCAARRD, this project focuses on empowering women to engage in the sustainable production of organic vegetables using science-based technologies.
The initiative involves capacity building for farmercooperators and project implementers—particularly the LGU, provision of structures for organic seed production, creating and implementing a municipal ordinance ensuring the continuity of the project with a permanent fund allocation, and support for a trading post or permanent local market outlet or “bagsakan” of organic produce.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2016 issue.