Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Legazpi partners with DA in pursuing organic farming

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 5 (PNA) -– The partnership recently entered into between the local government unit (LGU) here and the Department of Agriculture (DA) is expected to boost efforts toward a dramatic shift into organic the farming systems involving vast farms down the hinterlands of this key Bicol metropolis.

The partnership interlocked the city government and the DA in an aggressive campaign for the promotion of sustainable agriculture and implementation of projects designed to support this organic or natural farming system across the local agribusiness sector.

City Agriculture Office chief Jesus Kallos defines organic farming as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that lasts over the long term.

It provides or secure human with safe and nutritious food, enhance the quality of environment base upon which the agricultural economy relies and makes efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources that are integrated into natural biological cycles and conditions.

The system, Kallos on Friday said, also makes farm operations economically viable and enhances the quality of life of farmers and the community or society as a whole and the big shift from the usual practice is part of the Aquino administration’s implementation of Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act (OAA) of 2010.

The city government’s adoption of organic agriculture based on the OAA is aimed at enriching soil fertility, reduce pollution and farming’s environmental destruction, prevent natural resources depletion, save on imported fertilizer, and protect the health of farmers and consumers alike, he said.

It has been a proven approach towards increasing farm productivity and farmers’ income, Kallos added.

Marking the formalization of the LGU-DA partnership was the recent inauguration that signal the start of operations of the newly established Organic Trading Post located at the heart of the city’s Albay District which is also the seat of the local government.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and city mayor Noel Rosal graced the occasion which the former acknowledged as part of the DA’s focus on establishing the same facilities, especially in agricultural areas to provide venues for farmers and fisherfolk to trade for higher profit their organic products directly to the consumers and skipping profit-oriented traders.

Alcala said the new trading post forms part of the project of DA partly made possible through a Php1.5-million grant to the city government for the construction of the edifice and putting up of other required facilities.

The same project is also in line with the ratification of the City Organic Agriculture Ordinance authored by councilor Alex Sy to promote trading of organic agricultural products and see to it that food commodities in the local market are chemical-free and safe for consumption.

According to Rosal, the trading post is widely supported by the 500-strong Organic Agriculture and Vegetable Growers Association of Legazpi, which is making the facility their primary venue in the trading of their naturally-produced crops.

Manned by the CAO, the facility also serves as the city government’s distribution center of non-chemical fertilizers produced by the city-owned Ibalong Organic Fertilizer manufacturing plant that produces effective substitutes to expensive inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other farm inputs.

“Our organic fertilizers and other farming products are made available to reduce expenses borne by farmers and strengthen the agricultural activity as part of reducing the incidence of poverty in our rural communities,” Rosal said.

The Ibalong Organic Fertilizer is derived from various biodegradable waste materials collected by the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) and processed by the CAO in its manufacturing plant established last year in collaboration with world-renowned microbiologist Dr. Eliseo Ruiz of Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

“Ours is the first LGU in the Philippines to adopt biotechnology as solution to nagging problems on solid waste management confronting urban localities of the country like our city,” the mayor said.

Under this project, the tons of biodegradable solid waste materials that the city government collects from all over its urban barangays, instead of being dumped into the Php100-million huge sanitary landfill it established at the outskirt of the city about four years ago, are diverted to the organic fertilizer manufacturing plant.

Initially, Kallos said, full-time local farmers are provided free fertilizer to encourage them to promote this kind of farm input.

The LGU-DA partnership, he said, “gives utmost attention to our organic rice sector which is part of Bicol’s farming communities responsible for the 74 percent of the country’s organic rice production.”

Bicol also contributes 44 percent to the country’s overall production of other organic crops owing to their expansion of organic farming with the Php6-million upland farming project that boosts the region’s hefty contribution, according to records of the DA regional office based in Pili, Camarines Sur.

Under this project, the region’s organically-produced upland rice was further developed for its market potential as some of these traditional strains have been reported to outperform some modern rice varieties.

The advantage of these traditional varieties is in higher grain production and drought tolerance which has become a critical trait amid the prevailing climate change threats, Kallos said.

Upland rice varieties generally have an average yield of only one to two metric tons (MT) per hectare, but selected Bicol organic varieties which the DA uses in projects reviving vast upland rice farms in the region exceed such yield average, he said.

Based on a report of the International Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Bicol had 63,699 hectares of upland farms, some of it rendered idle by unfavorable weather conditions and pest in the past.

DA’s development of upland rice is very timely as these varieties have the potential to withstand higher temperature and less water supply which is needed amid the threatening climate condition, according to Kallos.

Upland rice production is ideal since it can make up for any shortfalls in flood-prone lowland irrigated areas specifically during wet season cropping when flooding in lowland prevails.

Hence, uplands are now organic rice production frontier in Bicol showing improved yield through enhanced varieties and cultural management practices that suit the soil, climatic and social conditions, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd