May 19, 2024

SABLAN, Benguet – In an informal community discussion conducted by Kordillera Media-Citizen Council (KMCC) along with representatives from Department of Agriculture-Cordillera, farmers of Barangay Bagong, this town, aired their grievances with regards to lack of water supply, equipment, and affordable fertilizers which led to the discussions about diversified farming and organic farming as a potential solution to the problem.

Barangay Bagong has a population of over 800 people who depend on farming as their source of income. However, because the rivers are drying up and the limited provisions from the National Irrigation Administration, they have converted their rice fields into vegetable gardens as it requires less water. With only three out of five pump irrigations working, only farmers with private water pumps near to a water source could continue their farming.

The farmers seek to diversify farming by including animals, fruit-bearing trees, and other livelihood which could help them recover from the fluctuations of the market. However, they are unable to do so due to the limited plot of lands that they have. To do this, the farmers asked for financial and material support, and a market to sell their produce.

They also raised concerns on accessibility due to unstable footways and lack of streetlights for the farmers delivering their harvests.

Facilitators from the KMCC discussed the farmers’ concerns as a common issue among conventional farmers. They explored the different farming methodologies that would effectively answer their problems, which include diversified farming.

The discussion centered on their perspectives about diversified farming whether it is a fancy term for crop rotation or muyong, a long-standing practice of traditional farmers in the Cordillera. The farmers of Bagong perceive it as the maximum use of the land by offering a variety of produce.

As a solution to the problem, Oliver Pe, from DA-CAR introduced organic farming, a well-established agricultural system that uses environment-friendly methods of growing crops which does not use synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals.

This farming method puts premium on enabling farmers with limited capacity for mass production and a sustainable source of income.

Pe said transitioning from conventional to organic farming is challenging, especially for those who are used to conventional farming that is highly reliant on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Rogel Marsan, owner of Cosmic Farm and an expert in organic farming, shared his journey in transitioning from conventional to organic farming.

He shared the benefits of organic farming, which include minimum water consumption, and a profitable and readily-available market.

As opposed to conventional farming that requires an amount of 100kg per harvest, small farmers can gain the same profit with only 10kg per delivery.

He said through organic farming, individual costs are reduced, delivery hassles are lessened, and it provides solutions to the problems the farmers identified.

Marsan offered to take 16 farmers as scholars with an inclusion of free accommodation, meals, and allowance for training.

He said they no longer have to go through his difficulties as what they only need to do is commit to the 29-day training program.

Marsan suggested to the farmers to organize themselves and take a unified approach in transitioning to organic farming and marketing their produce.

Despite the promises of organic farming, the farmers were cautioned that changes are not made overnight and its effects are gradual.

They also discussed the pros and cons of staying in conventional farming and transitioning to organic farming as both have their own market. 

Marzan pledged trainings for the farmers, the farmers promised to organize themselves to effectively implement the changes, DA-CAR offered alternative programs and assistance for them, KMCC member, Benguet Electric Cooperative promised to provide assistance on lighting, and KMCC said the group will monitor the developments of the discussion.

The roundtable discussion is the first of the many following discussions to be held with the farmers to fully assess their needs and follow through the progress of their consultations.

It also allows KMCC to communicate with the proper agencies and decision-makers to enable and empower local communities such as the Bagong, Sablan farmers. – Jenfrey Y. Benafin