10 March 2011

PRO-FarmS Lifestyle

Published at Lifestyle Section; Bohol Chronicle, October 14, 2007; Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines

“It was never easy”, he said in Boholano dialect. “I have to convince my wife, my children and my neighbors who also work in my farm occasionally as laborers”. He added: “I like the idea of farming without buying commercial fertilizers. It really reduced the cost of production significantly”. As a former member of the Bohol Seeds Producers Association, a group of farmers accredited as seeds growers to produce ‘certified seeds’ for the province, Mr. Lucio Bonio used to buy fertilizers equivalent to as much as P15,000.00 for his farm. Following the conventional technologies introduced, ‘bay Lucio was accustomed to extensive use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides in his farms in exchange for good harvest and eventually good price of certified seeds.

But, ‘bay' Lucio is now the President of San Miguel Organic Farmers Association (SAMOFA), in barangay San Miguel, Dagohoy, Bohol, and he is gradually converting his rice farms to organic farming system. “Now I am just using fermented leaves of ‘madre de cacao’ and some NFS preparation that only cost me a little more than a thousand pesos, and that’s really a big savings”. He claimed that: “parehas ra man ang katambok ug tinubuan sa gi-abunohan ug komersyal”, meaning “just the same healthiness and growth as to the once used with commercial fertilizers”. 

Mr. Carlos Maglinao, a barangay council member in Untaga, Alicia, Bohol also proudly relates a different experience: “pagtanum namo sa among ‘trial farm’ gikataw-an mi sa mga silingan’g mag-uuma kay binuang kono ang among tanum nga tinagsa ra ka lugas . . , ug wa jud namo butangi’g komersyal nga abono. Pag-abot sa duha ka bulan, kami na pod ang nikatawa kay dagko pa man ang punuan sa among tanom kay sa ilaha bisan walay (komersyal nga) abono”. (When we planted rice on our ‘trial farm’, some farmers around laughed at us and said what a foolishness planting rice with only a single seedling per hill . . , and we did not even put commercial fertilizer on it. After 2 months we were the once laughing at them because theirs have smaller tillers than ours). Kagawad. Caloy is also a member of Untaga Farmers Organization (UFO) actively propagating organic farming system in the community.

Both ‘bay Lucio and Kag. Caloy are members of farmers’ organizations, SAMOFA and UFO respectively, which happened to be the beneficiaries of the project entitled: Poverty Reduction through Organic Farming Systems (PROFarmS) Development Project, implemented in Alicia and Dagohoy, by an NGO called the Bohol Community Assistance Program (BOCAP), Inc.. PROFarmS is not a technology or rather not a new scientific concept in agriculture. It is however the old practice of sustaining agriculture, of the old tradition of caring nature in exchange for healthy foods, and of the old (tribal) cultures of preserving biodiversity in exchange for abundance. It is also an approach and a process of responding productivity by introducing holistic science into the farming system as against the simplistic science of commercialized, ecologically extractive and socially oppressive conventional agriculture.

In the province, PROFarmS is only implemented in ten barangays, correspondingly to ten farmers’ organizations. Thanks to the auspices of the Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP), that included Bohol as one of the five provinces for its Focused Community Assistance Scheme (FOCAS) implementation. For Bohol, there are four FOCAS groups, each with a thematic thrust that goes along with the province’s poverty reduction efforts. Each FOCAS is assigned to a group of municipalities clustered according to its relevance to each thematic thrust, and is governed by a multi-sectoral body called the Focas Management Committee (FMC). 

Hence, PROFarmS is under Focas 3, Sustainable Agriculture for Food Security and Economic Development that covers the municipalities of Alicia, Dagohoy, Sagbayan and San Isidro. For Focas 3 stakeholders, Sustainable Agriculture strictly means Organic Agriculture, defined according to seven principles, which are essentially: 1) ecologically sound; 2) economically viable; 3) socially just, humane and equitable; 4) culturally appropriate; 5) grounded on holistic/ integrative science; 6) appropriate technology, and; 7) total human development. Any farming practice in contradiction to any of these principles is considered unsustainable and detrimental.   

Aside from the mentioned sites, PROFarmS is also implemented in San Antonio, Sagbayan and Poblacion, San Isidro by the Bohol Local Development Foundation (BLDF), an NGO, which is very efficient in working closely with Local Government Units. It is also implemented in the Barangays; La Esperanza, San Vicente and Mahayag, of Dagohoy by the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Talibon (SAC-Talibon), the Diocese’s service commission working for justice and peace. In barangays; Del Monte, Sudlon and Cagongcagong, of Alicia, PROFarmS is implemented by Women’s Development Center (WDC). An NGO committed not only to uplift the small farmers per se, but also to the doubly affected peasant women.         

To augment community-based efforts, three support projects are operationalized, namely: Secretariat Support for PROFarmS by CASEC, Inc.; Marketing and Trading (PROFarmS MarkeT) Support Project, by Carmen Samahang Nayon Multi-purpose Cooperative (CSNMPC); and the Advocacy, Alliance, Networking and Consumer Education (AdvANCE PROFarmS) Support Project by the Bohol Initiators for Sustainable Agriculture and Development (BISAD).   

With PROFarmS, farmers are not taught with new science and technologies coming from technocrats and academic tyrants; they are just given opportunities to let their inherent capacity to discover science and technologies within their reach and that farm inputs are just within their touch. With PROFarmS, farmers are not given piles of statistical interpretations to empower themselves; they are just put into the rhythm and songs of awakening from the belief and colonial thinking of being ‘just’ merely poor farmers, into realizing to stand that they are in fact FARMERS with pride and dignity. With PROFarmS, farmers are not bound to follow the fixations of modern agriculture; they are just provided with tools to re-think and rebuild the long lost tradition and culture of nature farming systems that harness every microorganisms’ capacity to maintain the balance of the food web that make this earth a living planet.

Ms. Nady Bacalso, a woman farmer from San Antonio, Sagbayan once said after a training on genetic conservation and seed selection: “Karon  nakasuway na ko ug “breeding” sa humay, bisan igo ra ko nakahuma’g ‘high school’, maningkamot gyod ko makamugna’g ‘variety’ sa humay nga ako’y magbuot sa ngalan aron naay akong ikabilin sa akong mga kaliwatan, ug dili na sila mopalit nianang mga ‘hybrid’ kung diin mga negosyante ra’y nabulahan”. (Now that I have tried breeding rice even if I have not finished high school, I will try my best to produce a variety that I can be named with my own, and I will leave this to my children, so they will not buy hybrid seeds that only businessmen profit). So that’s PROFarmS, not PRO-ARMS! 

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