Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Davao Experience ----Making of an Organic Life

MRT laced with LEISA and related technology integrates diverse systems of farming life with family life


TAGUM – "WELCOME TO MY HUMBLE HOME! COME IN…," an enthusiastic farmer-cooperator invited me inside his sanctuary. From once a shabby place – highlighted by a sala set mismatched with untouched soil flooring, the ambience turned into somewhat cozy abode to stay for a while. My last visit was just a few weeks ago, and yet, the transformation was so overwhelming it made me feel awkward to enter such a tidy atmosphere, wearing nothing on but a very dirty pair of running shoes enwrapped with semi-wet mud. The happy and warm welcome, however, was so irresistible, obliging the invite to his homely abode even barefooted won't matter at all.

Home is where the heart is.

"Daghan man ug problema, enjoy kung loving-loving (Though there may be lots of problems around, you can still enjoy life if there is love in the air)," was a ready reply, though ironic it may seem to hear such expression from a rural folk, amidst his daily struggles and battles to keep his family's head above the waters. For him, problems are as constant as change. But those woes do not hinder him from experiencing the joys and blessings of family life. This is the story of Carlito "Cacang" Cubio, a farmer-cooperator (FC) in Magupising, Dujali, Davao del Norte.

Though Cacang had married early in life, with wife Rosita, and they were blessed with five healthy children, trials and hardships never brought the Cubio family down. For uncountable years, Cacang admitted that he had been dependent on inorganic inputs. Afraid to experience crop failure, a little weird difference in his rice crop would easily resort him to applying inorganic fertilizer and foliar. When there was certain pests close in sight, he sprayed pesticides. But in all those farm-watching, upclose and personal, he always took necessary precautions in order to avoid farm accidents, like exposure of chemicals due to improper input applications.

When the prices of commodities constantly increased in the market, and precautions seemed to be tiring, Cacang opted for other ways low cost of inputs can be achieved while having same production output without putting health at risk. In 2001, his prayers were answered when the Davao Provincial Rural Development Institute (DPRDI) shared the vision and goal of reducing expenditures on organic farm inputs as a major activity in one household meeting in the area. Masipag Rice Technology (MRT) backed up with Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) technology were introduced to him along with other members from the nearby communities of Magupising. After the sharing of insights, Cacang was determined even more to take the challenge of changing his traditional farming technology. Believing in the possible gains and yield from the new technology, Cacang seriously pursued them with greater commitment.

Being a farmer for Cacang seemed to be a destiny rather than a choice. Finishing a certain degree still had not brought him luck to have a regular employment. Deciding to develop the small farmland he inherited and grew up with, appeared to be no other easier road to success but a narrow road less traveled leading to somewhere better.

The Masipag technology

STARTING with the demo and trial farming of 11 Masipag lines he chose from the seeds that DPRDI had shared with his farmer-cooperators – from a teaspoonful of palay seeds per line of Masipag – Cacang was able to produce more or less a couple of sacks per Masipag line that flourished. Unfortunately, not all Masipag lines he planted to in the trial farm stage had produced good yield, an experience that led him to learning more about what specific Masipag line was right and suitable for his farmland depending on the prevailing wet or dry season.

Cacang had undergone the verification stage of which the produce of the selected lines from the trial farm stage was being planted, the eventual yield he had gathered became his seedling for the next mass production stage.

In 2002, Cacang was able to produce his own seed stocks. From then on, he no longer bought the seeds to be planted every cropping. He was able to identify what was the selection of Masipag seeds characteristics for his farm. With such knowledge and knowhow afforded him by MRT, he had reduced his risk of failure. DPRDI designated Cacang Cubio one of MRT local farmer technicians (LFT) in the area for successful utilization of technology.

But life for Cacang was not always on the uphill. During the course of his MRT application, there were croppings where not all the Masipag lines he planted flourished. Discouraging its further use may be any ordinary farmer's recourse, but not for Cacang. He persevered and kept holding on to the promise of the Masipag technology to propagate own seedlings for planting to be able to break free from the bondage of buying seeds from commercial centers.

Organic Technology, Cacang's Recipes

SHIFTING from the inorganic to organic technology looked like a big risk for typical farmers who have been comfortable with traditional practices.

But since Cacang believed and held on to the health and economic benefits organic application has in store for him, the DPRDI local farmer technician boldly dared to take the challenge of acquiring more freedom to manage his farm more costeffectively. Propelled by his desire, Cacang all the more became interested in reducing more his farm inputs by innovating on liquid fertilizers and formulating foliar depending on the needs of his farm using indigenous materials that can be readily found within his farm and household areas.

From his simple collection of recipes shared by a DRPDI productivity systems enhancement (PSE) staff during the series of regular household meetings they set within their community, Cacang was able to concot his very own organic pesticides, fertilizers and foliars: Fungicide and bacteriacide, made of ginger, garlic, onions, raw sugar, pure vinegar, gin and beer.

Cacang was able to make seaweeds foliar fertlizer for healthy growth, from guso or seaweeds, seashells (kinhason), raw sugar (kinugay), and water.

He formulated fungicide fertilizer – fish emulsion out of internal parts of fishes, seaweeds, raw sugar and urine.

Green manure fertilizer (good sources of nitrogen and potassium) was created by Cacang from madre de cacao, ipil-ipil leaves and other leguminous plants.

Indigenous microorganism (IMO) for good soil conditioning, Cacang was able to reactivate, and hastened decomposition for healthy plant growth made of rice raw sugar (kinugay or moscubado).

Integrated diversified farming system

FOR CACANG and Rosita, life is great when one family is happy working and planning and planting together to achieve their dreams, backed up by the determination to fulfill a "happy marriage" with integrated technologies he had learned to practise in their farm life that he cannot do without.

Masipag, defined by Agnes Espano Dimzon in a sidebar story, as "Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Ikauunlad ng Agham Pang-Agrikultura," synergized with System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Bio-Intensive Gardening (BIG), and Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT), comprised in part the three objectives of Integrated diversified farming system (IDFS) that PRDCI implements to encourage farmers the cultivation of multi crops in their areas, both in uplands and lowlands.

The practice was described as a happy marriage of transformative technologies in farming to enhance family life, Cacang Cubio concluded.

In every harvest season, the fate of a farmer is determined. Whether his harvest is a success or failure, it molds and challenges Cacang Cubio's league of technology-savvy farmer partners to seek greater heights, and yet, with simplicity, and with all humility. Life with peace of mind, free from debts… and contented with the best things in life that sometimes are free – the very values Filipino farmers hold on to, like a clean, decent and healthy lifestyle, the very same qualities they hope to find; experience the freedom with responsibility to live life to the optimum… these are but a few premiums self-sufficient life and style and independent living that are worth seeking for Davao farmers.

Dreaming and making things happen are what they had journeyed through this life in every turn they made, in every chapter they opened and ended… truly what a life they weaved!


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