MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 January) — The Social Action Center (SAC) of the Diocese of Malaybalay is working with close to 800 Bukidnon farmers in its organic farming project, SAC Malaybalay director Fr. Danilo Paciente told MindaNews Tuesday.
Paciente said the pilot project of the diocese aims to promote sustainable agriculture amid the widespread use of chemical inputs by most farmers and to ensure food security.
“But the primary target here is to raise the net income of the farmers in the province,” he added.
The farmers, he said, could not take part in the project with empty stomachs.
Paciente noted that most farmers are now into “modern” methods of agriculture with the aim of achieving maximum productivity.
“But the kind which also raises the cost of inputs. With their high production is high cost of production, too,” he said.
If a farmer works hard with organic farming, there will come a time, he does not need to buy inputs like fertilizer,” he added.
Organic farming makes use of converting farm wastes into fertilizers. Paciente said it helps in restoring the soil quality.
He, however, clarified that their project only involves transfer of technology.
Paciente cited financing as another problem. He said that in other areas their representatives in Congress shell out a portion of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to organic farming.
“It could have been good if there are local counterparts,” he said.
He admitted that the project faced difficulties in its first two years, the major one being the attitude and culture of the farmers who are used to “instant” production.
They (farmers) are used to buying the inputs from the store instead of producing these in their own backyard, he said.
He said even Valencia City which has declared itself a center of organic farming in Bukidnon faces the same problem of attitude among farmers.
SAC staff member Dennis Abaton said there is slow adaptation among their partner farmers to the organic farming technology.
He said their participation rate is not even half of the population in their pilot areas. The initial 800 farmers in the project, he said, are spread in 30 barangays in six pilot towns in Bukidnon, namely Kalilangan, Pangantucan, Lantapan, Don Carlos, Kadingilan, and Quezon.
He said in most of these areas they have promoted the cultivation of more rice and coffee.
He said the two crops are among the biggest losers to plantation economy.
“Rice and coffee farms are being bumped off by mostly banana plantations,” he added.
Abaton said they aim to convince about 2,000 farmers this year to go into organic farming.
“We hope to help them learn the organic way of farming. Then we can also help their other needs, like in marketing their products without going through middlemen or traders,” he added.
Paciente said the project in organic farming also seeks to address the interconnected issues of health and climate change. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)