Want to learn organic farming? Go to Palawan

Published: September 23, 2019 10:22am | PALAWAN


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY——This city’s emerging farm tourism destination is fast becoming an immersive site for learning organic and sustainable agriculture with the visits recently of farmers and experts who wanted to observe and learn from its agricultural practices.
Over a dozen agriculturists from the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan spent three days at Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan as part of their season-long training on good farming practices.

Agriculturists from the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan pose with Bro. George Maria, vice president for community relations of Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan (first row, extreme right) during their visit and exposure to organic farming practices of Puerto Princesa City's emerging farm tourism destination.
(Photos by Aris Leoven)

The visit on Tuesday was facilitated by the Department of Agriculture through its Agriculture Training Institute (DA-ATI).
The farming experts were toured to Yamang Bukid Farm’s 2-hectare main tourism area where they took part in planting lettuce on plots, observe huge pens of native chicken breeds like the Zampen (Zamboanga Peninsula) and interact with farmers as they go about with their different farming practices.

According to Cristina Gonda-Magnaye, ATI-Mimaropa extension services head, they were overwhelmed by what they saw at YBF.
“What we saw were beyond our expectations. The technology and good practices are there. The people, especially the farmers are warm and welcoming,” Magnaye said. Fernan Hubo, one of the farm’s agriculturists, said the visitors learned about the Farm’s sustainable agriculture practices such as inter-cropping, contouring and vegetable production.

The farming experts interacted with farmers as they work on the field and the two groups exchanged ideas on traditional and modern farming practices, said Liza Jean Yocte, another YBF agriculturist.
“They are able to adopt latest trends in (sustainable) agriculture such as making organic concoction as pesticides in lieu of commercial pest repellants. The farm is continuously developing techniques to make it sustainable,” said Jane Siscar, an agriculturist of the city government of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. For Jocelyn Bernardo, another DA-ATI agriculturist, the experience was “very inspiring and worth sharing.”

“You will really love the experience of being in a rural farming place with people and farmers around who are accommodating and friendly,” said Bernardo.
During their stay at the farm, many of the guests turned emotional as they felt the genuine warmth and care of worker-farmers whom they had interacted with.
Karen Tulay, an agriculturist of DA-ATI said she was moved by the values espoused by the farmers and the way the farm management takes care of them.

“Technology can be transferred but the farm’s values cannot be quantified. Here at Yamang Bukid, I found my purpose as a public servant by the way they showed love and care to the farmers,” said Tulay, weeping openly before her fellow participants.

Roxanne Fadriquel, an agriculturist from Baco town, Oriental Mindoro, said her visit to the farm opened her heart and strengthened her resolve to help farmers in her community.
(JL)


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Englishwoman, over 500 others join Palawan run for farmers

  • PUERTO PRINCESA—For Freya Scrowston, a five-kilometer run is a breeze despite the steep climbs and drops of the trail. More so when she knew she was doing it to raise a point and funds to help impoverished farmers in a country over 10,000 miles away from hers.

    (Photos by JM Zap)

    “We were five friends who agreed to join. But they were not able to get up on time. I went ahead and left,” Scrowston, a tourist from the United Kingdom, said. Over 500 others like Scrowston opted to defy their morning schedules to rise early, put on their running shoes and white sleeveless shirt to join the Takbo Para sa mga Magsasaka (Run for the Farmers) by this city’s fast-rising farm tourism destination, Yamang Bukid Farm.

    The run, organized as part of the events to coincide with Yamang Bukid Farm’s second anniversary, was participated in by different groups and organizations, both local and abroad.

    “I usually run for five kilometers back home. This is a minimal distance to me but the terrain’s just challenging, with the steep climbs and drops,” said the English girl. She said she admired the place as well as how enthusiastic her fellow participants were.

    “The place’s so amazing. The hills are lush and green, and the people are warm,” the foreigner said.
    Saturday’s run for a cause was also meant to raise awareness about the plight of farmers in the country, with the focus on those agricultural workers affected by the plummeting farm gate price of palay, according to Hope Alas, Yamang Bukid Farm tourism officer.

    With each ticket costing P350, organizers had hoped to attract at least 1,000 runners said Alas.
    Massive promotions and other activities to hype the activity led to the tickets being sold out a week before the charity run, prompting organizers to reprint new tickets that were also gobbled up by the public.

    Majority of those who bought the tickets hailed the event as a noble act that could influence others to care for the farmers.
    Among them was 86-year old Nuevo Umambong, a wheelchair-bound great-grandad from the southern Palawan town of Batarraza.

    “I wanted to run but my wife and our children did not let me,” said Umambong, his remaining teeth glinting in the afternoon sun as he smiled.
    Umambong said he was a farmer nearly all his life so he felt the pain of the farmers who had to endure because of low palay prices.

    “I’ve been a farmer since I was 20. I only stopped working in the farm five years ago. I’m inspired because I was told by my granddaughter this was meant to help the farmers. They really need our help,” said the octogenarian, whose first ambition was to become a teacher but was forced to shift to farming following World War II.

    Race organizers said the run’s proceeds are set to be used to help a community-based non-government organization (NGO) helping farmers—the Palawan Center for Agriculture Research and Technology (PCART)—and a farmers’ association in the town of Narra, Palawan’s so-called rice granary which has been battered by the plunging prices of palay, with farm gate prices nosediving to P7 per kilo.

    The run started at 4 a.m., with the first runners sprinting past the finish line at the Farm’s huge marker at Sitio (Sub-village) Candes III some 30 minutes after gunstart.
    Most of the hundreds of participants strived to reach and run past the end marker.
    “I struggled but this is my first time to join a run so I really tried to finish the entire distance,” Carlo Dapitan, 51, a Yamang Bukid farmer-employee, said in Cebuano. Fifty-six year old Vivencio Arcilla, another farmer agreed.

    “I run because this is for my fellow farmers,” Arcilla said. Scrowston, the Englishwoman, said she was awed when friends told her the run she was about to take part was aimed at raising awareness about the sorry economic state of most Filipino farmers.

    “I’m elated there are many people who want to help the Filipino farmers. After all they are the ones working in the fields so people can have something to eat,” she added. With the proceeds, Alas said they would buy palay from Narra farmers at P20 per kilo, have these milled and the rice given back to the farmers themselves for free.

    The run was followed by a zumba exercise and short program, with farm guests and other visitors gyrating and shaking their extra calories off to the tune of modern dance music.
    (JL)
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Int'l scientist urges PH biz to invest in Earth-friendly tourism

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—An international environmental expert on Wednesday called on world environment policymakers, scientists and the business sector to find ways to develop business plans that would help promote biodiversity and sustainability. Dr. Antonio de Abreu, a biologist from Portugal said investment in tourism that help promote biodiversity should be encouraged.

    Dr. Antonio de Abreu, an environment expert of Unesco's Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme in Portugal speaks before the International Conference on Biosphere and Sustainability in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on July 24. The confab which runs until July 26 gathers over 100 scientists, experts, educators and business leaders all over the world and talks about how to preserve and sustain the planet's life sphere.(Photos by Dianne Kathryn Datu)

    "Don't be afraid of investment (on biodiversity). Investment is good (when it helps develop and sustain biodiversity)," Abreu said in a speech during the International Conference on Biosphere and Sustainability held here which was participated by Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan and more than 120 other local and international entities from the scientific, academic, business and government sectors. Abreu underscored the challenge to invest in and develop a business plan "that is economically sustainable and socially acceptable."
    "That is the only way to succeed in this limited planet," said Abreu, a specialist in Unesco's Man and Biosphere (MAB) Reserves in Lisbon.

    The Portuguese expert noted the Philippines' unique place in biodiversity conservation as the country is home to three Unesco-recognized Biosphere Reserves (BRs) located in Palawan, Puerto Galera and Albay. He said these biodiversity-rich regions are good in tourism owing to their natural and cultural riches.

    A honeybee collects nectar on a flower at the Yamang Bukid Farm. The farm tourism destination in Puerto Princesa City's Bacungan village is home to different species of flora and fauna and shows the farm's rich biodiversity.
    (Photos by Dianne Kathryn Datu)

    The scientist emphasized the need for stakeholders to tap not only the areas' natural beauty which are limited but also utilize the richness of its social and cultural aspects. "This is about our commitment in increasing social and natural resilience as well as promoting behavioral changes," he said, citing as example BR communities in Latin America that turned away from growing coca plants for cocaine production and became cocoa farmers. "They are no longer pursued by police and drug cartels. They already have money," he said. Investing in BRs to make money should be coupled with providing communities around it alternative livelihood that is sustainable and environment-friendly, said participant Bro. George Maria.

    Bro. George Maria (right), of Yamang Bukid Farm poses with Dr. Antonio de Abreu, a Portuguese environment scientist during the International Conference on Biosphere and Sustainability in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on July 24. Yamang Bukid Farm is among the presenters of the three-day event that runs until July 26.(Photos by Dianne Kathryn Datu)

    Bro. George, consultant for Yamang Bukid, said the farm has tapped former illegal loggers in transforming an agriculturally-inhospitable area in the city's Bacungan village into a growing farm tourism destination that is advocating sustainable agriculture practices.
    "If Yamang Bukid Farm, being a startup, can do it, so do other bigger businesses. It's just a matter of commitment from the business sector if it wants to repay what it has taken from the environment," Maria said. He said Yamang Bukid also sees to it that dignity of farmers and their concern for the environment is maintained or restored.

    "We want for people to have a good, positive perspective towards the farmers. That they are our partner in conserving resources and preserving the planet," Maria said. He said behavioural change is not enough. "You do not just inform them about the importance of their participation in environment conservation. You form the farmers into responsible and caring stewards of the planet," Maria added.
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UP expert urges farmers: Keep forests in farms

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY——A University of the Philippines-educated crop scientist has urged farmers engaged in natural and organic farming to plant trees and take care of the forests in and around their landholdings to ensure the sustainability of their areas. Dr. Elderico Tabal said farmers should understand the need to balance their farming needs with nature in order to help stabilize the soil and benefit their crops.

    The thick forest cover on the fringes of the 20-hectare Yamang Bukid Farm at Bacungan, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan is an excellent buffer zone and breathing space for crops grown within Palawan's emerging farm tourism destination|JM Zap

    “Agriculture without a forest is a dead agriculture. The only way to be resilient is to put a forest within your land,” Tabal, an agronomist, told farmers and officials from the local government units of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan provinces as well as representatives from the Department of Agriculture (DA) during the 7th Regional Organic Agriculture Conference (ROAC) at the A&A Plaza Hotel here, Sept 25.

    Dr. Elderico Tabal, a UPLB-educated agronomist stresses the importance of forest cover in agriculture during the 7th Mimaropa Organic Agriculture Congress at Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Sept. 25.|Jennifer Milante

    Tabal, who is a faculty member at state-run Western Mindanao State University (WEMSU) and consultant of tourism destination Yamang Bukid Farm, said putting or keeping forests within their landholdings can help farmers or farm owners maintain biodiversity and maintain sufficient water supply to the Farm.

    Tabal, said Yamang Bukid Farm, which has over 20 hectares of landholdings in Barangay Bacungan here, follows the natural and biological ways of agriculture. Composed of six sub-farms, two of it are open for the public as Yamang Bukid Farm’s agri-tourism site, while four others are off-limits and planted with high-value commercial crops and herbs (HVCCH).

    “At Yamang Bukid, we follow the natural and biological farming system. We try to understand the way of Mother Nature in agriculture,” said Tabal. While the Farm is not certified as organic by the third-party Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP), Doctor Tabal said the Farm follows both the natural and organic way of farming to enhance production output.

    For instance, the Farm uses natural way of controlling pest infestations on its crops and plants by utilizing bees and other natural pest predators. The Farm also practices contour plowing and intercropping as it is located in an area of mostly rolling hills and few flat lands.

    Tabal urged farmers and farm owners to support planting of diversified crops to help attract and support population of natural predators and stop relying on commercial and harmful pesticides.

    “We also do minimal to zero tillage cultivation in order not to disrupt the soil structure and prevent erosion.

    Tabal said farmers, particularly those still starting up, should understand that organic farming is not an easy way of agriculture in its initial stages. “It’s a system that needs to be developed. It takes years to rebuild our lands to their original intended state. It takes years to rebuild your land. Be patient,” the forest scientist said. “It’s not just planting but growing the right crops in the right soil.” During the event which was participated in by over 300 farmers, farm owners and agriculturists, the UP-educated Tabal also discussed Yamang Bukid Farm’s various best practices that include, among others, propagating and raising native chickens and livestock, the introduction of herbs and other plants as pest control as well as the propagation of different animal species like over two dozen of colonies of stingless bees and the use of natural plant-based concoctions as fertilizers and pesticides.

    Tabal also announced the various expansion efforts at the Farm’s tourism destination component, saying the farm has become among the must-see destinations in Puerto Princesa and the whole of Palawan.

    It has nearly 300 employees, over 90 percent of whom are former illegal loggers.
    (JL)
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