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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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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Yamang Bukid, Christian group reach Ifugao community in charity mission

  • The area that is now an island 30 minutes away by motorboat from mainland Aguinaldo town, Ifugao was a farming community when the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos built the “biggest irrigation dam in Asia” over 40 years ago. Most of the locals were relocated to as far as Isabela province to the north to give way to the project that sought to water vast rice plains in the Cagayan Valley, said longtime resident Julie Bulahao.

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    When the megastructure, named Magat Dam was completed, many of those who were uprooted went back to their former community, now a virtual waterworld and started to build new settlements there. While some resettled on the mainland, most of the original settlers set up communities along the banks of Halag River, one of the tributaries that feed the dam. “They became fishermen and owners of fish cages,” Bulahao, the head of Barangay Halag said in Tagalog. “Life here is simple but difficult.”

    While the artificial lake Magat Dam has created made fishing easier for the villagers, the vast and deep waterway that cuts the island-village off the mainland has made the access to and delivery of basic services for the riverine community challenging. “People here spend at least P20 for banca fare to the mainland docks and another P200 for motorcycle fare to the town proper just to buy medicines or foodstuff,” said resident Villamor Furok. “So goods brought in are quite expensive, and they do not come by as easily as well,” he said.

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    Schoolchildren who live on both sides of the “island” had to travel by boat either to go to school or buy supplies on the mainland. In this backdrop that representatives from Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI) led by Ms. Kim Malipe, vice president for special events, partnered with a religious and medical volunteers to bring supplies to the community, nearly 500 kilometers northwest of Manila.

    The YBHPI team composed of Ms. Malipe and a support team of two drivers, two sales staff, a quality assurance officer, documenters and Mr. R-Jay Falisong, a full-blooded Igorot Man of Philippines 2019 winner and YB social media ambassador, set out with volunteers of Christian missionary group Mensaheros for Halag late on Friday night. The two-vehicle convoy that also included doctors and dentists reached the drop-off point near Magat Dam shortly before noon on Saturday, after nearly 15 hours of land travel and crossed the river for half an hour. On the other side, as the boat’s bow touched land, a throng of men, women and children were gathered at the front of a school yard under a canopy of tarps, early meeting them.

    The two-day mission included the distribution of school supplies from YBHPI to dozens of schoolchildren from two Halag elementary schools. “I am so much grateful for these gifts to the children. Life here is not that easy so these school supplies are a big help to the children and their parents,” said teacher Josephine Gammad. At least 427 families live in over 100 households throughout the riverside village, officials said.

    On Sunday, Yamang Bukid’s partners—Mensaheros evangelists shared the Gospel as volunteer physicians and dentists extended medical and dental assistance to residents. “Thank you for you and the doctors and dentists for giving us free medical services. I had four of my decayed teeth pulled out, so I won’t be bothered with toothache anymore,” said 9-year old Helm Armielle Ataman. The Grade 5 pupil said it was the second time in two years that she had an extraction. “The first was also done during a medical outreach,” she said in Tagalog. Wens Gonzales, Mensaheros team leader, said the partnership with Yamang Bukid and some volunteer medical practitioners was meant to give a spiritual dimension to the act of kindness extended to far-flung communities like in Halag. The outreach program was expected to benefit about 300 individuals, mostly from the indigenous Ifugao community in the area.

    “This is more than helping other people. We also want to share the Gospel because this is what we do. Having something material to give them is just a bonus,” said volunteer Hope Gumabay, an accountant who spends her off-corporate time with the missionary group.
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Farmers feted in Yamang
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Festival’

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—A farming community at Barangay Bacungan here was transformed into a festive place awash with Filipino games, bountiful harvest and sumptuous food during the fourth Agros Festival last Feb. 16.

    The festival, which roughly translates as community of farmers, was organized by Yamang Bukid Farm here to honor all its farm employees—90 percent of whom farmers who are former illegal loggers.

    “We want to recognise our farmers for their contribution to society. Without them, we could not eat to survive,” said farm operator Rene Maduro.

    The day-long event was highlighted by the visit as guest speaker of Undersecretary Evangeline Lavina of the Department of Agriculture, who was all praises with the farm’s socially-conscious brand of agriculture.

    Capping the day were various contests involving Filipino games such as the sack race and palosebo—wherein contestants race to climb a slippery bamboo pole smeared with grease to reach a prize.

    Local and foreign visitors were also entertained by a “fashion show” of well-dressed and painted carabaos. It was a fun day for the farmers and everyone else.
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