(Photo by JM Zap)

Ecological agriculture
key to food stability

(Dr. Elderico Tabal, PhD)

Published: July 15, 2019 01:25pm | Puerto Prinsesa


Imagine how crowded the Philippines could become in 2030. The current population is already more than 107 million and is expected to hit 109 million by the end of 2019 according to the Philippine Population Commission. Food self-sufficiency will surely preoccupy whoever is in government. In contrast with the 20th century, when food was relatively cheaper, the 21st century is expected to see food prices rise as a result of food shortage. Hence, “the world is just one poor harvest away from chaos in the grain markets. Food prices will rise to previously sunimaginable levels. Food riots will multiply, political unrest will spread and governments will fall,” said Lester Russell Brown, founder and president of Earth Policy Institute, based in Washington D.C. In the Philippines, food demand will rise while land areas for low land agriculture will continue to shrink due to human pressure and will further escalate food shortage. Eventually not be able to meet the two of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SGD 1 & 2) set by the Food and Agriculture or FAO and that is to “end poverty and hunger”.

Ecosystems in the uplands are very attractive for utilization because of its rich natural resources. However, the unregulated and often indiscriminate activities done to meet food demands in these fragile ecosystems have led to the degradation of the upland habitat. Widespread cutting of forest resources which resulted in the loss of habitats and biodiversity. Charcoal making from wood products have become a lucrative enterprise which pose an alarming concern on forest ecosystems. This practice lives open areas vulnerable for change in land uses. One of these is the practice of slash and burn or “kaingin system” which contributed to further soil degradation and loss of natural soil-biodiversity. Soil erosion is one form of soil degradation and if left unattended it will continue to bring negative effects to lowland communities and in coastal areas. Soil is not only the major natural resource on which human being depends for the production of food but also plays a key role in maintaining the complex terrestrial ecosystems and climate systems of our planet.

According to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), the recent rapid increase in human population has placed a great strain on the Philippines’ soil resources. The continuing population pressure required the use of more lands to meet food demand, which had resulted in massive deforestation causing undesirable ‘on and off-site’ consequences. The practice of ‘till-plant-and-fertilize’ cropping pattern has caused constant threats to the upland ecosystems. These constraints are expected to escalate as food demand is expected to increase. The solution to the problem of providing enough food in the future now depends on the extent of productivity level of our available lands including those lands which are too steep to till but are currently used for agriculture. However, uplands or steeped land conditions used for agriculture can further induce soil erosion which will lead to soil fertility loss and crop yield decline.

The Yamang Bukid Farm or YB Farm located in Barangay Bacungan, Puerto Princesa has exemplified the so called “forest-coupled-agriculture”, a system coined by Dr. Baguinod, a retired professor of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB). This is a modified model of ecological agriculture considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO as an outstanding mitigating measure to help address environmental hazards and conservation of the upland ecosystems. This strategic objective within the work of the FAO opens the door more widely to ecological approaches to agriculture. It explicitly recognizes that sustainability is as much a goal as production, and the two must be attained together. Ecosystem services, the multitude of benefits that nature provides to society – underpin agricultural production. Understanding the important functions of these services – from maintaining soil health to natural pest control and pollination – is vital, said Barbara Herren of Sustainable Food Trust based in the US.

This is why Yamang Bukid Farm is focused on “ecosystem services and biodiversity for food and agriculture” or simply the “forest-coupled-agriculture system” in the uplands in order to ensure healthy farming that promotes healthy soil environments and sustainability of healthy food supply for today and tomorrow for the Filipino people and the world. This is FAO’s ultimate hope on sustainable food production system by protecting soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity, and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs and genetically engineered materials.

(Dr. Elderico Tabal holds a PhD degree of agronomy from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos and is a consultant for Yamang Bukid Farm. Doc Rico also teaches various agronomy and forestry courses at a state university in western Mindanao)

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DOT nominates Yamang Bukid Farm for major tourism award

  • Yamang Bukid Farm, an emerging farm tourism destination in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, is being shortlisted for a major award on farm tourism.
    This after Yamang Bukid Farm was nominated by the Department of Tourism—Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) to represent the region in this year’s Lakbay Bukid Awards.
    In nominating Yamang Bukid Farm, Danilo Intong, DOT Mimaropa regional director, in a letter, cited the farm destination’s efforts at promoting community-participated farm tourism.

    (Photos by JM ZAP)

    “As this regional office sees the efforts and practices of your organization in involving the communities and pushing for a more sustainable and inclusive growth community through farm tourism, we are pleased to inform you that (DOT-Mimaropa) is nominating (the Farm) for the 2019 Lakbay Bukid Awards,” Intong wrote Hope Alas, YBFP tourism campaign manager.

    The contest, Intong said, will highlight the 6th Philippine Farm Tourism Conference by the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) on Nov. 6-8, 2019 at Cebu City. “Part of the event is the Lakbay-Bukid Award which gives recognition of the resiliency, ingenuity and the strength of our hardworking farmers, fisherfolk and others,” he added. Alas was grateful to DOT Mimaropa for the nomination even as she underscored the farmers’ role in transforming the farm tourism site to it has become now.

    The 20-plus hectare landholding in the hilly and forested area of Sitio (Sub-village) Candes III, Bacungan has been transformed into a virtual paradise of rural park, with well-manicured flower and vegetable gardens, Instagrammable sites; a restaurant serving local dishes made from organically-grown and naturally-raised crops, poultry and livestock and over 200-strong community of farmers who are former illegal loggers—turned-environmentalists.

    “This nomination would not be possible without the hardworking farmers and dedicated people of Yamang Bukid Farm,” she said. “This nomination will once again bring pride to the happy farming community of Yamang Bukid Farm. We will continue living a life for others by doing business with a heart,” added Alas.
    (JL)
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Palawan farm tourism site prides “toilets for all gender stripes”

  • A farm tourism destination in Palawan is raising the concept of gender sensitivity a stripe higher.
    For nearly two years now, Yamang Bukid Farm in Puerto Princesa City’s Barangay Bacungan has introduced a novel way of giving people the facility where they can answer nature’s call regardless of their sexual orientation.

    Guests pose outside the marked "gender-sensitive toilets" of Yamang Bukid Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The farm tourism destination at Barangay Bacungan is a place of respect, tolerance and equality.
    (Photo by Daniel Kat)

    Manned and maintained by elderly women, Yamang Bukid Farm’s comfort room has separate spacious cubicles for girls, boys, gays and lesbians.
    The round-shaped building is made of concrete and roofed with indigenous materials. Outside it has two porcelain tubs and faucets for washing hands. Inside each cubicle has a flush toilet and bidet hose for cleaning.

    Outside, one can easily see the markings on the top of each of the four white wooden doors. Emblazoned in white against a black background each of the doors are the words GIRL, BOY, BAKLA and TOMBOY.
    One may argue that bakla and tomboy (Filipino slang for gays and lesbians, respectively) are in fact derogatory but for Bobby Arzaga, a Palawan-based vlogger and receptionist for the Farm, the terms are mainly names that describe their sexual label and nothing else.

    “I’m not offended because that’s how I want people to see me. I don’t know with other gays if they’re offended, though,” Arzaga said, adding he uses the cubicle labelled for the gays more often than that of the boys’.
    A learning site for sustainable and organic-based agriculture, the Farm which is a subsidiary of health and wellness products-maker Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI), is advocating equality for all, embracing and respecting all guests of whatever gender stripes, according to the toilets’ designer Benjie Monegasque.

    “This is a reflection of doing business with a heart. Yamang Bukid welcomes and embraces all gender. The Yamang Bukid brand promotes equality, respect and tolerance,” Monasque said. (Juan Lim)
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Yamang Bukid Farm invited to host 100 local, EU cyclists in Palawan bike for nature

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Yamang Bukid Farm, Palawan’s emerging farm tourism destination, is invited to host at least 100 local and foreign bikers for a cycling event here late this month.
    The event, which will be held in partnership with Palawan Tourism Council, the European Union and a big shopping mall chain, is in line with the city’s hosting of the 22nd Cine Europa—the longest and most comprehensive film festival in the Philippines, according to PTC president Deborah Tan.

    Bikers negotiate a climb along a steep route during a biking for the ocean event organized by Yamang Bukid Farm in Bacungan, Puerto Princesa City last June. The emerging farm tourism destination in Palawan's tourism city is once again hosting a cycling event for the environment late this month, with over 100 participants who included dignitaries from the European Union.

    “We would like to explore the opportunities of partnering with you in the hosting of Padyak Para sa Kalikasan (Bike for Nature) 4.0 on Oct. 26,” Tan said in a letter to YBFP officials.
    With the partnership, Tan said the bike for a cause will start at SM City Puerto Princesa and end at Yamang Bukid Farm—a distance of some 28.9 kilometers traversing Puerto Princesa North Road.

    After the biking event, participants will join in sunflower/tree planting with farmer-employees and will be treated to a lunch of local dishes made from naturally-grown ingredients. The bikers are also expected to have a tour around the farm.

    In exchange, Tan said audio-visual presentation about the Farm will be shown in each interval of Cine Europa films to be screened at SM City Puerto Princesa, among others. “Through these, we can build new networks and strengthen our friendship with the EU delegates, help promote our local products, and most especially promote our sustainable farm tourism in Palawan,” said Tan.

    The film festival, according to Tan, aims “to showcase the customs, traditions and rich cinematography of EU member-states” and will be opened to the public for free. The event, she said, “is expected to boost (Palawan’s) sustainable tourism, local products, Palaweno skills and hospitality, investment promotions, and rich biodiversity, as well as its environmental protection and conservation initiatives.”

    “We consider this event as an opportunity to continuously foster cultural ties with EU member-state representatives as well as to display our readiness to host prestigious events such as this, and to express our interest to partner in the future,” added Tan.
    She said the Cine Europa film extravaganza runs from Oct. 23-24, but may be extended up to the 27th.

    (JL)
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