MARINDUQUE, PHILIPPINES. Key representatives from the New Zealand Embassy – Manila visited the AGREA Vermicomposting Facility at the AGREA Model Farm in Marinduque last 2 June 2017 to see progress and understand further how the facility is bridging the farmers and the environment.
Matthew De Wit, NZ Embassy – Manila Head of Mission Deputy, together with New Zealand Aid Programme Manager Rune Ylade, inspected the facility and visited three of AGREA’s rice farming partner communities who benefited from the facility.
“We are grateful for the opportunity that the Embassy has entrusted with us,” says Cherrie Atilano, AGREA President and Founding Farmer.
“A farm’s ability to produce its own organic fertilizer without negatively affecting the environment, including its capacity to share these skills with other farmers, is a great step towards one-island economy,” she adds.
In March 2016, AGREA received funding from the NZ Embassy – Manila HOMF to establish the facility. Completed in August of the same year, this 250sqm worm factory started to provide the organic fertilizer requirements of Marinduque farmers.
This joint project has since launched a vermicomposting house that produces organic fertilizers and as an organic farming training center for smallholder farmers.
READ: AGREA is now a Certified Organic Agriculture Learning Site
An ideal project towards sustainable agriculture
After multiple visits to farm communities and consulted with nearly 150 farmers, AGREA found that most of these farmers do not use organic compost in their farms.
They leave rice straws and other agricultural wastes in the field to rot making these wastes stagnant and unusable. Other farmers resort to burning – an easier option, but causes severe environmental hazards.
In an ideal setup, sustainable organic farms see their wastes as valuable inputs in creating their own fertilizers. This is a sustainable process that maximizes resources through waste management.
“As we are introducing sustainable agriculture to our farmers, it is necessary that we also teach them the importance of making their own fertilizer from their farm wastes”, says Atilano.
Vermicomposting is the best solution given the large amount of agricultural wastes coming from local farms. These wastes, when effectively utilized, can help sustain the organic fertilizer requirements of the island.
“This technology is one of those practices that is very valuable to decrease farm input costs, increase organic production, and wise use of farm resources, she adds. “This way, we make sure that the farmers have economic gains as well as contribute in protecting our environment.”
Aside from reducing farm costs, studies confirm that vermicomposting has a number of other benefits: helps protect plants from diseases, reduces household and farm wastes, goes through a non-hazardous production process and therefore organic, and creates better food products.
This project ultimately supports AGREA’s goal of making the entire island of more than 200,000 people with agriculturally sustainable, food secure, and have access to healthy food.
Organic fertilizer training through the Self-Palayance Project
AGREA launched its Self-Palayance Project in May 2016. The project has three components: System of Rice Intensification (or SRI), Vermicomposting, and Micro-Irrigation. With the assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Marinduque Office, the first run of the season-long SRI training was rolled out to 30 rice farmers from May to August 2016. These 30 Agrarian Reform Beneficiary (ARB) farmers represented five communities in four towns in Marinduque.
To provide consistency and to consolidate AGREA’s work in local rice-producing communities, vermicomposting training was decidedly incorporated into the intensive organic rice training.
“This supplementary training works well for our rice farmers since the use of organic fertilizers is a vital component of SRI,” adds Atilano.
Vermicomposting for elementary school garden teachers
The Garden Classroom is a five-year program by AGREA, and is formed with the mission of enhancing the quality of life of elementary students by designing school gardens that give them critical outdoor access to hands-on knowledge, learning food cultivation for healthy eating and nutrition, inter-school farming collaboration, and for taking care of plants and the environment.
This program is rolled out in 18 schools across all of the six towns and is provided in cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd) Marinduque Office.
In August 2016, elementary school Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP) teachers gathered to the model farm and learned about school garden development, organic fertilizer production, and pest management, among others.
More than just vermicomposting
Aside from the vermicomposting facility, the model farm is also a research laboratory where AGREA’s resident agriculturists and farm workers manufacture and improve effective organic fertilizers and pesticides.
“Natural farming concoctions such as indigenous microorganisms, fermented plant and fruit juice, fish amino acids, calcium and phosphate rich mixes, and probiotics mixtures are also being developed and produced in the farm,” says Jonathan Quinto, AGREA’s Director of Agricultural Abundance.
“Farmers and farming enthusiasts learn best when they acquire and experience organic practices in the flesh,” says Benjamin Jorge Cadag, AGREA’s Agricultural Liaison Officer.
The model farm offers vermicomposting and organic farming skills training to interested participants. To learn more about the offered sessions, and to visit the AGREA Model Farm, contact the AGREA Secretariat through mobile (0917) 124-0905, landline (042) 332-0025, or email [email protected]
Written by Rafael Seño and Rachel Espejo