Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya – Upland food growers in this landlocked province have found a growing domestic market for their organic vegetable produce. During the Farmer’s Market Day last July 30, 2011 at the provincial capitol grounds, organic produce seemed to have penetrated the high-end segment of the local market. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals, Rotarians and their friends, arrived early at the organic fair to get the best produce available. The medical practitioners among them were one in saying that organically-grown vegetables and other food items can maintain one’s health and prolong one’s life.
It all started with the upland farmers themselves who expressed the need for a market for their vegetable, fruit, poultry and livestock produce that they had been growing organically, with support from the partnership of PRRM and the Global Link Management Institute (GLMI). GLMI, a Japanese NGO, has been working in the last three years in in Nueva Vizcaya in a project called Participatory Forest Management (PPFM) which is funded by the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines.
This project has assisted farmers in the towns of Kasibu, Dupax del Sur, Kayapa and Santa Fe to raise organic crops in hillside contour farms where green manure is abundant. Soil fertility is maintained by the application of vermi-compost, a natural fertilizer produced by feeding earthworms with decaying weeds and other organic farm waste. Planting companion crops and spraying organic pesticides are the primary methods of pest control.
Municipal agriculture offices (MAOs) are also involved in the process of certifying that crops grown are compliant to organic standards. The project has developed a monitoring system to raise the farmer’s level of compliance in order to meet international standards in the coming years.
To help ensure a market, Ms. Miki Matsumoto, GLMI’s representative, invited the local Rotary Club to assist in promoting the produce of the upland farmers. The Nueva Vizcaya provincial government has also supported this initiative by assigning the People’s Stage in the provincial capitol grounds as the venue for the Farmers Market Day.
In addition, four of the leading restaurants in the province, Mrs. Bakers in Bayombong and Balay Gloria’s Cafe Angelo, Basti’s Grill and Gorio’s Restaurant in nearby Solano town regularly order organically-grown beans, cucumber, lettuce and other temperate vegetables directly from the producers in Santa Fe, Kayapa, Kasibu, and Dupax del Sur. Mrs. Bakers, for example, is now offering “fried organic beans” in its menu. There is also an increasing number of restaurants and households placing their orders for organic produce.
The challenge of maintaining a steady supply of organic vegetables now lies on how upland farmers sustain their production. With a fairly-priced vegetable pack transported from the uplands down to Bayombong and Solano, farmers are expected to offset their operational expenses. “What we save from eliminating expensive pesticides and fertilizers in our system is being spent on transportation expenses,” says Eddie Galap of Brgy. Sinapaoan, Santa Fe. Local traders usually don’t buy organic vegetables because they trade in huge volumes, thus, organic farmers are bound to do the marketing themselves.
“We came to realize that growing organic food must be supported by a ready market of health-conscious consumers who are willing to pay a fair price,” says Josephine Almirol, a senior Community Development Officer in the PPFM project. “People who want to eat organic food must take part in the advocacy by spending a little more to make both ends meet for organic farmers. It is just costly to go against the traditional trading system that considers profit above all other factors,” she added.
Novoled, a micro-finance institution based in Bayombong, also pledged support to the organic farmers. #
More photos may be found at the PRRM Facebook Page.
March 8, 2014, Cocoon Boutique Hotel
Quezon City, Philippines