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Sustainable Agriculture for a Sustainable World

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IN these unholy times of environmental catastrophes that threaten long-term human survival and their everyday security, can sustainable agriculture practices help curb those life-and-death perils facing farming families and societies as a whole? Such is one of the manifold missions of the consortium Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA).

In the past few days, a 4-man ZABIDA team has been interviewing and holding focus-group discussions among farmers in three barrios, so far, who have been enrolled in its sustainable agriculture program, whose major component is organic farming.   Their aim is to evaluate the program’s economic, social and environmental impact on the participating families’ lives and the conditions in their communities.  The program started in 2007 and its second 2-year phase will end this year.  The east-coast located barangays covered by the evaluation so far are Bunguiao, Bolong, Sangali, Lamisahan and Victoria, all adjacent to one another.

The participating farmers, all of them organized into associations accredited with government, till farms located in upland areas, and therefore mainly without the benefit of man-made irrigation and thus are dependent on the dry-and-wet climate cycles.  Upland farmers are the country’s certified poorest of the poor, although they are the growers of most of the common vegetables sold in markets.

ZABIDA is propagating sustainable agriculture through the Reach Out to Others Foundation (ROOF), a civil society organization under the aegis of Western Mindanao State University.  ROOF has taught the farmers in already five barangays how to make and use natural liquid fertilizers and vermicast in lieu of buying and using harmful (to humans and soils) synthetic chemicals. Natural liquid fertilizer is made out of biodegradable refuse; vermicast is harvested from the refuse of a type of worm (African night crawlers).

Aside from teaching the farmers organic farming know-how, ROOF  also avails them an animal dispersal program and distributes seeds and seedlings of vegetables, cacao, coconut, and upland rice variety.

This assistance to a few hundreds of farmers has been gradually making their economic conditions much better, the impact evaluation discovered. For one, they no longer buy expensive synthetic fertilizers; they raise more robust plants.  The last remaining challenge for the program is how to help the farmers market their vegetables in such a way as to optimize their incomes.  It’s the same challenge for all other vegetable farmers in the city, who are always at the mercy of fluctuating supply and demand factors and post-harvest problems.

Organic farming technology enriches the soil as against its spoiliation by synthetic chemicals. After receiving instructions on the importance of maintaining a healthy ecology, ZABIDA’s farmers are furthermore less inclined to indulge in destructive farming practices, such as slash and burn. 

ROOF is a lean and mean team of only four personnel:  Khamar Amsain as coordinator and community organizers-farmer teachers Dennis Alberto, Rahsa Haruddin, and Evelyn Salungkag.  The ZABIDA impact evaluators are Espie Hupida as head, Liezel Camacho, Albert Arcilla and Rey-Luis Banagudos. 

(Peace Advocates Zamboanga/www.zabida.com.ph)




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