17 Jul A Serious Disconnect
Organic farming has a long way to go in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Over chicken pinikpikan – a native Cordillera soup dish – sayote tops and rice, participants to a Chikainan in Bgy. Pito, Bokod, Benguet – young professionals from Baguio City and farmers from the village – talked about best practices in food production and consumption and problems in the food system they believed needed solutions.
The participants talked about where they sourced their food: sweet potato, taro and sayote from their own gardens, rice from Bambang, Vizcaya, fish, chicken and eggs from rolling/ mobile stores.
Those living in the city buy from the wet market because it is cheaper but go to the supermarket “when we are feeling lazy,” they said.
The farmers have certainly heard about organic farming – in theory. For them, organic farming is new, less convenient and less profitable. They have tried it, but say it is more difficult because they have to plant different varieties when mono-cropping is easier, and the organic products are bought by the kilo which would lead to less income. Organic farming also entails stopping the use of pesticides – and these farmers have always used pesticides.
The Department of Agriculture hands out hybrid seeds from Baguio, but the farmers find them difficult to use because these are not compatible to the soil and other environmental conditions in Bokod.
Other challenges involving are their uncertainty over the quality of the food, difficulty in competing with cheaper imports, ownership by foreigners of farm lands and, of course, the fact that organic farming is a long and expensive process
Despite these, the participants observe food-related practices in their community. For instance, the Department of Education has the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” program. Barangays are required to have a community garden and a Materials Recovery Facility where biodegradable waste can be composted – not every village has one, however. In Baguio City, there is a trend toward “organic” or “healthy” cafes.
According to the participants, issues on the food system can be addressed through the promotion of ease of transport (of agricultural goods), and empowering farmers to be entrepreneurs so they don’t find themselves at the mercy of middlemen.
They also said that the government, through the DepEd, must work harder at emphasizing the importance of agriculture, especially the ecological way.