Ancient Treasures in Agriculture

Created on Monday, 15 April 2013

They survived, sustained life and lived life abundantly in the past.

Ancient folk talk of how the fields gave back life to humans as they treated the soil as if it were a living soul. This is ancient knowledge that have preserved the fertility of the soil and making it a treasure that could preseve mankind in the modern world of machines, computers, and terrible wastes that refuse to  decompose. Modern day farmers are now taking a look at how the ancient farmers created plentiful production despite the lack of farm machineries and soil treatment.   

We are just grateful that the meme to sustain organic agriculture has inspired the farmers in the region, who through the years have been battered with advertisements  to switch to  chemical agriculture.

The advancing world could be  blamed for the decay of the once fertile soil. This was the thought I gathered from an interview with the  Director for Research and Development of the Bohol Island State University, Marina Labonite, when she recalled in her highschool days how they were being trained in the academe to stick to conventional or organic farming to preserve the soil. But a disruption of the thought came when there was a deluge of advocacies  from multinational companies  for chemical farming. She reminisced , how farmers started to become heavy users of chemicals until in 1998, the farmers experienced problems in their farms.

Compacted soil, low yield,  surge of pests and diseases are just some of the problems that were encountered , not to mention the various illnesses chemical farming wrought to them. Labonite recounted the time when farmers came to her for help. A collaborative effort was then made to rescue the ailing farming communities- a needs assessment was necessary to unveil solutions of their current dilemma.

Interestingly, the farmers themselves realized that somehow their abandonment of the once treasured knowledge and practice in organic agriculture is the primary cause of their plight.

Hand in hand with the Department of Agriculture, the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and the Bohol Island State University- each institution gave her piece to solve the problem.  The DA assisted the farmers to re-learn the Natural Farming System (NFS), and introduced the use of the trichoderma and the effective micro-organisms in the field.

It was the need that made them realize   their mistakes  and made them discover the once forgotten treasure in agriculture.

Availabilty of the long lost traditional rice varieties  was a requirement to pursue their desire to harmonize with nature. Use of  the traditional varieties incur less expenses and less incidence of pests and diseases- the farmers recalled.

It was a long and tedious task as  to who should handle the storage of seeds due to lack of space but finally the brilliant idea to  have the farmers produce their own seed and bank it at BISU was a  relief to the stand off. Currenlty they have 162 accessions  and farmers  are taught to breed rice using the traditional cross-breeding technique. Farmers still look for the old varieties such as Malubang, Paganahaw and the Milagrosa., as these are less tedious to grow. Labonite confidently said that 90% of the farmers in Bilar have reconnected with their treasured past by practicing organic agriculture   and utilizing their self-made fertilizers using rice straw , rice hulls and other farm wastes.

Surprisingly, the farmers realized that going back to the ancient practice of organic agriculture has eradicated their seemingly perennial problem of pervading pests and diseases and even their products have sure markets  while it is yet  standing in the field.

Reliving the Ancient Treasure
Vermiculture is as ancient as the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who lived in 384 to 322 B.C. , when he mentioned in his writings the role of  earthworms in maintaining the soil. But the interest of  the lowly earthworms was stirred up by Darwin who published his article on ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould  Through the Action of Worms.’ Environment degradation caused by heavy use of chemicals is the key factor why nature lovers  continue  to wield to  ancient  organic agriculture which uses mainly earthworms as  natural decomposers.

Creating a lifestyle to go organic is not a difficult task for the DA,  as many health buffs have expressd their willingness to support the idea. Aside from the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture , Proceso J. Alcala,  who authored the Organic  Agriculture Act of 2010 , known as Republic Act 10068 , the four governors of the Central Visayas provinces have as well thrown their hats to go organic.

The Mandaue Experiment Station (MES) offers technical assistance to clients from all walks of life.  Adoption of organic agriculture is not  speedy but is steadily rising, Ronnie Jamola, Chief of the MES said.  

The facility is often visited by students who go on a study-tour on organic agriculture. Though organic agriculture is relatively young in the region,   its demand in the market is increasing- the prime reason why   farmers begin to revive the ancient practice of organic farming.

Organic agriculture maybe ancient but it is a great find in the region.

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