June 23, 2017
Organic vegetable farms are steadily sprouting in Antique as local farmers find alternative means to raise their income.
Thanks to a young group of Japanese volunteers, local farmers are learning new ways to grow organic produce using recycled material and rice straw mulching, a technique used to improve soil conditions.
"I'm teaching farmers how to recycle snack wrappers and use it as soil protection to help balance soil temperature and prevent weeds," said JOCV Natsumi Tanida who finished a degree in agriculture from Tokyo University of Agriculture and is also an agriculture trainor in Japan's Miyako Island before coming to the Philippines.
Snack wrappers are washed and sewn together to cover soil, which Tanida said will help absorb heat and ensure that produce are not easily wilted.
JOCVs like Tanida who have skills to offer are dispatched to the Philippines by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to support development work.
Aside from Tanida, another young Japanese Wakana Horikiri is introducing rice straw mulching in Antique. The rice straw mulch helps protect the soil from moisture and muddy water during rainy season.
Horikiri said that the technique will help prevent diseases in fruits and vegetables.
She is also introducing mokusaku, a Japanese technique using wood vinegar as alternative to chemical fertilizers, a first in Antique. "Wood is a readily available material for farmers and with the mokusaku , farmers can save money instead on spending on chemical sprays."
On average, a liter of chemical spray amount to 250 pesos, while mokusaku would only cost about 100 pesos.
"Working with a Japanese volunteer like Horikiri is a good opportunity to gain more knowledge and ideas on how to promote organic farming to our municipality and farmers," said Frenzei-An Ronquillo, an agricultural technician from Sebaste, Antique.
The young Japanese volunteers agree that organic farming could be part of Visayas' economic future. In these days when unemployment is a perennial concern at 6.6% based on government's January 2017 Labor Force Survey data, organic farming may well be a viable way to ease joblessness and poverty.
The JOCVs all agree in saying that, "Filipino farmers are very hard working. They are open to learning new things and are very helpful. They just need support to improve their skills in organic farming to give them better opportunities."
JOCV Natsumi Tanida (left) introduces the use of silver mulch as a protective cover to balance soil temperature and prevent weeds to her counterpart (right) from San Jose de Buenavista, Antique
JOCV Wakana Horikiri (right) and Agricultural Technician Frenzei-An Ronquillo (left) work together to promote organic farming to farmers in Sebaste, Antique