July 9, 2018
When Maria Cabañog, a farmer in Ginatilan, Cebu, stopped farming years ago, she never thought that she will get involved in organic farming yet again harvesting crops like lettuce, Japanese cucumber, carrots, bell pepper, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes to name a few.
Cabañog, along with members of the Anao Farmers Association, mostly women farmers, regularly supplies organic vegetables to Belgian Bistro, a restaurant in Santander.
"We found an opportunity in organic farming after a Japanese volunteer taught us compost making and how to use locally available materials like coconut husks to condition our soil," said Cabanog. "Hopefully, our place will become known as an agro eco-tourism destination in the future.
"The quality of vegetables from them (farmers in Ginatilan) is better than what we get from other markets. Since they're organic, the dishes we prepare are also better and we are also able to help the farmers," said restaurant owner Koen Segers.
Segers made the connection with the farmers through Japanese volunteer Mikio Miyazoe. Miyazoe was a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) dispatched in Cebu to help introduce organic, sustainable farming. He was looking for possible local markets for the produce of the farmers' association he is helping when he came across the Belgian Bistro to eat.
"I'm happy to somehow help open doors for the farmers in terms of market for their products. My work for the past two years was to help the farmers in Ginatilan learn about organic farming and make it sustainable," said Miyazoe. He was involved in research at Oregon State University in the US before being dispatched as a volunteer in the Philippines under the JOCV Program of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
"I hope that the farmers would grow and market their products on their own. For other Japanese volunteers, the lesson I can share is to continue sharing ideas with the community and not be the main worker or implementor of projects. When we are working together with the community, things move forward," added Miyazoe.
Cabañog is part of the farmers' group that Miyazoe assisted and their association is now training farmers in Barangay Salamanca to adopt organic farming. The farmers' group benefited from the training that their vegetables are also of superior quality. Foreign restaurants and hotels from nearby towns have started sourcing from farmers from Salamanca as well.
"Organic vegetables are popular these days because they do not harm the environment and they command a good price that benefits farmers like us," added Cabañog.
In the Philippines, organic farming is gaining ground and organic markets remain an untapped niche for many farmers.
With the farmers in Ginatilan adopting the trend in their agriculture practice, they can now look to connecting to potential markets in their community, and rise from poverty.
Japanese volunteer Mikio Miyazoe (left) taught farmers from Ginatilan how to make organic compost
Women farmers from Barangays Anao and Salamanca in Ginatilan, Cebu now produce crops such as lettuce, Japanese cucumber, and cherry tomatoes
Belgian Bistro in Santander outsources organic vegetables from local farmers from Ginatilan
JOCV Mikio Miyazoe (center in white) with women farmers from Barangays Anao and Salamanca, Ginatilan, Cebu