Masbate’s ‘Farm of Hope’ leads organic farming performers in Bicol

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PILI, Camarines Sur, 12Oct2013 (PNA) – Fazenda da Esperanza, or the “Farm of Hope” as it is known in Masbate, was established not primarily as a farm but an institution for the rehabilitation of drug and alcohol addicts who voluntarily submit themselves to its services.

Last Wednesday, however, the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office for Bicol here put it at the forefront of agricultural performers from all over Bicol that were awarded for being champions in the field of organic farming.

That was because the institution — which was established in 2003 by a group of missionaries and volunteers from Brazil, Germany and Switzerland — has made organic farming one of its major undertakings credited for a large-scale production of naturally grown crops like rice and vegetables.

Farenza operators decided to come up with farm projects applying organic farming methods within the 240-hectare agricultural property it occupies in Barangay Bangad, Milagros, Masbate, to sustain its needs and to keep volunteers occupied as part the drug rehabilitation process.

It keeps the supply of fresh vegetables such as pechay, lettuce, squash, pepper, baguio beans, carrots and white gourd stable in nearby markets — including Masbate City.

For its organic fertilizer, the farm engages itself in vermi-culture and produces vermicast by establishing a vermi-composting facility that yields about 4.4 tons of natural fertilizer yearly for its vegetable and palay farms.

The farm started rice production in 2010 with a five-hectare field which was later expanded to sustain the needs of its increasing number of volunteers.

Such expansion required irrigation and a small water impounding facility was established through the help of the DA, with Masbate agricultural engineer Jonel Orteza providing the technical assistance in its development as well as the introduction of water saving techniques and other production technologies in order to obtain higher yield.

Today, the farm has four small water impounding systems that irrigate 20 hectares of riceland, yielding an average of 140 cavans of palay per hectare per harvest.

DA Regional Director Abelardo Bragas on Friday said Farenza, with its long years in existence, hopes to share its work — that is to create abundance in naturally grown food crops from the surrounding environment and at the same time enrich and nourish the land, of which everyone is a steward.

The institution, apart from being a center of religious faith and refuge of alcohol and drug addicts seeking rehabilitation, envisions a farm that provides an environment for holistic and sustainable living for all its volunteers and its neighboring communities.

At present, Farenza has 50 volunteers undergoing rehabilitation — 30 males and 20 females — who are striving to learn and be empowered with organic farming technologies, Bragas said.

The awarding of organic farming achievers led by Farenza highlighted the conduct in Naga City last Oct. 8-9 of the 6th Bicol Organic Agriculture Congress wherein recent developments in organic farming technologies were presented to over 600 participants from all over the region.

Others who were cited as promising organic agriculture practitioners were Edilberto Abad of Goa, Camarines Sur; Romeo Pidoc of Talisay, Camarines Norte; Mariano Layosa of Iriga City; and Salvador Espeñas of Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon.

The City Government of Iriga and the Municipal Government of Baao, both of Camarines Sur province, were cited for their all-out support and initiatives to the implementation of organic agriculture programs, Bragas said.

Organized by the DA’s Regional Field Unit in cooperation with the Pecuaria Development Cooperative, the Camarines Sur Organic Agriculture Industry Development Council and the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, the gathering also saw participants sharing, good practices, gains, experiences and lessons involving organic farming.

It also featured a trade fair and exhibit of naturally grown and organic products, lectures, presentation of updates and prospects of organic agriculture revolving on the theme: “Organic Agriculture: Health and Wealth for Bicolanos,” according to Bragas.

It was also emphasized in the congress that the practice of organic agriculture must be predicated on an understanding and appreciation of the Philippine National Standard, integrity and honesty should always be upheld and internal control systems must be put in place.

There is no disagreement between organic agriculture and food security because organic agriculture is biological, ecological and sustainable and that only five percent of the total agricultural land is being targeted for organic agriculture, Bragas explained.

“After that congress, we expect more number of organic agriculture practitioners to be awarded in the next congress and that more LGUs will put their stake and support to the organic agriculture program,” he said.

Bragas also announced that this year’s top award for the most supportive and active municipal government was won by the Goa, Camarines Sur.

Albay was named as most supportive and active provincial government.

Goa will receive a project grant worth P1 million while the town’s focal person in organic farming, agriculturist Arlene Dayo, will receive P30,000 in personal award during the upcoming National Organic Congress.(PNA)

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