PAMPLONA, Camarines Sur, 19Dec2014 (BicolToday.com) – Bayanihan has 46 members. Six are practicing full organic farming and six are implementing full DIFS.
There are other farmers’ organizations in the barangay, which have also recently just started practicing full organic farming.
Bgy. Veneracion has a total land area of 716 hectares, of which 331.4 hectares are agricultural lands.
The barangay has hilly portions mostly planted to coconut and root crops and plains mostly planted to rice and vegetables.
Bgy. Veneracion takes the name of the hacienda, Veneracion, in Pamplona, Camarines Sur. The whole hacienda measures 244 hectares.
According to the farmers, the old Veneracion purchased two parcels of land of about 50 hectares, but the Registry of Deeds recorded the entire 244 hectares under one title in the name of the Veneracion family.
The farmers however insisted on their ownership of the land, which was awarded their forefathers through the Homestead Act of 1903.
The contested land was later covered by the CARP, and 54 hectares were retained to the seven Veneracion children.
The Bayanihan members became leaseholders by default because their farms and homelots stand on the land retained to the Veneracion family.
They were forced to pay rent or lease to the Veneracion heirs, but for some time now, the farmers have stopped doing so.
Bayanihan members were introduced to MASIPAG technology of organic rice farming in 2004. They plant vegetables during the dry season and organic rice during the rainy season.
Vegetables are usually planted in the uplands, because irrigation is not available in most farms in the barangay.
They maintain trial farms and verification farms for mass production of selected seeds.
The seeds are shared among Bayanihan members. Seeds exchange from rice to vegetables, fruit trees and hardwood is their way of sharing knowledge and wellbeing.
The farmers have plants that serve as their raw materials for making organic pesticides and fertilizers.
They also have livestock and poultry from which they get raw materials for organic farm inputs.
They also practice vermicomposting from which they normally harvest an average of six sacks of vermicompost.
They also practice multiple cropping with legumes, which are good sources of nitrogen.
The farmers start preparing their organic inputs in May.
To avoid spoilage, organic pesticides and fertilizers should be consumed within six months from their production.
The farmers get an abundant supply of bat feces or guano, which they use as fertilizers. The bats eat the tibig fruit (Ficas nota (Blancoi) Merr.), which is abundant in the Bayanihan farms.
Bayanihan farmers narrate that because the preparation of organic inputs is laborious, they only spray on their plants if there are pests present.
They also say that on the contrary, conventional farmers are compelled to use large amounts of chemical sprays to make sure pests are killed.
The practice of bayanihan or collective work has been going on since the 1980s in Bgy. Veneracion.
Each member is assigned a schedule for his or her land preparation, for example, and everyone helps until all have done their land preparations. They share potluck food every time they do bayanihan.
The organization has committees, which are assigned specific functions. The women are assigned to the health committee.
They process herbal concoctions for medicines like pili oil, lagundi, turmeric, mapasyaw, sambong, Acapulco, among others.
They maintain the herbal garden in the community. MASIPAG provided them with equipment with which to make their herbal medicines and concoctions.
They have learned to utilize the herbal plants found in their vicinity and which they also propagate to cure and prevent common illnesses.
Because of their long-time practice of organic farming and processing of herbal medicines, the community goes to Bayanihan to avail of the members’ produce and the herbal medicines they sell at affordable prices.
The women are also in charge of marketing especially during trade fairs.
There is a committee on agriculture and MFGS for monitoring and evaluation of organic farms.
The youth committee is active with 15 members who are also assigned in the health committee together with the women.
The men’s committee is in charge of training and instruction and rice breeding.
Every two months, Bayanihan members meet to discuss issues and concerns especially on the practice of organic farming, sharing insights and new discoveries.
They discuss the progress of the implementation of the one-year plan based on the targets of the PCB of MASIPAG.
There is no regular market yet for the surplus of organic rice.
Once MASIPAG provides the farmers with the sack labeled MFGS, they do plan to sell at the local sari-sari (convenience) store owned by a member who is also a Barangay Councilor.
Yet, much of the rice and vegetables sold in the barangay are from Bayanihan farmers.
They also sell organic vegetables to a local consolidator of vegetables who brings the goods to Divisoria in downtown Manila. The organic vegetables are mixed with inorganic vegetables though.
Their surplus of organic palay is sold to a local trader at Php19, one peso higher than inorganic palay.
Bayanihan does not have a heavy-duty rice mill for their surplus. There is one provided by MASIPAG, but it is only for the organization’s use.
Organic rice productivity is lower compared to conventional rice, but the net income is relatively higher because of the low cost of production.
The productivity of organic rice may also depend on the climate – if the weather is good, the farmers can harvest 85 cavans of organic rice in one cropping.
Continued harvests of organic vegetables take more months, which provide farmers with more lasting supply of food as well as source of additional income.
For example, with organic bitter gourd, farmers can harvest up to six months compared to only three months with inorganic bitter gourd.
There is however not much difference in the prices of organic and inorganic vegetables, the farmers shared. It is only during trade fairs that their organic vegetables sell higher than inorganic vegetables.
The farmers produce rice primarily for their own consumption.
They can save enough to last until the next harvest season, although sometimes they run out of supply and still buy inorganic rice.
They have enough cash to buy rice and other foodstuff with because they produce vegetables that they can sell.
The farmers have grown accustomed to eating organic farm products especially rice whether colored or white.
Sometimes they mix colored rice with white rice for their children who do not like dark colored rice.
Farmers and their families have become more conscious of their health with the knowledge and practice of organic farming methods.
They no longer use monosodium glutamate in their food, because the organic food they consume is already delicious. The children and the elderly are not sickly.
The farmers also shared that they get enough rest from a good sleep because they have no huge debts to worry about.
All the nutrition the farmers need is already available in their farms, including even the nutritional needs of their crops and farm animals.
Farmers cure their rheumatism and related illnesses with the herbal plants found in their farms and in their communal garden.
The farmers have not observed much improvement in the environment yet, because their farms are still surrounded by conventional farms.
There are still harmful insects and pests like tayangaw or aphids in string beans, because the adjacent farm still uses chemical inputs.
Still, they observe that friendly insects in their farms have started to come back, including spiders, dragonflies, and butterflies.
MASIPAG calls new discoveries by farmers as an FDAT or farmers’ developed and adopted technology.
Special task is given to three Bayanihan farmers, namely Mamerto “Pay Merto” Pardo, Antonio “Ka Tony” Bilunio, and Alfredo “Ka Gimo” Alprez, who breed new rice lines that are adaptable to the climate and grow best in the type of soil found in the barangay.
It takes five years to breed and perfect the rice lines. Ka Gimo’s PBB 401 and PBB 418, which started from F1 to F7, took five years to develop.
The rice lines developed by IRRI only reach the F2 stage and will no longer yield perfect rice granules in the second planting.
Pay Merto and Ka Tony no longer practice rice breeding because their eyes are no longer as clear as before and their hands are not as steady.
But they continue to experiment with new combinations of plants to make botanical sprays and fertilizers.
The botanical spray by Pay Merto is composed of one kilo each of tuba-tuba (coconut wine), marigold, neem tree leaves, makabuhay, and garlic. He boils the mixture in water and adds one bar of Perla soap.
Another FDAT developed is the fertilizer from molasses and tibig fruit.
Another is the liquid fertilizer discovered by Ka Gimo, which is composed of pomelo, vinegar, and nami.
A variation discovered by another Bayanihan farmer uses charcoal instead of nami plus one liter of water.
They also use the FDAT developed in Quezon, which is used to ward off rats.
This rat repellant utilizes the lard of goat, which is left to melt under the heat of the sun. Once melted, a rope long enough to surround the rice farm is soaked in the goat’s lard then set up in the rice farm.
The farmers observe that rats do not dare go beyond five meters near the rice farm. Even carabaos are turned off by the smell.
Bayanihan farmers criticize the DA for being insincere in its implementation of the OAA.
The DA continues to provide hybrid seeds from Monsanto and promotes the commercial planting of GM corn.
Farmers also complain the lack of government support. They are wanting in postharvest facilities and production tools such as the LandMaster, a brand for a flailmower machine.
The PhilMech offered supplying them with the LandMaster, but the farmers must shoulder 15% of the cost.
The PhilMech also offered to supply a rice mill, but the farmers must provide the structure where to house the rice mill.
The farmers must also shoulder 15% of the total cost of a solar dryer and combine harvester to be able to get assistance from the LGU.
The problem is they do not have enough savings to fill in the counterpart funds required from them.
Irrigation is also a problem not only for the Bayanihan farmers but also for the other farmers in the barangay. Irrigation fees are high, yet the service is reportedly not sufficient.
One of the huge challenges for the Bayanihan farmers right now is the continued propagation of GM crops in the region and the planned commercialization of Bt talong and GM rice or Golden Rice.
Bayanihan together with other POs practicing organic farming that were also trained by MASIPAG and with the support from the local chapter of the national peasant federation, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB), and the Sararong Inisyatiba nin Kahinwanmaan na Wasakon ang Agrokemikals na Lasong-GMO (SIKWAL-GMO) demonstrated their protest by uprooting the Golden Rice planted in an experimental lot at the RFU-5 in Pili, Camarines Sur on 8 August 2013.
Bayanihan joined the protest action because the members fully understand that the propagation of GM rice would compromise their families’ health and safety.
Bayanihan along with the others who joined the uprooting of GM rice are facing Php3.1-million lawsuit in damages to the DA and IRRI.
Bayanihan also lobbied for the passage of an anti-GMO ordinance at the LGU in December 2013, which was eventually passed in Pamplona.
The same anti-GMO ordinance is being lobbied in other municipalities. In Kamaligan and Libmanan LGUs, efforts are underway for the passage of anti-GMO ordinances with the support of officials at the barangay level.
There is also lobbying for a provincial ban on GMOs.
In the four-day international anti-GMO rice conference spearheaded by MASIPAG on 27-30 April 2014 in Manila, farmers from Quezon province and the Bicol region including members of ILOFA and Bayanihan as well as the international delegates mobilized in front of the DA national office in Quezon City to protest the planned commercialization of Golden Rice.
The biggest challenge is still land tenure.
A farmers’ forum was held in August 2013 with the assistance of KMP and the peasant legal aid, SENTRA, where the farmers’ rights to their lands were clarified and options for legitimate action were discussed.
After the forum, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) summoned the three oldest living original tenants of the Veneracion family and told them that the emancipation patents (EPs) and certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) given them by virtue of land reform laws such as Presidential Decree No. 27 and the CARP under RA No. 6657 will no longer be honored, because the Veneracion family filed a case against the Land Bank of the Philippines for not paying them “just compensation”.
The Veneracion family supposedly won the case.
The Veneracions then sent representatives to measure the rice lands because figures did not tally with the DAR’s measurement.
Incidentally, the retention area of the Veneracion heirs is prime land and classified ‘Class A’ since it is near the main road that leads to known tourist areas in the locality.
On the second attempt of the representatives, they were apprehended by the local farmers’ group, Ulnungan which also means “bayanihan”.
The representatives of the Veneracions have not returned since Bayanihan sought the help of the KMP and SENTRA.
The farmers sought a dialogue with the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO), but the MARO reportedly did not show up on the actual date.
Bayanihan continues their struggle for land, because without secure access to land, the practice of sustainable agriculture will not be viable.
According to Bert Autor, Chairperson of KMB, the struggle for sustainable agriculture must come hand in hand with the struggle for land.
Both struggles liberate the farmers from the dictates of landowners and traders on what crops to plant and how to plant and from the seeds control by agribusiness TNCs like Monsanto and Syngenta as well as IRRI.
There are more than 200 tenants in the 244-hectare Hacienda Veneracion. Not all of the tenants are members of Bayanihan but all are united in the land struggle.
Land struggles in the Bicol region involve large haciendas.
Aside from the 244-hectare Hacienda Veneracion, there is also the Hacienda Pua in Del Rosario, Pamplona covering 80 hectares, which was placed under CARP but was later taken back by supposed landowners.
The rice farms in Hacienda Pua have been bulldozed for housing development, while the upland areas remain planted to corn.
There is also Hacienda Remo in Libmanan – some 400 hectares of coconut and rice farms, portions of which were covered by CARP but later on reverted to the landlords.
The farmers did not have the capital to develop and were forced to mortgage the lands and eventually lost their rights.
There is also Hacienda Cua covering 200 hectares of mostly coconut lands in San Fernando, Camarines Sur.
The practice of organic farming is a viable form of farmers’ struggle.
For instance, SIKWAL-GMO was formed in February 2012 by an alliance of church people led by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in Bicol, Sipagku Congregation, farmers’ organizations in several barangays in Bicol including the various POs under KMB, and Bayanihan.
It was formed precisely because of the people’s increased awareness on the ill-effects of GMOs on the farmers’ crops whether traditionally or organically grown as well as on the people’s health.
SIKWAL-GMO and members of KMB have already started organic farming. Practitioners among KMB members are found in five municipalities in the 2nd District of Camarines Sur.
With rice seeds supplied by MASIPAG, KMB farmers have planted 50 rice lines in their trial farms and propagated traditional vegetables seeds through organic farming.
KMB members have also practiced urban sustainable agriculture in Naga City through their trial farm in a subdivision owned by BF Homes.
Finally, there are now organic farming practitioners in Hacienda Pua and farmers have started cultivating organic rice in two separate trial farms in two barangays in Hacienda Remo. [BicolToday.com]