Posted by Bronwyn White almost 12 years ago
Last year I spent 10 months working within a Filipino NGO (PAGBAG-O) that is a federation of people's organisations made up of small-scale farmers. There are approximately 2000 farmers who are members of this organisation which has been implementing programs to help them develop sustainable livelihoods. It's been an interesting experience to work within a local, grassroots organisation where I've learnt a lot as well as shared knowledge and collaborated in developing new projects. So I was very happy to return this month.
The project I'm currently involved with is a community-owned compost and biofertilizer business. I have enjoyed being a part of this project because it connects and supports many of the existing programs and creates the potential for PAGBAG-O to become more financially autonomous. The 'Sustainable Resource Management and Development' program of PAGBAG-O is actively training farmers with knowledge and practical skills to implement more sustainable farming. The 'Community Based Enterprise Development' program assists members to improve their income through access to micro-finance, adding value to products, diversifying crops for sale and producing more food for use in the home and local community.
The 'compost and biofertilizer business' project is designed to use raw materials that are sourced from local farmers, creating an additional income for them that is particularly useful in less productive months. These raw materials are processed at the demonstration farm site of PAGBAG-O in sizeable quantities to produce a range of inputs for sustainable farming including compost, vermicompost and foliars for pest management and fertiliser. These products are then sold back to local farmers to support their transition to more sustainable agriculture at a much lower cost than synthetic products. The farmers involved benefit from the additional income from supplying raw materials, the cheaper price of farming inputs and the profit from the business goes back to run the programs of the NGO which supports them through training and empowerment of their communities.
Many farmers in the area use synthetic fertiliser and are reluctant to deviate from practices they rely on for income. The PAGBAG-O demonstration farm plays a critical role in shifting perception and practice amongst these farmers, for whom 'seeing is believing'. The demonstration site is being developed in conjunction with the compost and biofertiliser business (which is located there) and incorporates Permaculture design as well as a number of locally appropriate practices and strategies.
The learning centre at the demonstration site will make it possible to deliver more practical demonstrations of sustainable farming products, practices and systems. Ongoing application of the compost and biofertiliser products on-site will demonstrate to farmers the gradual improvement in quality of the farm and assure them of the benefits of these products. Many rural communities are on a downwards trajectory as natural resources decline, incomes fall and people leave the area. Transitioning to sustainable farming and resource management provides the means for rural communities to flourish as opposed to deteriorate and migrate to urban areas.
The government of this province (Negros Oriental) is supportive of organic agriculture, but at the community level there are a number of obstacles in changing the behaviour of farmers. Many of these obstacles are overcome by the involvement of a group who can reduce the risk for small-scale farmers (who don't like to try new things that may threaten their small income) through developing quality products, demonstrating their effectiveness and providing support to communities in adopting more sustainable practices.
I hope this project will be successful and benefit the small-scale farmers of the Philippines and also provide an example that can be replicated to benefit farmers elsewhere and encourage the uptake of more sustainable farming. If you would like more details please get in touch with me. :)
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|Permaculture Research Institute of Australia Internship|
|Verifying teacher: Geoff Lawton|
|Other Teachers: Nick Huggins, Paul Taylor, Lesley Byrne, Gordon Williams|
|Location: Permaculture Research Institute of Australia|
|Date: Apr 2011|
|Permaculture Design Certificate|
|Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course|
|Teacher: bert peeters|
|Location: Cabiokid, Philippines|
|Date: Jun 2010|
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