I am a Filipina American living in Honolulu Hawaii. An Agriculturist by profession whose goal is to go back home in the Philippines where I grew up and to put up a model farm using permaculture techniques where small farmers, homemakers, out of school youth and schoolchildren can learn.
I grew up in a remote small farming village in the northern part of the Philippines. As a kid, both my grandparents and parents grew our food from the farm supplemented by raising backyard animals like chicken, ducks, pigs, a small herd of cows and carabaos. The mountain and the river served as a playground for us village kids and as a source of food too. Life was crude and money is scarce but as a kid growing up in the village, the experiences is one of the fondest memories in my life.
Years later, in the name of modern technology, mono crops like tobacco were introduced. Along came with it, heavy use of chemical inputs. The irony of it was, as a government extension worker at the time, I was part of those who introduced these toxins in these farms. Tobacco is a heavy feeder besides the hard tedious work. As kids, we were made to gather tobacco leaves in the field and stayed up till mignight staking tobacco one leaf at a time. My grandma used to keep us awake by telling stories of giants, fairies and witches and of course cooked steamed corn or sweet potatoes or rice chicken soup for midnight snacks. These tobacco leaves will then be cured in a barn using tons of wood from cut trees from the forests and even from fruit trees in the village. Imagine a whole province with thousands and thousands of tobacco farmer using cut trees to cure their tobaccos once a week until all the leaves are gone. A denuded forests and the lost of it's inhabitants. A denuded forests when it rained, the exposed soil washes away filling up the river beds. The runoffs from the chemical inputs from the fields also flowed to the river hastening the death of marine and plant life. Today, farmers are left with degraded soil that can no longer sustain plant unless they use more and more fertilizer and chemicals. Speaking of chemicals, how safe is the water supply after all these years of pumping toxic chemicals into the soil? No one knows. In addition, The farmers were left with debts as the middle men , the seed companies, the chemical companies are raking in money. Water table has sunk lower due to increase drilling for deep wells as their source of water to irrigate their crops and for home use. I am afraid there comes a time when there would be no more water to draw from these wells. And it's happening now with few deep wells in the village during the summer months of May and June. In fairness, the government has been doing reforestation projects which is great but it takes years to get these trees established. And as long as farmers grow tobacco, they will cut more trees faster than it could replenish.
Finally, last June, I was able to fulfill my dream of going back home. Home is Baguio City, the summer capital of the country. The city is more than 5,000 feet above sea level and is cool all year round and has the highest precipitation in the country. At 57, I am refired. Permaculture is going to be my encore career!