There’s a bothering statistics that can hardly be ignored: 355,000 are annually killed, with about half occurring in agriculture; 41 million suffer including children and infants; and 25 million workers are annually poisoned.
The numbers, according to the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, an organization that advances environmental sustainability, are due to the use of chemical pesticides that can cause chronic diseases including cancer and diseases of the immune, endocrine, reproductive, and neurological systems. The organization also said that pesticides bring abnormalities and damage to the brain of a fetus.
But these data are taken to heart by Resty John O. Suerto, a 21-year-old farmer from Bago City, Negros Occidental.
“I may still be far from taking in supplements but as early as now, I choose to value my health so I can enjoy life to the fullest. The health of the food consumers is also important to me, for without them, being a farmer is not fulfilling,” the 2014 Gawad Saka Outstanding Young Farmer in the Western Visayas said.
A farmer for seven years, Resty has recently lessened chemical inputs and relied on natural concoctions in cultivating rice and vegetables. Among the natural concoctions he prepares and applies include Fermented Plant Juice, Fermented Fruit Juice, Oriental Herbal Nutrient, and Fish Amino Acid. These natural fertilizers and pesticides, Resty said, are mostly available after 14 days.
According to Resty, the Fermented Plant Juice made from growing plant parts enhances the growth of rice and vegetables because the juice contains natural growth hormones and mineralized nitrogen that promotes plant growth. The solution works best from seedling to pre-flowering stages.
During this stage, Resty advised fellow farmers to mix a teaspoon of Fermented Plant Juice per liter of water then spray the solution on the leaves or apply it directly to the soil weekly or when needed. Resty, however, said that the soil must be watered first before applying the fermented juice to avoid root damage.
In formulating the Fermented Plant Juice, a kilo plant tops or shoots, half kilo of muscovado or molasses, and two tbsp per liter of water are needed. Plant materials, he said, must be collected early in the morning while they are fresh then chopped and mixed with mix.
The mixture is placed in a plastic jar then fermented for 14 days. The solution is ready for harvest with used stockings, mosquito nets, or flour cloth. It can now be stored in a cool shaded place and must be applied within six months.
Meanwhile, the Fermented Fruit Juice, Resty said, is made from sweet ripe fruits, fruit vegetables, and root crops. The solution is applied to the crops and vegetables for enhanced flowering and fruiting.
“My trainers told me that the Fermented Fruit Juice is a source of potassium; makes the fruits sweeter; and helps in producing more filled grains,” said the young farmer who is currently under the 2015 Young Filipino Farmers Training Program, an 8-month study in Japan on farm techniques and agricultural management.
To produce the solution, Resty said that a kilo of ripe fruits in season are peeled off and deseeded. Fruits are then minced to easily extract the juice. Fruits are mixed with a kilo of molasses until the mixture is well-soaked then placed in a container.
“Like the Fermented Plant Juice, the Fermented Fruit Juice is fermented for 14 days. The same harvest materials are used and the solution can also last for six months if properly stored in a cool shaded place,” Resty shared.
The Oriental Herbal Nutrient is another plant-based natural input for rice and vegetables. While the others are for fertilizer use, this solution serves as pesticide and insecticide specially for crawling harmful insects.
“Five kilos of herbs such as garlic, onion, and ginger are mixed with beer and fermented for 12 hours. Then we add a kilo of molasses and ferment the mixture again for 5-7 days. Before harvesting after 14 days, add gin or coconut vinegar equivalent to thrice the amount of beer that was used during the first fermentation,” the outstanding farmer said.
Resty, whose farming practices are becoming popular in their barangay, also included the Fish Amino Acid in his list of organic liquid fertilizer. This mixture of a kilo of fish or kuhol and a kilo of muscovado or molasses, he said, is a good source of amino acid and nitrogen, and good substitute for urea. It is also harvested after 14 days and can last for six months.
Not taxing to fulfill a(n) (organic) dream
“Some of my fellow farmers think that preparing these solutions take time and laborious. I wish to change their perspective. It only takes less than an hour to prepare the solution, wait for 14 days, and it may not be magic; but we have now a good, sustainable supply of natural fertilizers and pesticides,” Resty, who holds a diploma in Agricultural Entrepreneurship said.
With the practice, he said that his production cost in inputs was reduced by 30% without reducing the yield of rice and vegetables.
“I wish that more farmers will adopt this natural way of cultivating the farm and will dream [big] like me. My greatest dream is for the Filipino farmers to be as progressive as the farmers in developed countries. Psychological inhibitions are stopping farmers to prosper. They are faced with the greatest challenge; that is to change their mind set. We have new farm technologies but they have yet to be adapted or adopted. This is where we, the young farmers, will position ourselves. We will show to them that farmers have more potentials than we can imagine. Farmers can do more and earn more, even gain millions, if we will just open our mind,” he said.