Written by Charisma Love B Gado
Their story is far from the mythical phoenix that reaching about 1,000 years, it builds itself a nest of twigs, then burn with it to rise again. However, the take off of some farmer-groups in Ilocos Norte is likened to the phoenix that after some moments of dormancy, they are mounted to a potent rebirth brought by the conduct of Farmer Field School on Integrated Pest Management (FFS-IPM) in the country’s provinces of White Gold, garlic.
After a year of inactivity, members of San Nicolas Bawang Association in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte are regaining their confidence on making their lives better through their reorganization in March this year coinciding with the culmination of their four-months training on garlic production.
“We intend to produce VAM (vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae) and Trichoderma sp. (simply tricho) and market them to farmers in other towns. And by being organized, we hope that we could negotiate for reasonable price for our produce,” officers, led by Margarita Selga said. Margarita was an overseas worker for 18 years before she came back to the country to manage a 20-ha farm. As president, she also leads in product processing that includes garlic pickles and chips.
Ernard Jun Agustin, treasurer and producer of Effective Microorganisms, said their patrons are assured of safe products with their farming practices. In their FFS field experimentation, they found that VAM and half of the recommended fertilizer rate is the most effective application in their area.
“IPM technologies help us save on chemical use by 70 percent, but savings are not really our motivation. We want to be guilt-free in giving and selling our products,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Malampa-Cabisukulan-Marabanos Garlic Growers’ Association in Vintar, Ilocos Norte felt privileged in attending FFS-IPM as they are given field tours and access to new seeds such as NSIC Rc222.
“You know this ‘I must see first’ philosophy of farmers sometimes makes us backward. But we’re gradually changing as benefits in joining the season-long training are blessings for us. We got to see more technologies being adopted by our fellow farmers and we also learn new rice varieties that we could try,” Jacinto Molina, president and retired policeman.
In a nearby town, claimed to be the country’s top garlic-producing province, members of the Organization of Garlic Growers and Processors of Pasuquin is being transformed from being submissive to traders’ price to being assertive in closing deals with their produce.
“We organized this group two years ago and it was founded by sacrifice. We woke up at 2 am to walk down town to get a ride going to Batac, a town two hours away from us, for FFS trainings,” Jose Castillo, a founding member said.
Although established two years ago, the organization was registered in 2011 following FFS trainings on eggplant and garlic sponsored by IPM-Collaborative Research Support Program in their town.
“With our sacrifices and improved practices, I think, it’s time for us to demand better price from the traders. We want to help stabilize the market price of garlic in this province,” Jose Castillo, a founding member said.
Among the topics discussed in FFS-IPM, farmers regard the use of VAM and tricho as the most practical knowledge they have gained. Members testified that their crop’s health and growth improved three times and its resistance to pests was boosted.
With the effects of IPM technologies, the around 40 members scramble over the supply provided by group of Herminia Rapusas, the project lead. Members said they usually run out of stock as they regularly the organic inputs to reduce leaf curls, purple blotch, and tangle top. Currently, their processed products are being marketed by their Federation Organization to Robinson’s Mall in San Nicolas.
The farmer-groups’ take off shows the initial effects of IPM technologies on their lives. Other than better quality of their produce, they experience rebirth – a rebirth in structure and character. A rebirth that will soon lead to a rise in the White Gold market.