Written by Charisma Love B Gado
Hardworking extension workers passing through the endless fields of Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur, could easily be comforted from work pressures by just hearing the farmers’ lively, upbeat song adopted from an Iluko composition, Bitbituen (Stars).
Konserbaren tay nga agnanayun
Isuda’t makatulong panagpaksiat ti kabusur.
Dagiti mais a dinadael
Da cornborer ket stemborer
Awan kuma’t pagdanagan
Madadael ket masulnitan.
Daytoy aglawlaw ket panunuten
Salun-at tayo ket taripatuen
Pestisidyo ket liklikan
Usaren laeng nu kasapulan.
(Conserve the beneficial insects
As they help fight corn and stemborers.
Let’s always think of the environment
And take good care of our health
By avoiding the use of pesticides).
“Farmers here are gradually changing their habits of using too much use pesticides after attending Farmers’ Field School (FFS) on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) sponsored by the IPM-Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP). This song is just a part of our strategy for farmers to easily remember the message of IPM,” Francine Acosta said.
Acosta said modifying farmers’ practice is a challenge as their way of managing farms was ingrained by their forefathers and influenced by the community. Through the simple yet not ordinary song composed with the farmers, the extension workers are able to encourage farmers to try more environment-friendly and safe farm practices.
Agapito Lubero of Brgy. Binnalangayan, is among the farmers who participated in the first FFS-IPM conducted in Sta. Rosa, Ilocos Sur, and knows the song by heart.
“Whenever I hum the song, I’m reminded of the practices that will make me a responsible farmer who limits chemical use. I tried VAM (vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae) as basal application for onion. And the extensionists were right! The frequent occurrences of onion twister and black mold in our demo farm were reduced,” he said.
Satisfied with his first try, Agapito registered in the second batch of FFS-IPM to be conducted in Brgy. Pada Chico as he wants to “perfect the technology in my own farm.”
According to Francine, the song with easy-to-recall and marching tune was created with implications on behavior. She said that the song contains good values, which would help farmers dispossess three deadly habits: sadut (not applying the practices learned from trainings); sulit (doing farm activities half-heartedly); and saur (not living by their words).
Tagged as 3S, Mamerto Tacbas, municipal agriculturist said these habits are given equal importance with the IPM technologies being promoted. Teaching about 40 farmers in four to five months, their group centered farmers’ values education on spiritual enrichment. As member of the Grand Knight of Columbus, Mamerto ordered FFS facilitators to start the sessions with prayer, often led by farmers.
“Another farmer behavior that was changed as we conduct FFS is the way farmers interact with us. Farmers used to literally run when they see us approaching them. With the benefits of FFS, farmers now frequent the municipal office to request for trainings,” Mamerto said.
According to Mamerto, initiatives to foster farmers’ education are incorporated in the municipal’s agriculture development roadmap. Their local government unit allot P40,000 as counterpart in program implementation.
“As we focus on education, we also give inputs to help farmers start up. We subsidize seeds and sponsor educational tours,” he said.
However, he noted that the attractive incentives in attending FFS are not enough to sustain attendance for farmers tend to prioritize other activities that augment their income.
“We implemented quite strict rule in FFS to help them abandon the 3S. Farmers with three absences are not considered graduates. They can attend the FFS, but they won’t be recognized on their graduation day,” Mamerto said.
The extension workers in this town also make graduation special for the rice farmers. Farmers walk in the aisle escorted by their loved ones giving them a sense of pride in completing the four to five-month sessions.
Agapito, farmer for 30 years, sung the IPM-CRSP jingle with Francine. And as they sing, Francine smiled, as this moment gives her a feeling of fulfillment, of influencing a farmer to modify his habit and to take care of the environment and his health.