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Organic Negros

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“The discovery of agriculture was the first big step towards a civilized life” – Arthur Keith

ORGANIC AGRICULTURE DENT

When Negros was branded as the organic capital of the Philippines it came as a reward but, at the same time, also as a challenge. After more than a decade, some quarters ask: “Does organic movement still exist in Negros?” Let us take a quick look.  As early as 20 years ago there seemed to have a very dynamic group of advocates of organic agriculture and farming practices in Negros. Firstly, civil society were very active in designing and conceptualizing organic agriculture framework such Bio-Intensive Gardening of (BIG), Bio-Organic Conversion Program (BIOCP) and, so forth.  The tag as the organic capital of the country would not have come without reasonable and justifiable basis.

More than a decade has passed – the same question persists but be that as it may I think it is important that organic agriculture practices must really take its place under the sun now more than ever.

ORGANIC NEGROS LEGACY

In 2005, both Negros provinces’ governors, the late Joseph Marañon and George Arnaiz declared Negros Island an “Organic Island” by virtue of a memorandum of agreement signed by both of them. In the same year, the Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (NISARD) Foundation was also established. Successively, the first Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival was held in 2006 and, in 2007, the Organik na Negros Organic Producers and Retailers Association was formed. And later, in 2010 Republic Act 10068, or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 became a law. Arguably, Negros forms part – perhaps, significantly in the enactment of the law.

This evolution serves as a legacy inked the by the island and national leadership but, undoubtedly, propelled by organic agriculture advocates coming from the civil society – NGOs, academe, church and local governments alike.

WITHERING AWAY?

I believe that politics (or, the political will of the leaders) plays a key and role in the landscape and dynamics of Negros organic agriculture. The legacy of the late governor Joseph Maranon seemed to have withered after he passed away. Negros regime change somehow shifted according to the national development plan on agriculture. Fast forward, to this day, Negros organic movement are on a sporadic mode and it is in recognition that the leadership of Governor Lacson to re-consolidate organic efforts in coordination and partnership with the private sectors is a laudable act. A new organic movement should re-invigorated and synergized among all stakeholders most especially the marginal farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries who have the capacity and willing and able but lack the appropriate resources and technology.

There are local government units that pursue this important endeavor not merely as an advocacy but practically deliver impacts among their constituents thus, their commitment and political will. These efforts should scaled up in order to realize its economic and environmental significance addressing food security and climate concerns.

The provincial government’s data of 16,000 hectares of organic lands with 17,000 adopters is a considerable springboard. The private sector such as NGOs and academe must be tapped as partners along this line. One of the NGOs – Alter Trade continue to pursue tits Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming practices among its partner producers in the island of Negros. Its more than three decades of existence with its partner producers speaks well of its experience.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ORGANIC AGRICULTURE

The impact of climate change especially on agriculture is one of the most compelling reasons why organic agriculture movement in Negros must be re-ignited. Organic agriculture practices need to be more resilient and adoptive more so, rehabilitative to environment in response to the worsening impact of climate change. It is to be underlined however that Negros has varying micro-ecosystems and differentiated bio-diversity that appropriate technologies are to be adopted and that existing natural practices are not altered but rather enhanced. This is not to say that modernization has no place in Negros agriculture as I argued in previous articles.

Needless to say, the government – especially the local government must take the lead role in partnership and with full-commitment with other stakeholders primarily – ARB’s and marginal farmers.

Next week let us try to discuss what are the possible approaches that are feasible in Negros agriculture.*

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