Archive for July, 2010

Organic farming advocates welcome ‘review of hybrid rice program’

AGRICULTURE Secretary Proceso Alcala found a strong ally in organic farming advocates who welcome the move to review the government’s hybrid rice program and rice importation policy.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) and a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said considering the apparent failure of the hybrid rice program and rice importation policy to address the perennial ‘rice problems’ which includes poor production, supply shortage, and price control, a comprehensive review of the government’s programs and policies is only to be expected.

“It is about time to give the hybrid rice program and the rice importation policy another look because it is obvious that they are not helping address the country’s food security woes,” Cabigas said.

Cabigas was reacting to recent pronouncements made by the DA chief regarding his doubts over the hybrid rice program of the government.

Alcala, an organic farming practitioner, said only 10% of the country’s rice farmers are in fact into hybrid rice production while 30% are using certified seeds while 60% use ordinary seeds.  He said gradually increasing areas planted to certified seeds in the next few years will be an option for the DA instead of pushing too much on hybrid rice production.

The country’s food czar also bared that among his targets, beyond achieving rice self-sufficiency, is for the Philippines to export organic rice, the demand for which in other countries are increasing.

Cabigas said the government is spending a big chunk of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) budget to promote supposedly high-yielding hybrid rice varieties over the past few decades and seemed to have overlooked the need to invest in repair and rehabilitation of existing, and construction of new irrigation, post harvest facilities, training, extension and other equally important support services such as marketing, to boost production make rice accessible at an affordable price.

“Over the past decades, the government is promoting hybrid rice varieties.  Year after year, the program failed to help hit the government’s own rice production targets that only led to increased importation of rice.  Yet again, we are still experiencing supply shortage which triggers rice price crisis every now and then,” Cabigas said.

He said the government should conduct a cost-and-benefit analysis of the hybrid rice program to be able to make the necessary adjustments or policy shift, if necessary.

More importantly, Cabigas said there is a need to look for other viable options, such as the shift from conventional to organic farming which promotes a change in lifestyle among farmers and consumers.

A policy research and advocacy nongovernment organization, La Liga acts as the secretariat of Go Organic! Philippines, which is aggressively promoting organic farming.

Cabigas said no less than the 14th Congress supports the shift to organic farming with the passage of Republic Act 10068, otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.

The measure, which seeks to promote and develop organic farming, was signed into law on April 6, 2010.

La Liga is currently facilitating a parallel nongovernment organization consultation process for the crafting of the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) of the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, which seeks to know what the stakeholders in the organic agriculture movement have to say about the law.

The IRR consultation held at the convention hall of the Pangasinan State University in Lingayen, Pangasinan last Friday was attended by over 200 members of various nongovernment organizations, farmers, traders, members of the academic institutions and representatives of various local government units from Regions 1, 2, 3 and the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR).

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Stakeholders optimistic about future of organic agriculture in RP

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Farmers, traders and organic farming stakeholders in Northern Luzon expressed optimism in the future of organic agriculture in the Philippines which is expected to get the much needed boost from local government units (LGUs).

Led by Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, an NGO- and farmers-led stakeholders’ forum kicked off at the convention hall of the Pangasinan State University here Friday, with over 200 farmers, traders, members of the academe and LGU representatives from Regions 1, 2, 3 and the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), actively taking part to discuss issues confronting the organic agriculture movement.

The activity serves as a parallel process of the nationwide consultation initiated by DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, for the crafting of the implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act 10068, otherwise known as Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.

The law seeks to promote and develop organic agriculture in the Philippines.

La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) is facilitating the parallel NGO consultation process sponsored by the Pangasinan State University and in coordination with Go Organic! Philippines, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), Organic Producers and Traders’ Alliance (OPTA), and the One Organic Movement.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga said the IRR consultation for the Organic Agriculture Act seeks to know what farmers have to say about the law.

“It also highlights how the new DA secretary wants the farmers to play a major role in the crafting of the IRR,” Cabigas, a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines which implemented the Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP) of the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management last year stressed.

During his brief speech, Braganza underscored the fact that the Organic Agriculture Act recognizes the crucial role of local governments in providing policy direction, as well as implementation partners as resource to strengthen Philippine agriculture.

More importantly, he said the law also recognizes the role of local governments and their leagues as catalyst in the promotion of an agriculture strategy that gives emphasis to a low-carbon development path.

“This is crucial considering our country’s increasing vulnerability to climate change,” he said.

The need to institutionalize funding for the implementation of the law was echoed by participants, as well as the need for a careful evaluation on matters related to product labeling and third party certification.

Farmers also want to know as to how will product labeling and third party certification benefit them, the same way it will help traders and benefit consumers, Cabigas said.

Braganza, an organic farming advocate said that without a budget to support its implementation, the law will end up like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act which until now are not fully implemented.

He said there is a need to convince government officials to put a budget line item for organic agriculture in the DA.

Likewise, he stressed the need for LGUs to chip in to boost organic farming and make the necessary shift to ecologically-sound food production ways in lieu of chemical-intensive farming.

During the past six years, even before the Organic Agriculture Act was passed, Alaminos City is providing various support and extension to organic farmers.  In sum, Alaminos has so far poured P12 million of its own funds to promote organic farming under Braganza’s leadership.

Alaminos City is part of Go Organic! Philippines and is one of the One Pangasinan Alliance of LGUs, an economic alliance of LGUs in Western Pangasinan which supports the promotion and development of organic farming as a key to fighting hunger and poverty through sustainable agriculture.

Organic farming is being eyed as a solution to the looming rice crisis in the Philippines because of its many benefits.

“It lowers production cost and helps boost farmers’ income.  Organic farming also promotes a healthy working environment, unlike in conventional farming, where farmers are exposed to harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” Cabigas stressed.

More importantly, Cabigas said organic agriculture helps fight global warming by promoting environment-friendly food production while at the same time still ensuring improved if not better farm outputs, farmers’ income and health even including safer and more nutritional food for our consumers.

Organic Agriculture as a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy

Organic Agriculture as a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy

(Oscar B. Zamora 23 July 2010)

(Co-convenor, Go Organic! Philippines)

  1. Organic agriculture (OA) production systems are less prone to extreme weather conditions, such as drought, flooding, and waterlogging.
  2. OA addresses key consequences of climate change, namely increased occurrence of extreme weather events, increased water stress, and problems related to soil quality[1]; it reduces the vulnerability of the farmers to climate change and variability.

3.  OA as an adaptation strategy …

  1. OA increases soil organic matter content, and hence higher water holding capacity making crops more resistant to drought conditions.
  1. OA reduces the vulnerability of the farmers to climate change and variability by:
  • Promoting the practice of biodiversity-based farming systems that increase the diversity of income sources and the flexibility to cope with adverse effects of climate change and variability, such as changing rainfall patterns. This leads to higher economic and ecological stability through optimized ecological balance and risk-spreading.
  • Providing a viable alternative for resource-poor farmers who are most vulnerable to climate change. OA is a low-risk farming strategy with reduced costs of external inputs, therefore, lower risks with partial or total crop failure due to extreme weather events or changed conditions in the wake of climate change and variability.
  • Providing products that command higher prices via an organic certification system; higher farm incomes are thus possible due to lower costs of production and higher selling prices. The coping capacity of the farms is increased and the risk of indebtedness is lowered.

[Note: Risk management, risk-reduction strategies, and economic diversification to build resilience are also prominent aspects of adaptation, as mentioned in the Bali Action Plan[2]].

c. Crops varieties/genotypes (and animal breeds) used in OA are usually well adapted to the local, and usually more stressed environments. This is important because localized effects of climate variability cannot be foreseen in detail because localized application of climate change models is still difficult; they are not yet accurate


[1] IPCC. 2007. “Summary for Policy Makers.” In IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, “Working Group II Report: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” See specifically on adaptation, chapter 17; on inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation, Chapter 18; on vulnerability, chapter 19. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-spm.pdf and http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm.

[2] UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). 2007. Online document.  “The Bali Action Plan, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/cop_13/application/pdf/cp_bali_action.pdf

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Quality investments in agri needed – La Liga Policy Institute

THE La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) is calling for a substantial increase in the budget for the agriculture sector to boost the country’s food security echoing calls made by Asian Development Bank (ADB) to boost investment in Agriculture during the “Investment Forum for Food Security in Asia and the Pacific” held Wednesday at the ADB in Manila.

Hundreds of policymakers, development experts and representatives from the public and private sectors attended the forum.  Co-organized by ADB, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the forum aims to identify barriers to achieving food security and explore a range of opportunities to overcome them.

FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf during the forum said “that food production will need to double in the developing world by 2050 in order to feed the growing population and that a production increase of such magnitude will require the developing world alone to invest over $200 billion per year in agriculture till 2050, of which almost $120 billion would have to be invested in the Asia-Pacific region alone.”

La Liga sees the challenge for the Philippines to be food self-sufficient and agree that massive mobilization of investment in agriculture from both the government and the private sector is a necessary starting point.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga and a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said that “it is equally important, however, to establish parameters that will encourage the appropriate types of investments to the agriculture sector.”

“More concretely, we would like to see a situation where more resources are poured into sustainable agriculture programs and projects.  Not only are investments on sustainable agriculture relatively less capital intensive; it will also ensure the long-term productivity of our farms; and, at the same time help in addressing the risks related to climate change,” he said.

Part of such investment, Cabigas said, should be poured to promote organic farming which will not only benefit farmers in terms of income, promote better health and safer environment for all, but will also “make farms self-sufficient and farmers self-supporting” in the long run.

In particular, La Liga, said there is a need for government to allocate funds to promote organic farming through farmers’ training on organic farming systems and technologies, extension, and marketing support to boost food production.

He explained that organic farming makes use of organic fertilizers and natural pesticides which the farmers themselves can produce from raw materials that can be easily sourced in their farms, instead of expensive chemical fertilizers.

“It is not only increasing investment that matters.  It is investing in the right programs that matters most,” Cabigas said.

Group welcomes’ appointment of ‘organic farming champion’ as new DA chief

The appointment of former Rep. Proceso J. Alcala of the 2nd District of Quezon as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) by Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s is a welcome development.

Alcala’s appointment was made known by no less than Aquino himself during his inaugural speech at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila Wednesday.  Alcala’s marching order is to strengthen Philippine agriculture by providing various extension and support services to farmers nationwide.

He wants the new DA chief to start repair and rehabilitation of existing irrigation facilities, provide more subsidy to farmers in the form of seeds and fertilizers.  Aquino also ordered Alcala to put up more trading centers nationwide, to make food more affordable and more accessible to every Filipino.

“We congratulate Secretary Alcala for his appointment to the Department of Agriculture.  We believe that the gentleman from Quezon deserves the opportunity given him to be the country’s food czar,” Roland Cabigas, a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines and managing director of La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) said.

An organic farming practitioner himself, Alcala is one of main proponents of Republic Act 10068 otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, which seeks to promote and develop organic farming in the Philippines.   It was signed into law early this year.

As representative of the 2nd District of Quezon, Alcala has taken the lead in promoting environment-friendly food production ways in the province through programs and projects that the lawmaker initiated in support of farmers who are going organic, Cabigas said.

The group believes that Alcala will be able to strike a balance between food security and the need for low-carbon development in agriculture, through the shift to organic farming taking into account the urgent need to address the challenge posed by global warming and climate change.

“Organic farming will greatly benefit both the consumers, in terms of healthier food, and farmers in terms of increased income and safer working environment without necessarily compromising food security,” Cabigas said.

Earlier, Go Organic! Philippines underscored the need for Pres. Aquino to appoint an alter-ego in the DA who is committed to pursue organic farming as a key national strategy to achieve sustainable Philippine agriculture.

A policy research nongovernment organization, La Liga acts as secretariat of Go Oganic! Philippines, which successfully implemented the Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP).  The objective of OFSP is to promote organic farming in the Philippines through farmers’ season-long training, initially starting with 600 farmers in six pilot areas in Luzon, in preparation for the conversion of conventional farms into organic farm sites.