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Agricultural people power

February is People Power month. What we need today is an additional form of people power to bring prosperity to our people. This is agricultural people power. In this area, we run far short of our potential. Much has been blamed on the fact that the Department of Agriculture no longer has the responsibility for agricultural development.

Since the Local Government Code was enacted, this responsibility has been given to the local government units (LGUs). For a municipality, this rests mainly on the mayor. Unfortunately, many mayors do not take their agricultural development responsibility seriously. Thus, many DA officials put up their hands in frustration.

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Here is an inspiring story of how the LGU and the DA can harness agricultural people power to overcome this problem.

Lorna Mae Vero (0928-5018778) is a mayor concerned with her constituents’ welfare. After studying Economics in Manila and working there for eight years, Vero went back to her roots to do her share in helping her fourth-class municipality: Llanera, Nueva Ecija. When she became mayor, Vero was visited daily by farmers asking for her assistance to survive. Now, few do that. They are earning more today—all because she used agricultural people power. She succeeded because the LGU and the DA carried out their respective roles properly.

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In a typical DA-LGU interaction, the DA gave Llanera a shredder so that waste could be transformed into organic fertilizer. But it was only one shredder for the whole town. Though some organic fertilizer from this shredder could be produced, it was insignificant in combating the growing infertility of the land because of chemical fertilizer over-use.

Furthermore, since much of the land was not irrigated, farmers worked only four months a year. They had plenty of time on their hands, with not much to do. Deo Magtalas of the DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management saw this. But instead of just providing the shredder and not doing anything else, he took his role seriously.

Magtalas asked Vero to visit Miserior in General Natividad, Nueva Ecija. Instead of delegating this task, Vero herself went and saw something amazing. Instead of relying on the relatively expensive shredder to do most of the organic fertilizer production, there were several much less expensive vermicomposting beds with the worms doing all the work.

She immediately asked Magtalas to help her do a similar activity in Llanera. If not for Magtalas’ initiative and commitment to fulfill DA’s main role of helping the LGU, none of the subsequent agricultural development would have happened.

Today, there are 1,163 (out of 1,295 who started, or a 90-percent success rate) families who are doing vermicomposting. For two vermicomposting beds, a family earns an extra P19,200 a year. Four beds yield double at P38,400. Vero says: “A vermicomposting starter kit costs P5,000, with 4 kilos of African night crawlers and materials for a 1×4 concrete bed with shed. For an LGU dispersal scheme, the farmers can cut cost by spending only P1,600 for the worms with the rest being their responsibility. We encourage the use of unused pigpens, sacks, recycled plastic drums and other such innovative ways.”

Add to the more than 400-percent annual ROI is the very significant benefit of increasing production yield through balanced chemical-organic fertilization, savings in fertilizer cost, increases in soil fertility and even unifying and bonding the family for this income-generating activity throughout the year. For the mayor, no more are the long lines begging for doleouts, but dignified farmers who use agricultural people power to better their lives through worms!

The Llanera’s success is mainly due to the LGU and the DA taking their respective roles in agricultural development seriously. Magtalas deserves special credit for helping the LGU succeed in its important mission.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112).

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TAGS: Agriculture, Business, column, ernesto m. ordonez, people power
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