Farmers in Kiday, the Philippines, working with MASIPAG, are showing a model of agricultural production that can help lift farmers and others out of food insecurity and poverty.
Out of Disaster into Benefits
For many, adversity is sometimes the thing that tips people into making a change that needs to be made. The farmers of Kiday in the Philippines can attest to that fact.
In 2004, the region was hit by four successive cyclones, killing around 1,000 people and inundating homes and farms. At the time, the farms of Kiday were conventionally run using imported fertilizers, repellants, and pesticides. What became clear was that something needed to change in their practices to guarantee food security and stave away poverty.
Today, Kiday operates thriving agroecological organic farms, guaranteeing large crop yields and food for the community and bringing much-needed techniques to a country that has seen agricultural production drop by 2% in the last decade.
How did it Happen? MASIPAG and Others
In 2005, the Kiday Community Farmers’ Association (KCFA) was formed to organize agricultural production in the community. Before the weather events, the area was hampered by a lack of inputs and market access.
The Catholic organization called the Social Action Center stepped in to provide training and assistance in a different way of producing food by teaching the people how to farm organically.
The three-year contract ended in 2007, so they contacted MASIPAG to help implement agroecological practices in Kiday. MASIPAG is a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, NGOs and scientists. Together they work towards the sustainable use and management of biodiversity through farmers’ control of genetic and biological resources, agricultural production and associated knowledge. The group has been promoting agroecological practices since the 1980s and helps to foster relationships between farmers and scientists.
According to MASIPAG Luzon coordinator Weng Buena, “Organic farming is what we see as the most appropriate response to food scarcity and poverty in the agriculture sector because in organic farming or agroecology in general, you don’t need many external inputs, and it enhances diversity in the community, making agroecosystem flourish.”
They have implemented various practices, from the creation of organic fertilizer from byproducts of farming to the use of organic compost, as well as making their own pest repellent out of chilis and lemongrass.
They have also created communal and individual seed banks, increasing the self-sufficiency of their operations for years to come.
Virginia Nazareno of MASIPAG and the KCFA says, “It’s a must that you keep your own seeds so you don’t have to source it from anywhere, and since you’ve stored your own, you can plant crops any time during the planting season.”
However, limitations and challenges present themselves to adopting organic farming in the area. For one, organic farming is incredibly labour intensive, and depending on how degraded the soil is, returns matching or exceeding conventional agriculture won’t be seen for around three years.
This can be a major deciding factor for farmers already mired in debt and living hand to mouth.
There’s also the fact that the Filipino government hasn’t provided many tools or resources to help create organic farms. The subsidies for farming largely go to conventional farms, which purchase and rely upon large agro-businesses for fertilizer and pesticides.
However, despite their challenges, the KCFA has decided to go with organic farming. They have been reaping the benefits and will continue to for generations.