Dateline: Silop, SDN (July 8-9, 2016) Seminar-Workshop on Organic Farming


By: Giles Alexis M. Labrador

Silop is one of the 21 barangays of Mainit, Surigao del Norte. It has 705 hectares in land area and a population of 402. Eighty-three of which attend the local elementary school. Hoisted at the highest point of the municipality, Mt. Silop, are cell towers of telephone companies. This peak and its towers are unmistakable landmarks that, on a clear day, can be seen from the lowland poblacion and in other surrounding parts of the province. On top of the mountain barangay lies Lake Silop, a mysterious 2.5- hectare lake with species of fish that are known to appear and disappear throughout the year. Other wild creatures that inhabit are ducks and the very hardworking carabaos.

Other than by foot, the only way to get to this secluded steep haven is via the infamous “habal-habal”, a modified motorbike which can carry up to ten people. This custom-built motorcycle-taxi is quite ubiquitous in remote areas and hinterlands of Mindanao. Passengers with their goods for sale or purchased staples are loaded on its horizontally extended planks aka “ampak” or “pako”. This one’s a popular great adventure-rush for most hardcore adrenaline junkies.

Just a half-hour ride from the poblacion, one can easily feel real tranquility, the unharried rural life. One can experience and savor the fresh cool air, nature-chilled water, canopy of trees, plentiful gardens, fertile lands, bountiful green vegetables and the cheerful, kind, and beautiful people, quite attuned to their environment - all natural.

One can sense a healthy natural balance in this humble community abundant with resources that could be harnessed to maintain this simple, amazing way of living.

Summit at the Summit

July 8-9, 2016 would now become known as the pioneering days of collaboration between TMI and farmer families. For the very first time, Tambayayong Mainit, Inc.(TMI) together with the people of Brgy. Silop, piloted a collaboration in learning and sharing of ideas on organic farming. This was formally dubbed as a "Training-Workshop on Sustainable Nature Farming Technology Systems".

The Republic Act 10068, popularly known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 was the policy framework and impetus. This bill was signed into law not only for the big commercial farmers but for all common folk to adopt essential, sustainable farming technology and shift from the conventional way of farming that is highly dependent on harmful chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. It was designed to promote ecologically sound, socially acceptable, economically viable and technically feasible production of food and fibers used in clothes, homemaking, etc.

Interactive is Productive

Naturally fertile, Silop is an ideal locale to practice the principles of organic farming. As lectures were given, one could tell that the community was very receptive. Silop folks also contributed salient cultural and unique environmental insights to workshop facilitators making the event truly participative and interactive. Both sides equally shared and received useful information. One particular exciting part was when the participants were divided into groups and each was tasked to draw their understanding and perception of sustainable agriculture. Each group was then given time to share and discuss their group's consensus output.

Another highlight of the day was the "Boodle Fight"! The communal way of preparing the meal and eating with bare hands exemplified the solidarity of spirit of this barangay. Needless to say, there were indigenous veggies on the menu.

Indigenous is Ingenious

Indigenous vegetables or IVs are edible plants that are native to a particular region or environment. These are abundant in rural areas and can be planted even in small plots of land by small farming families. Silop is fortunate to have an abundance of these vegetables. Indigenous vegetables are very rich in vitamins and minerals. They have high anti-oxidant activity. Malunggay or kalamunggay(Moringa oleifera)is one example of an IV. It is loaded with nutrients. Its Vitamin C content is seven times more than what is found in oranges. It has four times more calcium and two times more protein than milk; four times more vitamin A than carrots; and three times more potassium than bananas. We should all plant it, esteemed DENR Agricultural Technologist and TMI Project Leader Ms. Maricel Endico exhorted. "It’s like growing multivitamins at your doorstep".

A-Frame Contouring

As a mountain barangay, Silop is also a great place for Sloping Agricultural Land Technology(SALT)application.

For this part, Agroforestry specialist Ms. Marichu Calungsod lent her expetise on the topic. She was trained in Bansalan, Davao del Sur where this now world-accepted technology was first developed at the Mindanao Baptist Rural Center.

SALT is a relatively easier and less expensive technology that employs a diversified farming system and integrates an innovative soil conservation system using nitrogen-fixing trees(e.g. Ipil-ipil) and hillside contouring.

The practicum part of this workshop, with the participants making their own makeshift inexpensive A-frames and learning hill contouring was another highlight of the event.

Don’t Panic, It’s POrkganic

Mr. Gil C. Salem, a seasoned Livestock Technologist, shared his knowledge and expertise on swine raising using a tested Korean technology. It is raising pigs without the foul smell by applying an effective science-based minimal cleaning maintenance method.

The “no smell, no clean” system entails an inoculated deep organic litter floor that actively composts manure and safely processes toxins right under the pigs feet. The living floor keeps the pigs clean and healthy without a need to clean up their manure. Less expensive, less labor intensive, and less stressful for the pigs. And stress-free pigs make for much more delicious lechon or tastier bacon, I guess?

Holy Molasses! Natural Fertilizers

Ms. Endico also taught the villagers how to prepare various fertilizer concoctions made from natural ingredients that are readily available.

Here are some of them:

Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) is used for seed and soil treatments and for plant nutrition. It consists of young shoots of vigorously growing plants in the locale that are allowed to ferment for approximately 7 days with the help of molasses. It's a way of extracting beneficial nutrients and plant hormones from common plants like weeds and using them as a fertilizer and growth promoters of the cultivated plants.

Fish Amino Acid (FAA) or fish emulsion is a liquid made from fermeting fish waste (head, bone, intestine, etc) again with brown sugar or molasses. It has documented value in seedling growth and has salutary effect on microbe growth and action in soil.

Oriental Herbal Nutrient (OHN) is a mixture of edible, aromatic herbs extracted with alcohol and fermented with raw sugar. It is used to provide plants and soil microorganisms with micro-nutrients, which may optimize their resilience to environmental stresses.

Right Decisions = Healthy Conclusions

On the whole, it was a very succesful endeavor. The Silop folks enjoyed learning simple and practical techniques in natural farming. And what a valuable learning it was! I hope that this workshop would be replicated in many other places. We are grateful for the selfless experts who shared their knowledge about this very important technology.

And what's neat is that common folks don't really need to look any farther for materials to use for these easy to do "diy" home-projects. Mother Nature has provided these indigenous raw materials for her children to use. It’s really up to the people to heed her call.

One thing that I've learned is that embracing the organic green lifestyle does not have to be difficult. In fact, it can be fun. And it sure does lead to a longer, stronger, happier, healthier life, which is what we all desire. It starts with making the right decisions. We can start with our own selves and in our own homes. Let's all go CLEAN and GREEN! It's a lifestyle worthy of a lifetime.