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Farmers enjoy good health, more income via organic farming.

For a mother like Helen Peralta, 34, shifting to organic vegetables was the best decision she has made for her children.

'They used to dislike vegetables because they said these tasted bad. Maybe it was due to the chemicals (used in growing them). But since we started planting vegetables ourselves, they now love eating these produce,' she said.

Peralta said since her children started eating organic vegetables, they gained their ideal weight.

It is this same health benefit that persuaded about 1,200 farmers, or 80 percent of the farmers in 42 villages in Ligao City in Albay, to shift to organic vegetable farming.

Dexter Mendoza, Ligao agriculture technologist, said the organic farming project, which started in 2013, had changed the lives of farmers.

The program promoted healthy lifestyle among residents and was seen as one of the factors that lowered malnutrition rate among local children.

Since shifting to organic farming, farmers not only grow enough food for their families but are also guaranteed additional income given the rising demand for organic, pesticide-free vegetables.

'We support the farmers' needs to ensure that farming activities will be successful,' he said.

The city government has been holding several training sessions for farmers to update and improve their skills.

Seedlings, farm tools and financial assistance of P3,000 to P5,000 are also given to them.

Savings

Ariel Mosquete, 43, of Barangay Tuburan and one of the beneficiaries, said he went into organic farming for health reasons.

'Agriculturists have explained to us the positive effects of organic farming that's why I'm practicing it,' Mosquete said.

He said that aside from producing healthy vegetables, he was also able to save money in organic farming as he no longer have to buy synthetic fertilizers.

The city agriculture office also discourages the farmers from applying any pesticides and insecticides on their crops.

Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua said they pushed organic farming in local villages to solve poverty.

'We would like to make sure that nutritious food would be served on the table so the number of malnourished children [in our city] would be lessened,' she said.

Alsua said this would also allow farmers to take advantage of the rising demand for organic vegetables in the market.

Mendoza said organically grown tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, squash, upo (bottle gourd) and ampalaya (bitter gourd) are highly sought by consumers.

Natural pest control

In order to combat the possible attack of pests on plants, Mendoza also taught farmers how to create natural pest control concoctions.

He said they were only using juices extracted from plants and fruits and fish amino acids.

'These are effective and safe to use compared to commercial insecticides,' he said.

He said the frequent and excessive application of pesticides would lead to increased soil acidity which would later result in poor crop yield.

As part of the program, the city government and farmers of Ligao have set up a demonstration farm at the foot of Kawa-Kawa Hill in Barangay Tuburan.

The 2,000-square-meter demo farm has attracted tourists coming from other provinces curious of the practices of farmers there.

Mendoza said most of the demo farm's visitors were local government workers and agriculture students.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 24, 2016
Words:622
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