Learning to Grow Organic

Stairway hosted a three-day seminar in organic agriculture at the Baclayan Farm in collaboration with the Agricultural Training Institute of the Philippines. The 22nd of August, sixteen people gathered at Stairway’s farm in Baclayan, ready to learn about small-scale organic farming. The participants were a mix of women and men from the nearby Mangyan village, along with the Stairway farm workers, all indigenous Mangyan people.

Traditionally, the Mangyan people use slash and burn techniques when growing their crops, which are usually limited to corn, rice and some root crops like cassava.   After harvesting, they leave the land to let it once again be taken over by the forest. This method of farming has been widely used by many nomadic people around the world; however, as the same people have become stationary in their way of life, slash and burn techniques have proved highly unsustainable. As the participants expressed themselves, there is a need for them to learn about more sustainable growing techniques and how to introduce new crops, aside from rice, corn and some root crops.

The trainers started by explaining the importance of organic farming to protect our ecosystems. Located in the mountains, the Mangyans are particularly exposed to weather hazards exacerbated by climate changes. Organic agriculture has proved more effective in coping with climate change, as it helps farmers to adapt to the changing environment by strengthening the ecosystems, enhancing resilience and mitigating global warming.

It was therefore important that the training revolved around organic farming and not conventional methods to secure our environment and enjoyment of our ecosystems services for many years from now. The participants learned how to make the soil healthy with homemade organic fertilizers, and how to make organic pesticide and insecticide. Furthermore, the participants took a trip across the Baclayan Farm, where they looked at how to multiply fruit trees without using new seeds, how to prune banana trees to make them healthy, and they visited the vermicast where they learned how to make organic fertilizer for the soil.

With this seminar, and more to come, Stairway hopes to inspire the participants to start their own small gardens with fruit trees and vegetables through organic measures, which will contribute to their household food consumption, better health for their families and to provide them with an economic income from selling their yields.

Contributed by Pernille Kruger, SFI volunter, Baclayan