Militant Farmer Turns Organic Farmer
At 71, Jaime Tadeo has been living a colorful life. From being a government extension worker, he experienced being a communist, activist, convict, and given pardon.
Today, he is living a new, interesting life as an organic farmer. As aging cools his ardor and intransigence for the farmers’ cause, he realizes more threats to the rural community, and one major threat is climate change.
Tadeo believes that organic farming can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. This is the reason why he joined another movement—a peaceful movement this time and that is Go Organic, Philippines.
It is a consortium of NGOs led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI). Endorsed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Go Organic promotes the use of organic fertilizers and pesticides.
Citing a study, Tadeo said that the agriculture sector contributes more than 30 percent of global warming. And that’s because of the heavy application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical farm inputs. He also cited a research finding that 90 percent of the agricultural area in the country suffers from soil degradation due to continued use of chemicals.
There are ominous signs of climate change—rains at the height of summer and agricultural areas that had never been flooded before have been flooded now. In addition to these is the attribution of leukemia to exposure to toxic chemicals commonly found in the rural areas.
Matters such as these drive him to continue advocating organic farming. In fact he has been practicing organic farming in his farm in Plaridel, Bulacan for seven cropping seasons already.
To make organic fertilizers, he mixes animal manure, kitchen garbage, coconut water, molasses and Indigenous Microorganisms (IM), and adds the mixture to rice straws and leaves. These materials, he said, are always available in the rural community. So there’s no reason for farmers to buy chemical farm inputs, he added.
If farmers would prepare organic fertilizers themselves, he furthered, and then they could save at least half of the cost of farm inputs. But he is frustrated that his fellow farmers in the community did not do the same. They still use inorganic fertilizers as it is tedious to prepare organic fertilizers.
The good thing about his efforts is that he observed that after three years of practicing organic farming, the environment in his landholding improved. Frogs, mud crabs, and catfish began to thrive in his farm despite his neighbors’ continuous use of chemical farm inputs.
He is convinced, too, that organic fertilizers can increase the yield of both inbred and hybrid rice varieties. Some farmers claim that rice yield wouldn’t be maximized by applying only organic fertilizers. But Tadeo harvests 5 tons per hectare without using chemical farm inputs.
Another concern for him is the preference of Filipinos to eating highly polished rice; the whiter the rice is, the more palatable it is. But actually, says Tadeo, many vitamins and minerals are removed from the grain when it is polished. What is retained is sugar, which has caused the alarming rise in the number of Filipinos with diabetes, he added.
Also, unpolished rice or brown rice has better milling recovery. It ranges from 70 percent to 75 percent, whereas that of white rice is only 55 percent to 60 percent. Moreover, this high milling recovery of brown rice, said Tadeo, might actually be the solution to the rice shortage in the country.
He is also advocating the adoption of Palayamanan or multiple cropping farming system of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). He believes that farmers should have a complete line of agricultural products—from livestock to poultry to high-value crops—as these are alternative sources of livelihood.
Based on his experience, he said, farmers are financially all right only for about one or two months after rice harvest. That’s because they have no means of income but rice. But by adopting the Palayamanan, they would have a steady cash flow.
Being an extension worker before, Tadeo is concerned that it will take time to re-educate farmers on farming, especially this time when extension work is left to the LGUs whose priorities may not be agriculture.
He believes that for the technology to be adopted efficiently, then extension workers must work with the farmers.
But it takes time to build rapport with farmers, he admits. So what more for them to accept changes and new farm technologies that would help them increase productivity of their farms.
As for him, he is pleased with himself because at least he is doing something. He may be a just a small voice, but he is able to rehabilitate the environment in his landholding.
By Pete Samonte