By Danny O. Calleja
PILI, Camarines Sur, May 28 - Former militant peasant leader and leftist activist Jaime Tadeo at 71, remains a vocal critic of the government but this time, minus his extreme left exploits that made him be known as a fearless advocate of agrarian reform since the dictatorial rule of Marcos down to the administration of Corazon Aquino.
Today, Tadeo or Ka Jimmy as chairman of the National Council of Rice Farmers in the Philippines (NCRFP) fights the governments rice programs that wont abandon the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, according to Marlyn Sta. Catalina, the regional executive director for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here said over the week.
And as he lives a new, interesting life of an organic farmer, his aging has cooled his ardor and intransigence for the farmers cause as he realizes more threats to rural communities and one major threat is climate change, a recent article of the AgribusinessWeek online publication said.
Tadeo believes that organic farming can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. This is the reason why he joined another movementa peaceful movement this time and that is Go Organic, Philippines a consortium of non-government organzations led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI), it said.
The movement that promotes the use of organic fertilizers and pesticides was endorsed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Tadeo is the spokesperson of Go Organic! Philippines, which is now aggressively promoting organic farming in seven pilot areas in Luzon.
This is in preparation for the immediate conversion of 10 percent of the countrys 1.9 million hectares of rice fields into organic rice fields.
The campaign aims to promote organic farming among farmers, a tough nut to crack, considering that the countrys farmers, particularly rice and vegetable producers, are already hooked to conventional farming, which makes use of imported petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.
We need to convince farmers to stop using chemical fertilizers. And the only way to do it is to give them a viable option. Going organic is a viable option, he said.
Citing a study, Tadeo said in the article that the agriculture sector contributes more than 30 percent into global warming owing from 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 changerains 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 drove 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, the article said.
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 theres no reason for farmers to buy chemical farm inputs, he added.
If farmers would prepare organic fertilizers themselves, they could save at least half of the cost of farm inputs he said expressing his frustration 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, the publication said.
He is convinced, too, it said that organic fertilizers can increase the yield of both inbred and hybrid rice varieties. Some farmers claim that rice yield wouldnt be maximized by applying only organic fertilizers. But Tadeo harvests five tons per hectare without using chemical farm inputs.
Sta. Catalina said, another concern for Ka Jimmy is the preference of Filipinos to eating highly polished rice–the whiter the rice is, the more palatable it is.
He is right, the DA Bicol chief said as actually, 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.
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, might actually be the solution to the rice shortage in the country.
Tadeo 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 productsfrom livestock to poultry to high-value cropsas these are alternative sources of livelihood, the AgribusinessWeek article said.
Based on his experience, he said in the article, farmers are financially all right only for about one or two months after rice harvest. Thats 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 local government units (LGUs) whose priorities may not be agriculture, it said.
He believes that for the technology to be adopted efficiently, 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.
In 2004, Tadeo started to convert his 2,000 square-meter farm in Barangay Culyanin, Plaridel, Bulacan into an organic farm, making use of organic fertilizer and organic pesticides available commercially at first, before finally producing his own organic farm inputs for his rice farm.
Today, his organic rice field boasts of being 100 percent chemical-based fertilizer and pesticide-free.(PNA)