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October-December 2013 Issue (Vol. 15 No. 4)

Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca

In 2010, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) made a major shift in its program thrusts when Proceso J. Alcala was named Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA). Secretary Alcala had brought with him his personal advocacy and reinforced his belief on the importance of organic farming in the country being the principal author of Republic Act (RA) 10068 also known as the Organic Agriculture (OA) Act of 2010. As the law provides for the development and promotion of OA in the Philippines, it thus became one of the major programs of BAR.

Republic Act (RA) 10068 provided the legal mandate for BAR to take on the specific research and development (R&D) initiatives of the Organic Agriculture program of DA. BAR takes the lead in coordinating with the Departments of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, Science and Technology, Education, and Interior and Local Government, including strategic agricultural-based state universities colleges (SUCs) and private organizations to develop, enhance, and support and consolidate activities related to OA technologies and the formulate and implement a unified and integrated organic agriculture research agenda from the national to the field level.

BAR was further tasked to lead and coordinate the OA research, development, and extension (RDE) plans and programs and to organize the OA-RDE Network which is composed of research and educational institutions, local government units (LGUs), non-governmental agencies, and recognized associations of interest such as organic fertilizer manufacturers and distributors, agricultural engineers, agriculturists, soil technologists, and farmers.

BAR and Organic Agriculture

Prior to the implementation of the act, BAR had already conducted consultation workshops and roundtable discussions among OA proponents and stakeholders in addressing the gaps, advantages and benefits of OA to the farming sector. As a result, the “Gap Analysis on R&D of Organic Agriculture: Focus on Organic Fertilizer” was launched in July 2009.

In 2010, the bureau submitted to DA the “Organic Agriculture Research and Development Program” whose primary objective is to coordinate and support the endeavors of concerned stakeholders in conducting R&D projects in the country in support to RA 10068 and to review and validate the list of available technologies, tools and practices in organic agriculture.

With the implementation of the Act, the bureau intensified its coordination function among various agencies of the government (including DA), SUCs, private organizations (PO) and various research institutions through the conduct of workshops, consultations, national assessments and reviews.

During roundtable discussions, several BAR-funded OA projects were evaluated and went through series of deliberations with the purpose of establishing the advantages of OA farming. These projects, on a per category basis (crops, livestock and poultry, fisheries), were peer-reviewed by a pool of experts and subjected for modifications. The output of the activity formed part of the updated OA RDE Agenda and Program.

OA Impact Projects

Forty-seven organic agriculture projects were funded as of October 2013, of which 40 are already completed and terminated. From the 40, 7 are implemented by Regional Integrated Agricultural Research Centers, 30 by SUCs, 3 by private sector, 6 by DA-Bureau of Plant Industry, and 1 by Cotton Development Authority.

The status of on-going OA R&D projects served as baseline in assessing the current implementation of the OA R&D agenda towards a more focused direction in the attainment of the National Organic Agriculture Program’s (NOAP) vision of OA contributing to overall agricultural growth and development of the country in terms of sustainable management of natural resources, climate change adaptation and mitigation, competitiveness and food security.

A project, “Bio-Enterprise Development in Organic Agriculture Sector through Public-Private Partnership: Action Research, Policy Analysis and Advocacy, and Entrepreneurship Training Program,” was developed by Dr. Flordeliza A. Lantican and Dr. Isabelita M. Pabuayon is one of the BAR-funded projects and is to be implemented in three phases. Dr. Lantican and Dr. Pabuayon articulated the role of public and private partnership in implementing agricultural and rural development projects/programs which is critical for the sustainability. One modality pointed out was the collaboration among academic institutions like University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and farmer’s groups and people’s organizations, including cooperatives in enterprise development. Bio-enterprise development, through the production of organic fertilizer and other farm inputs as well as products like organic rice and vegetables, provides a key entry point to jumpstart the implementation of the OA Act.

To substantiate the merits of the project, the proponents conducted benchmarking and value chain analysis for organic rice, vegetables (ampalaya, eggplant, tomato, lettuce, and pole sitao), organic fertilizers and pesticides. They also identified the best production and post harvest practices/ technologies, processing, and marketing schemes. They were also able to identify, analyze and suggest policy reforms to address issues and requirements relating to certification, labeling, product standards, and trade of organic products. Furthermore, the proponents identified existing business development services (BDS) relating to technologies, financing, input sources, and potential markets that could be tapped by farmer cooperatives for selected members and for the conduct of training on cooperative management among the farmer cooperatives.

To be successful, a bio-enterprise requires efficient systems in the input procurement, production, transport, processing, storage, packaging, and distribution to ensure minimum cost and provide the right quality and quantity of products demanded by the market. Expected benefits are improved farm productivity, better quality and marketability of farmers’ produce, favorable prices for producers, affordable prices to consumers, and adequate supply of raw materials and inputs for commercial business operations.

The study was piloted in Region 3 (Zambales, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan); in Region 4a (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, and Rizal); and in Region 4b (Oriental Mindoro, and Marinduque). These regions were selected due to their significant production of rice and vegetables; access to organic agriculture technology by farmers (Central Luzon State University, UPLB and other institutions); and proximity to urban markets (Metro Manila, Calabarzon and suburban areas).

Based on the progress and findings, the project leaders recommended that there should be an aggressive information awareness campaign and capacity-building for farmers and other stakeholders; redesign of training programs to include entrepreneurship, marketing and business planning; assessment of OA facilities and equipment provided through grants and donations; sustained support for strengthening cooperatives and farmers’ associations; and continued conduct of hands-on training on production and post-production practices for farmers and other farm workers, among others.

The Phase I of the bio-enterprise project and its impact to the OA community was made possible through the funding support of BAR. It was implemented in December 2012 by the College of Economics and Management, UPLB in collaboration with UPLB Foundation Inc. ###