MORE than 100,000 upland-rice farmers in Bulacan and elsewhere have been encouraged to organize themselves and gain access to government programs that would help raise their rice and vegetable output.
Ruben B. Miranda, the national coordinator of the Upland Rice Development Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said an organized group is indispensable in building rice-farming communities.
“It`s easier for agricultural workers to reach organized and registered groups because systems are in place. Well-placed systems also facilitate easy access on government programs and services,” Miranda said during the Upland Palayamanan Farmer Field School (FFS) Graduation Day in Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan on October 21.
Last year the participants of the upland Palayamanan FFS in DRT organized themselves as the Kalawakan Upland Farmers’ Association and registered it with the Department of Labor and Employment. The DA Regional Field Office 3 (3) in Central Luzon is also looking into the possibility of putting up a nursery for vegetables in the Upland Palayamanan FFS site.
Establishing a nursery for vegetables prevents seedling stress as the farmers need not transport the seedlings from RFO 3 to their fields.
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) based in Los Baños, Laguna, has been working to boosting the productivity of upland farmers in association with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, a German development agency, and pioneered the concept of ridge-to-reef development in Mindanao and the Visayas.
Searca Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said upland agriculture will be a significant topic in the 2014 International Conference on Agricultural and Rural Development to be held at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on November 12 and 13.
Saguiguit said GIZ will present a paper on the issue of upland farming and noted that in August 2014, the agency released the paper “Upland Agriculture in the Philippines: Potential and Challenges” authored by Dominik Fortenbacher and journalist Kristine Alave that argued for sustainable agriculture in areas 500 meters and higher.
Upland agriculture has been regarded as a fitting response to increasing carbon dioxide emissions since the latest studies have shown that crops grown in the uplands and in irrigated areas actually sequester 17 percent more carbon than previously reported.
The study conducted in the US showed that crops tend to grow bigger when the atmosphere has high carbon dioxide levels since they become more efficient in the photsynthesis process and keep the oxygen as fertilizer.
However, farming in the uplands should be revolutionized to prevent soil erosion, stop water contamination and implement methods that nurture the natural fertility of the soil, with intercropping, multi-storey and alley cropping systems considered the most appropriate.
Multi-story and alley cropping systems involve the planting of coconut or mango trees or light-demanding trees as the nupper canopy, with shade-demanding cash crops cultivated underneath.