FILIPINO farmers from 14 provinces have undergone training on organic plant and vegetable production that will help boost the competitiveness of the country’s agriculture sector and address food security.
“The growing population and the economic integration in Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] present opportunities for the Filipino farming sector. How agriculture products are grown will have an impact on the ordinary Filipinos’ health and on the competitiveness of the local farmers in entering new markets,” Yuko Tanaka, senior representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said in a statement on Monday.
The training, which was conducted by JICA, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Japanese non-profit group Japan Agricultural Exchange Council (JAEC), is a three-year technical cooperation initiative that began in 2013. It covered the dissemination of technology from Japan where organic inputs substitute the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides in farming.
The Philippine population currently stands at 100 million, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) August 2015 data. The Asean economic integration creates opportunities for farmers in the region to also supply new and larger markets, and address changing food preferences for organic food products.
“Our goal is to uplift the lives of the farmers by introducing them to technologies that will give them options for safe vegetable farming at the same time help improve their income,” said JAEC Executive Director Ryoji Sakamoto.
The project introduced local farmers to the use of organic materials such as mokusaku (wood vinegar), charcoal and compost, which can help produce vegetables and fruits that have no chemical residues. The use of the materials can also help improve soil health.
The project also trained 800 extension workers and 400 personnel from the DA. To further build up on its gains, the second phase of the project, which will be focused on marketing technology and improving vegetable grading and packing system on-farm, will commence this December.
Since 2007, JICA and JAEC have worked with the DA in promoting soil improvement and safe vegetable production to local farmers. Through past projects, JAEC has also sent 500 young Filipino farmers to train in organic farming in Japan.
Besides capacity building, JICA has been supporting the Philippine agriculture sector since the 1960s through the provision of official development assistance (ODA) for building farm roads, promoting market access for farmers’ goods, credit financing and sharing Japanese knowledge with agrarian reform communities.
JICA is Japan’s comprehensive development institution that handles technical cooperation, ODA loans and investment, and grant aid, as well as cooperation volunteers and disaster relief programs.