Capas, Tarlac: The Philippine Army Mechanical Division in Camp O’ Donnell here on Monday hosted a festival that showcased its second harvest of organic vegetables from its “Hardin ng Lunas,” a self- sustaining livelihood program sponsored by the Tarlac Heritage Foundation (THF).
Prices of organic vegetables were sold at literally farmgate levels with pechay, tomatoes, eggplant and mustasa fetching P25 a kilo; sweet pearl corn at P10 a piece; upo measuring two to three feet at P20 a kilo; siling labuyo at P130 a kilo (but a whole big plastic bagful) and organic watermelon at P60 a piece.
Now the favorite pastime of 1,500 soldiers, the eight-hectare farm has fruit bearing trees, two large fishponds of tilapia, herbs like oregano, pansit-pansitan, basil and more.
The first crop was harvested in October and Camp Commander Maj. Gen Nicanor Dolojan of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it brought the camp an additional income of more than P30,000.
The open field is watered by an innovative drip irrigation system, which uses empty beverage bottles filled to the brim and then punctured with little holes to control the amount of water released to the soil. The bottles are kept slightly tilted.
The irrigation water comes from nearby fishponds and is rich in nutrients from the waste discharges of tilapia.
The farm utilizes no chemical fertilizer and pesticides but relies mainly on decomposed farm wastes and plants that repel insects and pests. The seeds are supplied by East West Seeds in partnership with the THF Director Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay (a dermatologist by profession).
The troops also breed and propagate large flocks of sheep and goats and some cows and carabaos that roam the sprawling grounds.
The harvest festival was actually a pre-retirement treat for Dolojan, who will quit his post on February 13, said Suntay.
Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., commander of the Northern Luzon Command, said the “Hardin ng Lunas” will be implemented in all the camps of Luzon “as our contribution to mitigating climate change, helping the soldiers and the communities around us eat right and to promoting economic stability side by side with the peacekeeping efforts of the AFP.”
Suntay said the idea of the Hardin was thrust upon the camp after the devastation caused by Typhoon Santi, which leveled most of the hardwood and fruit-bearing trees inside the camp.