I HAVEN’T met anyone who would be happy to touch animal manure—more so, roll it over their hands. I could not imagine doing such a thing in my daily routine, until I became part of Haribon Foundation’s training unit, and met farmers in our partner site. They constantly collect dirty discharge of goats and cows, and it was a big surprise how the community discovered making money out of this.
Organic composting is a process by which farmers use available organic materials such as leaves, crop residues and animal manure to create a mixture that will be used as fertilizer. You can pile all the components in a bin or cast them on the ground. With many ways of doing it, even beginners can try this practice.
However, the best quality of compost can be achieved when you follow scientific measurements and perfect combinations of the resources. That’s why Haribon Foundation re-introduced organic composting or Sustainable Agriculture practices in 2009 to its partners, People Organizations (PO) in Zambales, Quezon Province, Pangasinan and Surigao Del Sur. The organization conducted the first hands-on training on the said technologies. Haribon also organized an educational exposure trip to a successful organic farming model in Camarines Sur, Bicol for the partner POs.
Going back to basics ain’t easy. Other farmers who use chemical fertilizers think it’s crazy for organic farmers to collect animal manure and keep it for almost two months. Fortunately, organic farmers are patient to try the technologies in sustainable agriculture despite the hard labor it entails. Roughly two years after they first tried the procedure, they are now counting the fruits of labor. Reduction in their external inputs in the farm (fertilizer), less cost and more yield means greater income for the farmer. It also benefits their health because they are no longer exposed to harmful chemical.
Closely related to sustainable agriculture is the System of Rice Intensification or SRI. It originated in Madagascar and developed by Fr. Henri Laulanie with his colleagues in the 1980s. SRI was initially promoted by SRI-Pilipinas. This kind of farming involves changes in soil nourishment, plant management, and water requirement and composting.
This technology was adopted by Kuya Matie (Matias Sabedoria) in Gatuan, Gen. Nakar, Quezon. He said it wasn’t hard to monitor SRI especially with the help of organic compost. At first, other farmers in his village were skeptic; they called him silly because aside from carefully planting single seedlings on his rice field, he also collects manure.
Eventually, Kuya Matie observed that through SRI, plants produce more tillers that cause higher yields. He said that in just one month, you could see the benefits, such as plants developing greater resilience during flood. SRI needs fewer seedlings, requires less effort and time but gives more benefits. Other farmers need to invest higher costs for fertilizers, which put them in debt.
SRI does not use chemical inputs thus reducing methane emissions. It saves water because it does not require overflowing water in the plot; a moist soil texture is sufficient. When forest-dependent families engage in sustainable and environment-friendly livelihood instead of logging, kaingin and wildlife hunting, biodiversity conservation is not far from reality. In addressing the deterioration of our environment, all efforts are significant – just like Kuya Matie, you can begin by composting.