PCARRD Features SU’s Conservation Farming Project

PCARRD Features SU’s Conservation Farming Project

A project of Silliman University on conservation farming is featured in the recent issue of the Monitor, the quarterly newsletter of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).

The project was run with the municipal government of La Libertad. Coordinating it for Silliman was Prof. Santiago B. Utzurrum, Jr., Director for Off-Campus Property Development and Farm Operations.

Below is the article lifted from the Monitor


La Libertad, Negros Oriental CFV: Conserving land, increasing productivity

Home to business processing outsourcing and other technologyrelated corporations, Negros Oriental is now a promising technological center in the Visayas. Behind the urban development lies the fact that agriculture and fisheries are still its major industries. Its main agricultural crops are coconut, sugarcane, rice, and corn. Being a coastal area, a big part of its population gets their income from fishing. A number of people are also involved in  cattle raising, logging, and fishpond production as well. The province's land is also rich in mineral deposits such as copper, silver, and gold.

Yet, even with the available sources of income, the province is still faced with a huge problem in agriculture – problems on soil degradation and erosion. With these issues and with agriculture being its major industry, Negros Oriental has to manage its vast land.

An answer to conserving sloping farmlands

Soil erosion causing land degradation makes farmlands less productive and affects food availability in marginal upland areas where poverty incidence is high. The PCARRD-coordinated National Program for Sustainable Upland Farming through the Establishment of Barangay 'Sagip Saka' – Conservation Farming Villages (CFVs) helps upland farming communities improve their economic condition. The program strengthens their capacities to manage their natural resources. Conservation upland farming helps farmers gain and apply knowledge and techniques on conserving topsoil, improving soil fertility, and properly selecting the crops that will enhance productivity.

Nasunggan, Aya, Elecia, and Pitogo are some of the upland barangays of La Libertad. More than 70% of the land area in these barangays has slopes ranging from 18-50% and some of the areas are classified as alienable and disposable land. Population is also increasing due to ballooning upland migration thus, resulting in conversion of forestland to settlements, extensive deforestation, and degradation. These situations worsen the soil erosion problem causing nurrient depletion.

Silliman University, through PCARRD and the local government unit (LCU) of La Libertad, submitted a proposal on conservation farming to the National Economic and Development Authority's (NEDA) Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP). Upon approval, Silliman University and La Libertad implemented the Barangay SagipSaka project to educate farmers on soil erosion and the benefits of conservation farming. The project is being implemented in the barangays of La Libertad.

Learning and understanding the concept of Barangay Sagip-Saka

The Barangay Sagip-Saka project, through the implementation of best upland farming practices, intends to increase agricultural productivity. It uses the CFV modality to improve the transfer of conservation farming technologies and upland farming practices to the farmers. In addition, CFV works to protect and better manage natural resources. It empowers farmers to become the vanguards of sloping land resources by providing them with skills and knowledge in food and fiber production and resource management; taps the active leadership and participation of the LCUs (municipal and barangay) in carrying out barangay activities such as extension work, community organizing, and facilitating market linkages and other support services; and provides technical expertise and guidance from a nearby state university or college. It helps sustain food production as well.

The program adopted the community-based participatory approach to technology selection, promotion and utilization, and will capacitate farmer-volunteers as effective local extension/change agents. Such strategies would ensure sustainability in promoting upland farming technologies and approaches, and strengthen the “multiplier effect” of existing technology distribution processes at the local level. To help the partner-stakeholders familiarize themselves with the modality, a series of project orientation on 'Sagip-Saka' Program was held in the barangay. The project orientations were organized and facilitated together with barangay officials and key leaders, and the Barangay Environment and Natutal Resoutce Organizations (BENROs).

Technical trainings on conservation farming technologies were also conducted. Technical trainings included modules on contour farming, multi-storey cropping, bench terracing, minimum tillage, composting, and nutrient recycling and crop rotation.

Project accomplishments

The Model farms established with soil and water conservation measures equipped farmers on how to prevent soil erosion and loss of water and soil nutrients; and increase farm productivity in the locality. A total of 100 farmers, tilling a total land area of 29.5 ha, participated in the project. These areas were planted with hedgerow species such as Flemingia, Renzoii, Centrosema, Indigofera, and stylo along contours.

The project also distributed 1,000 bags of organic fertilizer among the farmers in the four project sites. High value vegetable seeds such as eggplant, tomato, 'sili', watermelon, carrot, 'ampalaya', sweet corn, and upland 'kangkong' were distributed. Moreover, Robusta coffee plantations were established in the project sites. Organic composting facilities were also acquired from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit 7 for one of the barangays.

These accomplishments do not only translate to environmental benefits, but economic augmentations to the farmers as well.

Working towards one goal

By harmonizing all efforts from concerned institutions and individuals, one project goes a long way. With all these efforts from the stakeholders – Silliman University, the La Libertad LGU, the barangay leaders and representatives, NEDA, and PCARRD – the Barangay 'Sagip-Saka' project created a positive impact. The project showed that there are benefits to reap from conservation farming, not only for the participating barangays but to Negros Oriental as well. (April B. Nombrefia)