Last August 13, 2008, I happened to be invited through our office by the Security and Escort Battalio, HHSG, PA at Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila.  The intention is to lecture on proper use of fertilizer and  procedures on Agricultural Production and train some of their personnel to carry out the said endeavor.  It’s always a good opportunity for us working at the Department of Agriculture (DA) because through this kind of activity, we can continuously educate people on other field of discipline at the same time promote the DA program.

I prepared a lecture on Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) believing that INM is a wholistic approach that they can use in Agricultural Prodeuction.  INM is a means of utilizing all the available fertilizer source inside and outside of the farm at the same time integrating available technologies. I started my lecture with the objectives of INM: I emphasized  to them that with INM, we can sustainably manage our farm land; maintain the quality of the soil (physical, biological and chemical properties); promote a low cost management; and use envornmental friendly technologies.

In the use of INM, there are things to be considered:

  • Technical applicability – that means asking ourselves whether we can just use manure or organic pertilizer?  Can we avoid the use of inorganic fertilizer? Or do we need a combination?  Will the nutrients from organic fertilizer be enough to sustain the needs of the plant and attain the yield we target?
  • Economic returns –  among the many available means of producing good crop, which is the most economical and affordable to the farmer, at the same time good for the environment as a whole not only for the soil.
  • Practical fesibility – if ever the farmer decided to use a technology, say for example, organic fertilizer, do they have the capability to mix 10T of organic fertilizer or can they source out this volume in the farm or will enough labor force be available?
  • Social acceptability – it’s always good to check on the social acceptability of the technology.  We need to look at the effect on the enviroment (water, soil and air).

I went to explain to them that if ever they are decided to use the INM as technology, it’s always good to start to know whether the soil has enough nutrients to support plant growth or do they need to apply additional input, if ever what to apply and by how much.   There are means to do that:

  • Soil Analysis – this is done by simply taking soil samples and analysing it. It will give us the indication of the sufficiency and deficiency of a particular element, and what need to apply and by how much.
  • Plant Tissue Analysis – this method complements the soil tissue analysis, instead of getting soil sample part of the plant is the one being analyse.  With proper procedure, plant tissue analysis could give a good indication of nutrient sufficiency and deficiency.
  • Field Experiment or Biological Test – setting up a simple experiment, for example what  volume of crop residues can significantly increase yield; what combination of inorganic fertilizer; time of application and so on.  This is always a good practice to do before adoption of any technology.  We can start with small lot in the farm, then test the technology if it will work or not.  Say the use of earthworm cast.  We can apply this in a portion of the farm and then compare the effect on those without application.  Farmer will have a first hand experience and at the same time familiarize themselves on the technology.
  • Visual Diagnosis of Observing Difficiency Symptoms – this is done by daily observation of the crop stand, observing the plant of color abnormality or appearance like yellowing (defficent in nitrogen) , purpose color (defficent in phosphorus, scorching (defficient in K), stunted growth (N), curling of the leaves (Ca) , white strips (Mg) and others.  By careful observation of deviation from the normal plant will give an indication of what particular element is defficient. There are some difficulty regarding the method because defficiency could be a combination of particular element. Further, defficiency could appear at the late stage and providing the necessary measure is a bit late.

Aside from what mentioned above, defficency of particular element can be assessed through general soil fertility evaluation.  This can be done by answering questions such as: time of fertilizer application; is there enough moisture when fertilizers were applied; right kind of fertilizers were applied; right amount of fertilizers were applied; were fertilizers thoroughly mixed to the soil; used balanced fertilization; organic fertilizers were used and so on.

Then I provided them some options of managing the natural resources such as: recycling; nutrient budgetting; use of organic fertilizers (i.e. compost; liquid manures); use of crop rotation; use of conservation tillage; use of cover crop and proper intercropping; good cropping pattern; use of leguminous crop in the cropping pattern and others.

I also discussed several means in maintaining the fertility of the soil and minimize depletion at the same time maintaining the good soil quality: planting crops that are suitable to the inherent characteristics of the soil; minor alteration of the soil inerent fertility level through the use of organic fertilizer; and use of balanced fertilization.

I also mentioned a little on soil erosion and many other things which I will discuss in details in my next writting.

A cover crop can be sown between cropping operations or as a companion crop during the early stages of crop development. An example of a cover crop system used in the Philippines is sowing mungbean with maize. The mungbean are either sowed at the same time with maize as intercrop or as relay cropping or a crop after maize (crop rotation). There is however some difficulties in the use of cover crops. One is competition for soil moisture and sunlight with the cash crop.

Maintaining ground cover either as an intercrop, relay, or crop in rotation is critical in reducing the effects of raindrop impact and soil aggregate disintegration. Ground cover prevents raindrops from directly striking the soil surface and allows rainfall to slowly penetrate the soil surface. Thus, reducing the amount of rainfall that goes to runoff and make more water available for plant growth.

There are a number of options to maintain vegetation or cover during and between cropping operations. One is stubble’s retention; retaining surface stubble provides ground cover and organic matter during fallow periods and successive crops. Advantages of stubble include no competition with the crop in terms of moisture and reduced herbicide use. However, there could be some difficulties in sowing seeds directly to the crop stubble’s specially ion thick-stubbles. These difficulties with tillage and sowing through the stubble may be overcome by finely chopping the stubble before sowing and modifying direct drilling equipment.

As a Conservation man working on Soil Fertility maintainance and rehabilatation, we want to share our new experience in terms of cover crop.  Right now through the JIRCAS Project, we are working on Conservation tillage (Minimum  or Zero Tillage) in Ilagan, Isabela.  We are trying to validate the effects of conservation tillage and  conventional tillage (intensive plowing and harrowing) in sloping areas planted to corn.  We are also testing cover crops that will not only protect the soil from the effect of heavy rainfall but at the same time will produce enough biomass that can be used as mulch and later on will decompose and add organic matter to the soil.

In this project, initially, we tried mungbean as inter crop to corn.  We intend to use this as soil cover during the time that corn as the main crop is not growing in the field.  Mostly, this time is during the turn over period after harvest of the May to September crop and before the start of October to February crop.  We want that because after corn harvest in September, it leaves the soil bare and prune to erosion because during the month of September and October,  we always experience heavy down pour.

Results of our work suggest that mungbean is a good crop that can add income to the farmer as it can produce pods and a very good source of protein.  However, as cover crop, it cannot serve our purpose of protecting the soil during the turnover period.  It has very short life cycle and usually harvested earlier than the main crop.

Realizing that mungbean will not serve the purpose, we tried pigeon pea.  In the very first cropping that we have, we noticed that pigeon pea is a good dry land crop.  We planted pigeon pea in the farmers field during the month of February and it survived even without watering (February, March and April are dry months in Ilagan, Isabela) until the month of May, where we experienced the first rain.  Pigeon pea can produce heavy biomass that can be used as mulch and add soil organic matter.  During the the first two months of corn, pigeon pea should be pruned twice a month or else it will out grow the corn.  Then, even if you cut the pigeon pea on the first node of branching, it recovers very past.  It has also very good root system.  Root development can extend as much as 70 cm deep even if the plant is maintained by cutting at about knee high.  The deep root penetration is very important in recycling nutrient from the deep horizon back to the surface.

When we harvested the corn, and allow pigeon pea to re-grow, it continuously bear flower and initiate podding.  This is very good for the farmers.  Since pigeon pea is producing so much biomass, mulch to protect the soil is ensured.  Weed growth is also suppressed. Additionally, because pigeon pea is producing heavy biomass, increase in soil organic matter content is remarkable.

Pigeon pea is also a good feed for the livestock.  In one of our site (SWMS), they are growing goat, and these animals love to eat pruned leaves of pigeon pea.  Care takers of these animals are now inquiring us where can they source pigeon pea seeds.  If possible, they want to try growing pigeon pea and feed the leaves on their livestock.  Farmers in the vicinity of our project in San Antonio, Ilagan, Isabela are beginning to notice the beauty of pigeon pea.  In fact, they are now starting to ask how can they source seeds and plant in the area.

We have just started using pigeon pea as cover crop, initial results are very promising.  We will continue to work on it…

Pigeon pea used as cover crop (JIRCAS-BSWM Project; Ilagan, Isabela; 2008)

Pigeon pea used as cover crop (JIRCAS-BSWM Project; Ilagan, Isabela; 2008)

Workshop on Farmland Development and Management

China-ASEAN Agricultural Cooperation

August 15 – 28, 2007

Agri-business Management Institute, Ministry of Agriculture

Beijing, Peoples Republic of China

The workshop was held at Agri-business Management Institute, Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in Beijing, Peoples Republic of China from August 15 – 28, 2007. The workshop is a component activity of China-ASEAN Agricultural Cooperation. It was undertaken because China-ASEAN Agricultural Cooperation realized the most ASEAN countries has common problem: lack of effective measure on development, protection and management of farmland; lower level of agricultural technology; incomplete irrigation and water facilities; the increase in production relies on the increase of area of cultivated land. In addition, serious threat to food security and sustainable agriculture development are common that includes decrease of organic elements in the soil; degradation of land fertility; deterioration of land arability; shallower top soil and increased proportion of low-yielding farm land are common to the ASEAN countries.

The workshop aims to introduce policies, practices and advanced technologies in farmland fertilizer, transformation of low yield farmland and irrigation in China to ASEAN member countries; build a platform for cooperation between the enterprises of China and ASEAN member countries in the field of arable land development and management; and push forward the implementation of “go abroad strategy”.

Nineteen participants coming from 7 ASEAN countries participated in the workshop. In the workshop proper, the undersigned presented country paper focusing on the Philippines experiences in the management and development of marginal farmland. The presentation focused on the technologies being used in the Philippines in the management of highland, hilly land and upland marginal areas. The technologies are grouped under the following category: Soil Conservation; Soil Fertility; Water Resources and Pest Management. Other participants presented as well their country papers. The presentations were followed by discussion and interactions among participants with inputs from the organizing committee. The activity was followed by lectures and presentations on the following topics:

  1. Arable land protection in China
  2. Agricultural Development in China
  3. Agricultural Administration in China
  4. Plant Nutrition management
  5. Water Resources and Use
  6. Soil Quality Assessment

Several field tours were done during the workshop, visiting various farms (Xiang tang village, Xiangtanshan Farm and Tianjin). The participants were also exposed to the culture and Chinas heritage by visiting the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

For more info: Call: Dr. Gavino Isagani P. Urriza At: (02) 923-04-59 Or email us a gurriza258@yahoo.com or visit us at: conservationist.wordpress.com

Factors in the Adoption and Non-adoption of Soil and Water Conservation Practices

I was fortunate to be part of the group invited by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to provide training on “Sustainable Farming Methodologies in Marginal Soils”. Two hundred Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs), Development Facilitator, Agricultural Productivity Technologists, Municipal Planning and Development Officers, Municipal Agrarian Officers and Technical Staff of DAR’s Regional and Provincial Offices successfully completed the said training program. The training program has technical assistance from the Government of Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), under its In-Country Training Program (ICTP). The training program was conducted in eight strategic locations near the target agrarian reform communities (Ormoc City; Valencia Bukidnon; Santiago, Isabela; Caoayan, Ilocos Sur; Palauig, Zambales; Monkayo, Compostela Valley; Tinambac, Camarines Sur; and Altavas, Aklan). The training was done to strengthen the capability of the ARB’s, cooperatives and implementers in the ARCs. Knowledge was imparted through a 5-day lecture-demonstration, hands-on, farm visits and farm planning.

In this training, we shared them various soil and water conservation (SWC) technologies for sloping marginal areas. During the said trainings, I was able to interview, at random, the farmer-participants about adoption of technologies. I asked them the reasons why farmers like them adopt and sometimes reject the SWC technologies. Farmers from the ARBs provided me different answers; however, it is clear that farmers used different criteria to assess whether they will adopt a particular technology.

Farmers adopt or reject a technology depending on the perceived change in income flows following the adoption. Farmers looked at technology in the point of improving their income. If they perceive increase in income, they will adopt the technology. This is the reason why those technologies that improved the soil quality like mulching/cover crop, reduced tillage and proper crop rotation are becoming very popular now-a-days. These technologies improve soil qualities, whereas, hedgerows that trap the soil has been introduced for a long time but the adoption is very low. Farmers have seen that the in-situ soil quality is not improving only the strips near the hedgerows.

Another factor they consider is the risk in production. Farmer has always that fear of losing especially if the technology proved ineffective. The more affluent family can afford the risk embedded in the adoption of new technology; however, this is not true for the small landholders. For example, when we are working in the prawn ponds of Negros back in the late 80’s, that time, prawn farming is in the infancy stage and a lot of practices is in the “trial and error process”. Pond owners in Negros are very open on new technologies about prawn farming coming in the area. They can afford that, not to mention, most of them belonged in the affluent group. This attitude, however, is not true for small farmers because they cannot afford the risk of losing, it will be very difficult for them to recover.

Attitude is another factor in the adoption of technology. When I say attitude, it is influenced by farmer’s education, experiences, volume of his production, exposure to change or level of awareness to the new technology, his association with other farmers, his success and failure in the past technologies introduced or shared to them. Educated farmers have the capacity to examine the big picture and his decision depends a lot in that analysis and experiences. His level of awareness matters. Those that have attended seminars and training are more aware and have the high probability of adopting certain technology.

Economic status affects the level of adoption. It includes availability of the land, compatibility of the technology in the system, availability of labor, capital, credit and other inputs. It relates to the available resources of the farmer that can be tapped in the adoption of the technology. Compatibility and economic status relate to the cost of the technology. For example, natural vegetative strips or grasses as hedgerows have high adoption because it is not expensive and easy to grow. Grasses are naturally growing in the field and are compatible with other farming system such as livestock. It can serve as fodder for livestock, thus making it compatible for the system, whereas, other hedgerows such as the gliricidia (madre de cacao) and the leucocephala (ipil-ipil) require more labor force in planting. Technologies or practices that will require high input or capital are usually not attractive to the farmers for adoption.

Knowledge of the technology in the area and its attraction to other farmers also influenced adoption of the SWC technologies. When somebody is familiar in the technology, say other farmers, chances are it will be adopted by other farmers because the transfer of technology from “farmer to farmer” is very efficient. This is the reason why farmer leaders or trainors are good agent of change in sharing technologies.

Among the factors that contribute to adoption or rejection of technologies, the level of farmer awareness is the most critical. If we want to increase adoption of the technologies being shared, we need to empower the farmers through training and seminar. We need to make them aware. Encourage them to attend seminar or increase the attendance in related undertakings. We need to persuade them to form group or association because those in the association are usually the most aware. In the association the transfer of technology is facilitated. Simplicity of the technology should also be looked into. Farmers are very busy and they do not have much time to study complex technology. In addition, simple technology usually costs less.

 

 

For more info: Call: Dr. Gavino Isagani P. Urriza At: 02) 923-04-59 Or email us a gurriza258@yahoo.com or visit us at: conservationist.wordpress.com

 

Essential Steps in the Natural Resource Management

The Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) -Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) collaborative Project entitled “Environmental Productivity Management of Marginal Lands in the Philippines (EPMMA) has taught us so many lessons and knowledge during its implementation from Year 2000 -2005. In that EPMMA Project, I started as a member of the Soil Conservation Management Core Group but later became the Chairman of the Core Group as the late Dr. Jose D. Rondal assumed the Project Manager post. Con-current to my position as Chairman of the Soil Conservation Core Group, I am also a member of the Techno-demo site in Intavas, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.

Looking back to the implementation of the EPMMA Project, it is worth sharing some of lessons/knowledge gained during its implementation especially on natural resource management. The points I shared here are probably not all applicable in all watershed settings, but in general, these are essential steps worth considering by anybody working in the area of resource management. Except for the first step, which I think should be done first and should continue in all stages of the project phases, all others can be done parallel with each other or in random order.

Resource management should be a collective effort of the community. Community should initiate the resource management in every part of the micro-watershed or even at the macro-watershed level. First step should be community empowerment. When I say empowerment, it means authorizing the community, making them able to manage their own resources and allowing them to do the appropriate management. It means educating the community or the stakeholders and making them aware that it is their duty to responsibly manage their natural resources. Stakeholders should realize they are stewards of the natural resources. When I say stewards, again I mean that communities are managers not owners.

Community should understand that natural resources entrusted to them are the food base for production. For it to continue producing it should be sustainably manage and unless the community are able, they cannot do the appropriate management. Community should bear in their mind that natural resources are part of the global support system and everything is connected to everything else. It means whatever they do, it will affect other system. Example of that is the “slash and burn” practice, it exposes the bare soil to the impact of raindrops thus resulting to rain-splash erosion. The sediments then will travel down to the slope until it reaches the aquatic ecosystem and affecting the aquatic organisms, especially the sedentary types. It is our right to use the natural resources but it is also our duty to protect and conserve it or making it sustainable.

Responsible natural resource management should consider promoting sustainable farming practices. We need to respect the indigenous knowledge. As managers, we need to know what they have and then try to build on them. We need to build a partnership among farmers, stakeholders and the whole of the community. We need to capitalize on the things that they already have and then try to improve. Introducing new technologies will need more considerations, like the niche, or the functional make up of every organism. When we start with what the community already has, very high possibility that the technology will work. It will also mean acceptance by the community because it is their own. From there, we could start modifying and improving and making it more sustainable.

We need to prioritize conservation of sensitive ecosystems. This is one priority that we need to do, identify the sensitive ecosystem and conserve by protecting them. In the identification, we can start by listing the ecosystem important in the livelihood of the community, then consider the biological diversity and uniqueness, finally consider the ecosystem contribution to the life-support chain and local culture. Ecosystem that will encompasses the above three criteria or consideration will be the priority ecosystems. Then we start conserving and protecting them. Conservation means less disturbance of the system or little disturbance of the system. If ever, we have to do something on the ecosystem, use sustainable practices. For example in sloping or hilly land, we can use minimum tillage or no-tillage at all. We can employ mulching, live ground cover or proper crop rotation ensuring that the fragile slope is always covered especially during the rainy season. For steep slope, more than 18%, if possible it should be allocated for forest trees and no-cultivation.

We need to enhance the regenerative capacity of the natural resources. Long fallow period is advisable, that is when population is still low, the “kaingin system” or ‘the slash and burn” is sustainable because farmers can afford a long fallow period. But now, long fallow is impossible, making the “kaining” system not a good alternative. There is not enough time to regenerate the natural ecosystem. There are many ways to enhance the regenerative capacity of the ecosystem, like the use of composting or recycling- making the micro-nutrients lost during intensive cropping available to the plants. Additions of organic matter either as green manure or livestock waste also promote regeneration of the system. Proper crop rotation (e.g. planting the shallow rooted crop followed by the deep rooted crop, or light feeder crops after the heavy feeder crops) helps the regenerative capacity of the soil ecosystem. First, it is important to identify the ecosystem, determine how fragile it is or how fast the system will succumb to intensive use. It is always good to look at the source or cause of ecosystem degeneration and start from there.

In the natural resource management, another key step for sound management is to promote gender equity participation. Women have always role to play. They can be involved in the “farm journal” preparation that is listing the input-output in the farming business. They can participate in the greenhouse activity like potting, sowing of seed, watering the plants and other. But most important, they can contribute in the decision making. For example, in the adoption of technologies, in forming a matrix ranking or pair-wise comparison, to identify priorities, they can share ideas. The role of women, in the natural resource management is one neglected step during the early years. In other countries, they already realized that women are good borrower; they always returned the capital borrowed thus sharing and enjoying more benefits in the process.

The participation of the minority should be tapped. This should always be a priority of all manager, we should understand that even the minority are part of the system. All part of the system should be involved. They should be a component in the decision making. Their voice should be heard, they have experiences to share. The indigenous knowledge can form part of the practices that can be put-in-place.

Finally, networking and linkages is very important. As the saying goes, “no man is island”. Either it’s a “top-down” or “bottom-up” approach, linkages and networking is a must. Sharing of information, the positive, the negative, everything. Linkages will be the key to respond immediately to the needs. Support agencies, NGO and Universities are key factor in resource management. Through linkages they can be tapped. Sound networking is sound resource management.

For more info: Call: Dr. Gavino Isagani P. Urriza At: (02) 923-04-59 Or email us a gurriza258@yahoo.com or visit us at: conservationist.wordpress.com

 

Potential of Conservation Agriculture in the Sloping Lands of Tanay, Rizal, Philippines

Last May 4, 2007, I was invited by Dr. Edna Samar of the Bureau of Soils and Water management Tanay Hilly land Station to talk about Conservation Agriculture (CA). In attendance are the hilly land farmers from Tanay and personnel from the local government Unit (LGU) of Tanay, Rizal. From my initial discussion with Dr. Samar, I learned that this will be the first time that Tanay farmers will be hearing something about CA, so I prepared an overview on CA. I intentionally avoided touching CA practices currently being used by the different countries. I focused on the three basic principles of CA as provided by the Food Agricultural Organization (FAO). The following is my presentation on this training-seminar.

I started with the key global issues Filipino people are facing. Demand for food is increasing, the land available is shrinking, but most of all, most of the productivity techno-how are already being utilized—improved varieties, fertilizer, and water. We expect that in the very near future, competition for water resources (surface and groundwater) will be more severe, Fossil fuels will be more costly and greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide will increase.

Farming faces a double challenge: increase production to meet food security needs as population growth continue to increase and preserve natural resources simultaneously by minimizing negative environmental effects and provide income to employ in agricultural production. There are means available such as the use of conventional or traditional tillage.

There are various reasons why farmers use tillage. To manage crop residues, prepare seedbed, loosen the soil for good aeration and enhanced decomposition and release of available nutrients from soil organic matter. Control of soil borne diseases and pests, and provide compaction relief (temporary) and for aesthetic.

But is tillage really necessary? If we look around, we can see something that will begin us to doubt the necessity of tillage. In fact, nature shows that plant growth is possible without any soil tillage (as in forest, grassland and shrub land). There is scientific evidence that water infiltration is highest on undisturbed soils under permanent soil cover (as in the wood land). Experiments have shown that soil tillage causes physical degradation of soil structure (destruction of soil aggregate leading to compaction and less water infiltration).

If tillage is not necessary, why did people till at all? There are quite a number of reasons why farmers till the land: to place the seeds into the soil and control weeds on a larger scale; tillage produced warming and aeration of the soil; caused mineralization and release of nutrients from soil organic matter. These are valid reasons, however, if we look at tillage detrimental effects on the environment and farmers such as the money it costs (fuel, repair, and cost of the operator, if animals are used, the costs of feeding and caring for the animals); global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of the diesel fuel; decline in the amount of soil organic matter; disruption of the pores left by roots and microbial activity; breakdown of soil aggregates ( clogging of soil pores, reduced infiltration of water, runoff, soil erosion, soil crusts and forms a barrier to plant emergence). Tillage promotes water and wind erosion and even soil compaction; reduced capacity of the soil to regulate water and nutrient supplies to plants. Promote the loss of valuable plant nutrients and reduced biodiversity. There are many reasons that will lead us to believe that tillage is not necessary.

If tillage is not necessary, there must be an alternative to use to address the very reason why farmers till the soil. One possible solution is conservation agriculture (CA). According to FAO the aims of Conservation CA are: To conserve, improve and make more efficient use of natural resources through integrated management of available soil, water and biological resources combined with external inputs; preserve and improve the soil and the life associated with it; and minimize the negative effects of intensive farming.

From the definition provided by FAO, CA has three basic principles. 1. Maintaining a permanent or semi-permanent organic soil cover. This is done by growing crop or a dead mulch to protect the soil physically from sun, rain and wind and to feed soil biota 2. Reduce or eliminate of soil tillage. This can be accomplished by adopting the zero or minimum tillage and direct seeding. The soil micro-organisms and soil fauna take over the tillage function and soil nutrient balancing 3. Through varied crop rotation. Through proper crop rotation, we can avoid diseases and pest problems; and livestock production can be integrated and make use of the recyclable nutrients.

Conservation Agriculture has several benefits. CA reduces production cost by reducing the tillage work, particularly the costs of fuel, less application of herbicides. Planting can be accomplished in one pass of the seed drill. CA ha positive effects on the environment because the practice favors the capture of carbon in the soil due to the increase of organic material in its content and less use of diesel fuel and thus lower carbon dioxide emissions. CA boosts yields and incomes. Yields increased by an average of 79 per cent and harvests of crops such as maize, potatoes and beans doubled. CA has less reliance on costly pesticides (less damage to the environment) and demands less water. Yields are higher with no-till because of timelier planting and better stands.

CA improves soil quality. This can be observed in the improvement of the physical and chemical properties of the soil, enhancement in the stability of the surface soil aggregates, and increased activity of the worm population. The mulch helps promote more stable soil aggregates as a result of increased microbial activity and better protection of the soil surface. There is more biotic diversity in the soil as a result of the mulch and less disturbance. Surface mulch moderates soil temperatures and moisture, which is more favorable for microbial activity. In addition, gradual decomposition of surface residues improves soil organic matter status, biological activity and diversity. In addition, CA improves fertilizer efficiency

CA can be applied in all farm types and in all farming environments. Apart from the benefits mentioned above, CA holds tremendous potential for all sizes of farms and agro-ecological systems. The degree of success on individual farms depends on the individual situation of each farmer, including specific environmental and economic conditions.

For more info: Call: Dr. Gavino Isagani P. Urriza At: (02) 923-04-59 Or email us a gurriza258@yahoo.com or visit us at: conservationist.wordpress.com

 

 

Empowerment of the Community: Key to Project Sustainability

Most of the things I put here are personal opinions based on my experiences while conducting the Community-Based Watershed Project in Talibon, Bohol. As part of the big BSWM group working in the watershed project, I tried to collect the lesson learned and summarized those things gained during the conduct of the project with the intention of sharing the lessons to other doing the same kind of work.

To start with, I want to give a brief background that upland degradation by rapid deforestation and agricultural expansion had become a critical environmental concern in the Philippines. Rapid deforestation and agricultural expansion practices contributed to the ailing problem of soil degradation resulting to soil erosion, low yield and income reduction. The problem rooted from traditional method of cultivating the land without the provision of conservation practices. These happen, primarily, because of the lack of awareness or the lack of knowledge of the developed technologies that can be used. On this premise, concerned agencies fully realized urgent measures should be done to address the issue and a community-based watershed management approach is a key to prevent further ecological imbalance.

Looking back, it is very easy to see that several measures has been done already to address the problem, like for example, various thematic maps (topography, slope, land use, etc.,) are already available to the various stakeholders, information education materials (IEC) were already distributed and several farmers trainings were already conducted.

But quite clearly, there is a pressing need to increase farmer awareness on the depressing effect of conventional farming methods, extra measures need to be done to effectively share and communicate the matured soil and water technologies to the concern groups, encourage them to improve existing technologies and build what they have in terms of soil and water conservation technologies, and provide the farmers livelihood opportunities. All these desire triggered the birth of Community-based Watershed Management Project. Before hand, its worth mentioning that this undertaking is an output of several levels of focused group discussions (FGD).

In Talibon. Bohol, at the very start, I would like to emphasize that we focus on community participation through empowerment (that is authorizing, making them able and allowing them to manage their own resources) and developing the capacity of local people to lead their own development efforts. We believed that empowerment offers technological approaches which address broader natural resource management and household economic concerns – not just pursuing production or yield maximization. It fully addresses identified local priorities and needs, but on one side, it still combines ‘outside’ technical knowledge and practice-based farmer experience (indigenous technical knowledge, or ITK).

Why community participation?

From the knowledge gained from my training at 11RR, we felt that there is pressing need to do something to efficiently share matured soil and water technologies to the stakeholders; because from experience, “previous extension efforts were not responsive to many rural communities, especially in the upland or other marginalized areas.”; because of the “recognition that rural and agricultural development efforts must be based on the needs and priorities of the local people.” We realized that there is “shrinking public sector budget and resource available to support agricultural research & extension”, because of the “changing contexts and opportunities, especially the multiple source of innovations.” And finally, we believe with what James Yen has said, for us to build the gap between “technical people and the farmers” we need to “start with what they know, build on what they have” and we need to “plan with them and work with them”

A unique approach in the community-based project, we did in Bohol is- we threat that the techno-demo site we set up to serve as field laboratory that provides a hands-on ground for the farmers; where everybody including visiting farmers and students can acquire first hand knowledge about conservation farming. It also caters a training ground for additional livelihood opportunities. In terms of partnership, we threat farmers as partners and they assume the lead-role in the implementation, and we as technical people take the role of facilitator. In all the activities we carried out, there is active participation of farmers that we believe is a key to enhance sharing of technologies.

Overall, I think, the community-based watershed project in Talibon, Bohol is in the right track. There are several elements worth sharing for its initial success. One is the good networking, coordination and linkages. Good networking allows dialogue with the different local government units and various stakeholders. It also gives more rooms for discussion and feed backs. One very good example for this is during the time, we drafted the methodology of the project, there were discussions done in different levels, from individual farmers, among farmers, with the community and in the watershed. This was followed by a discussion in the local government unit and then to the national key officials.

Second essential element is the conduct of pparticipatory rural appraisal or PRA’s (Vehn Diagram, SWOT, FGD, etc.,). PRA helps our group, the Technical Team in identifying the problems, existing livelihood, weaknesses, threats and even opportunities in the site. It helps us in prioritizing livelihood activities and selecting appropriate soil and water conservation technologies that we thought worth sharing to the community. The PRA approaches we did in the community also help in breaking the barrier between the community and our group.

Another very important element is the participatory planning. In here, the community participated in a systematic manner thus ensuring the wide acceptance and dissemination of any information we shared. The process also guarantees participation of the concern groups. By participatory planning, we were able to focused on the concerned groups. When I say concerned groups, these are the people in the watershed who can be directly affected by whatever change that will happen in the watershed. Because of participation, the training modules design catered to the farmers’ level of knowledge and trainings conducted are well represented by the various participants bringing the right mix of information’s.

One very critical element in the watershed project initial success in Talibon, Bohol is the sharing of funds by the LGU in the implementation. The LGU fully realized that government fund is rapidly dwindling and sharing or counter parting is inevitable. Their action provides mutual relationship, insure wide participation of the community, and the community by-heart realized conservation farming is necessary. Overall, sharing of funds gears toward smooth implementation of the project.

From the onset of the implementation, we adopted “bottom up approach”. This means that the community decides on their own guided by the set of criteria, rather than relegated as observer, the community relies on their inherent capabilities plus inputs coming from the partner agencies. Farmers appreciate the activity. It helps in the appreciation of topography, soils, water, forest products, property regimes, land use, ecosystem, etc., it helps the community members identify, locate and classify resources and features, revealing their importance and usefulness from their point of view. It also gives them the idea how to monitor changes in resources and pattern and use this idea later to improve resource management strategies or design new system. More importantly, it bridged the gap between the technical people and the community. It sort of removed the “barrier” between our group and the community.

Another element worth mentioning is the periodic community consultation. Through this process, the vision, mission and objectives are clear in all the parties involved. Participating agencies fully realized that the local government unit is ready to assume key role in a partnership. Both parties work together for common good; the agencies providing the technical assistance, while the community provides the role of stewards- the day to day activities. The consultation also gives a clear idea of the counter parting and assurance that no-activities will be left out.

Coupled with the periodic community consultation, we adopted the participatory implementation. Doing this, provided farmers hands-on exercises on the different soil conservation technologies. It gives everybody a good opportunity to monitor the progress of the project. We also provided a short-segment training design that provides the necessary topics which match with whatever activities scheduled in the Project. In so doing, farmers develop deeper interest in all the activities, and the spirits of collaboration within them were maintained rather than when having one-time training. Additionally, all participating unit were provided with the necessary updates and when problems occurred, these were immediately addressed by the concern group or set in the table for further discussion.

The above are the essential elements that help us in attaining the initial success in the implementation of our community-based watershed project in Talibon, Bohol. Still, we dream of forming a monitoring team/watershed committee that will keep track of the progress of the different activities, ensure that information’s and progress will reach the target group more efficiently, Encourage everybody to continue with the collaboration and cooperation started. More importantly technologies can be assessed and monitored at different stages to identify those that “worked well” and “didn’t work” so the succeeding plans could easily be modified.

Looking ahead, community participation is very promising and could be a key element in the sustainability of the project; however, I see a lot of challenges ahead. It involves considerable investment in the development of human resources and local institutions (continuous training, sharing, monitoring) – slow process with delayed impact. Even if human resources and institutional conditions are in place, financial constraints still exist; the local government still needs outside source of funds. It is very difficult to have rigorous assessments (evaluations) of costs and benefits of the scheme. We still observe the reluctance of few farmers to share their knowledge and skills with others.

We see a lot of challenges ahead…

For more info: Call: Dr. Gavino Isagani P. Urriza At: (02) 923-04-59 Or email us a gurriza258@yahoo.com or visit us at: conservationist.wordpress.com