Monday, March 29, 2010

MS Peñalosa urges Sipalay farmers to go organic

By Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications
FITS OPA Negros Occidental

Go organic.

This was the challenge of Ramon D. Peñalosa, Jr., Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) or farmer scientist of the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC) at the opening rites of Sipalay Agro-Aqua Trade Fair in Sipalay City recently.

Successful organic farmer Ramon Pe
ñalosa of Victorias City urges farmers of Sipalay City to work together and transform Sipalay City into the First Organic City of Negros Occidental.

“Organic farming is not expensive and only uses local materials like fertilizers out of farm waste,” Peñalosa said. Claiming that organic farming is the only alternative in the midst of global warming and climate change, the WESVARRDEC farmer scientist dared farmers to work together as a team to transform Sipalay into the first organic city in the province

According to Peñalosa, organic products are more attractive and healthy-looking, demanding a price 30 percent higher than those produced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

“Tourists will not only go to your place because it is peaceful and has beautiful beaches but also to your organic farms,” Peñalosa added.

The organic farmer also encouraged farmers to put up “edible gardens” by making use of containers. He pointed out that farmers or those interested in farming need not have very spacious farmlands but must only have the right knowledge on how to convert their backyards into gardens that could produce chemical-free crops.

Citing the abundant display of agricultural products at the fair, Peñalosa lauded the strength of the irrigation dams and small water-impounding systems in the city that help mitigate the effects of El Niño on farmers’ crops.

The agri-preneur also congratulated the City Agriculture Office for regularly monitoring the prices of agricultural products, making it easy for farmers to sell their products.

The farmer’s very own Peñalosa Farms is a show window of integrated natural farming business that has lured tourists from across the country who are interested in science-and-technology-based practices that are cheap, available, and sustainable.

Peñalosa Farms also operates Monchito’s, a product line that sells probiotic poultry and pork products in the city. Also in SM Supermarket in Bacolod City, Peñalosa Farms sells organic vegetables and fruits certified by Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (NISARD) or NICERT-certified products.

In turn, Montilla supported Peñalosa’s advocacy, saying that organic farming is the need of the times and issued his oft-repeated call for farmers to avoid using chemicals. Montilla also called on his constituents to cooperate with the city’s food production efforts and to live up to the city’s battle-cry “Ugyon Sipalaynon.”

Among those that welcomed organic farming were Barangay I farmers and the Barangay Mambaroto Organic Village , both of whom displayed and sold organically-grown and chemical-free vegetables, fruits, other crops, and poultry at the fair.

Barangay I farmers showcase a creative way of using hanging bamboos as container for organic crops while Mambaroto farmers have mushroom fruits and fruiting bags from the technology they learned from OPA. The group’s mushroom production is also among the few successful mushroom projects in the province.

The six-day Sipalay City Agro-Aqua Trade Fair showcases various products of farmers who were not badly hit by El Niño, thanks to the city’s irrigation systems.

Farmers of the Mambaroto Organic Village of Marabo, Barangay Mambaroto, Sipalay City display organically-produced vegetables and fruits at the Sipalay Agro-Aqua Trade Fair. They also sell mushroom fruits and fruiting bags from the technology they learned from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist-Negros Occidental. The group’s mushroom production is among the few successful mushroom projects in the province.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Organics booth featured at Panaad

By Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications
FITS OPA Negros Occidental

Led by Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco, the Organik na Negros Booth was recently opened of the Panaad sa Negros Festival at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City. Panaad Festival runs until March 27th.

Among the must-buys at the booth are ‘certified organic’ and chemical-free products including the organic rice grown by Humayan Ministry in Bago City; vegetables, fruits and herbs and organic fertilizer and vermicast produced by Fresh Start in Silay and Sagay City; Lemon Grass Oil of Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation in Mambugsay, Cauayan, and Negros Island Rainforest Coffee grown by farmers in Mount Kanlaon.

Processed food products on sale are pickled seaweeds and fermented bulabid (anchovies) of Escalante City, dried fish of Cadiz City, nata pickles of Sagay City, banana polvoron of San Carlos City, malunggay polvoron of Hinigaran, and banana marbles of Pontevedra produced by cooperatives being assisted by OPA.

Other interesting products are all-natural Federico’s Island Wines of Victorias City, muscovado sugar of Alter Trade, fruit jam and atchasal of Muad Farms, Saring’s Bagoong of Pulupandan, Fresh Start organic personal care products, RU shredder, and food supplements, herbal teas and medicines by Kit’s Herbs.

The booth also gives out brochures on various farming technologies especially on organic farming.


Negros Island Rainforest Organic Coffee (top photo) grown by farming communities in the mountains of Negros and Fresh Start organic personal care products (lower photo) are on sale at the Organik na Negros booth at Panaad.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Full gear for the year

ASU meets with FITS centers
By Salvacion Villasis
Regional Applied Communications
Aklan State University

The Aklan State University (ASU), WESVARRDEC’s partner member agency (PMA), convened the staff of the Farmers’ Information and Technology Services (FITS) Centers in Aklan and Antique for the first quarter meeting at the ASU Conference Hall, Banga, Aklan on February 9, 2010.

ASU Techno Gabay Team Leader Dr. Clyde G. Abayon led the team including Dr. Elsa I. Abayon, RRDG representative, Dr. Lelisa J. Teodosio, Regional Management Information System (RMIS) representative and Regional Applied Communication (RAC) Representative Salvacion Villasis and their alternates, Mr. Arthur Jizmundo, Mr. Louie Garcia and Prof. Carmenchita Tumaca. Abayon’s team met with FITS Managers, Technology Service Specialists, Information Service Specialists and Magsasaka Siyentista from Banga, Ibajay, Nabas, Altavas and Numancia in Aklan and Libertad in Antique.

Abayon briefed the participants on the Techno Gabay Program, particularly on the functions of the FITS staff. Dr. Teodosio discussed concerns on the RMIS including the data content buildup was discussed by the RMIS representative, while Villasis reported on the production and promotion of information, communication and education (IEC) materials. Abayon also presented the criteria for Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) Evaluation.

MS Margarito Andrade of FITS Banga updated the group on the Science and Technology-Based Farm on Native Chicken Production in his farm in Barangay Libas, Banga, Aklan.

The group also discussed the submission of accomplishment report for 2009, calendar of activities and work and financial and business plan for the year.

18 complete barangay nutrition course

By Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications
FITS OPA Negros Occidental

To enhance their knowledge, skills and attitudes as they play roles in many activities in their respective communities, some 18 barangay nutrition scholars (BNS) from Victorias City, Hinobaan, Cauayan, Candoni, Calatrava, La Castellana, Moises Padilla, and Toboso recently completed a five-day Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) Basic Course led by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Negros Occidental.

The Nutrition Management Division of OPA Negros discussed the legal mandate and rationale of the BNS Project; selection, recruitment and benefits; their roles and functions; and their core values; while Ma. Teena Pineda-Acebedo, provincial nutrition program coordinator, underscored the importance of commitment, advocacy and coordination in BNS work.

The BNS were taught basic concepts in food and nutrition and malnutrition; and skills in communication, presentation, documentation, report writing and record keeping. The training also covered time management, organizing, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

(Clockwise from left) Barangay nutrition scholars (BNS) weigh preschool children in Barangay 36, Bacolod City; trainers from OPA Nutrition Management Division and BNS with health and nutrition councilor Mark Lester Seruelo of Barangay 36; BNS interview mothers of preschoolers in Barangay 36, Bacolod City; and BNS with trainers during the training’s closing rites.

During a hands-on training in Barangay 36, Bacolod City supported by Barangay Council President Jerry Cuachon, the scholars were exposed to a number of practical activities to put their learning to test. In Operation Timbang, they were taught to weigh babies and pre-school children below 70 months old. They were trained to facilitate actual weighing and follow-up weighing of below normal, very low, and below normal low preschoolers. Aside from the interview skills needed for family profiling, the BNS were also taught to facilitate nutrition education of pregnant and lactating mothers and parents or caregivers of underweight children.

Being part of the 167 barangay nutrition scholars who are under a one-year contract with the Negros Occidental Provincial Government, the BNS receive 1,000 pesos monthly allowance and other incentives from their respective local government units.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Antique farmers taught mushroom production

By Arlene Edna V. La Vega
Regional Applied Communications

To help augment the income and livelihood of the farmers in Antique, a training on mushroom production was recently conducted at the Farmers Information Technology Services (FITS) Center Sibalom in Sibalom, Antique.

Some 30 farmers from 11 barangays of Sibalom, namely—Igcococ, Tula-tula, Bontol, Lacaron, Inabasan, Initan, Catunggan, Nagdayao, Egaña, Pis-anan and Pangpang—took part in the training.

Mr. Marcelo Villavert, an entrepreneur and expert on mushroom growing, stressed on the nutritional value and market potentials of mushroom. For farmers to learn and appreciate the technology better, Villavert led a hands-on demonstration wherein farmers were made to prepare crates where they could plant their spawns.

After the lecture screened a video on mushroom production guide, the facilitators also distributed reading materials on the same technology.

Villavert also emphasized that learning does not stop at the training venue but must be applied in the farm and even only in the farmers’ own backyards.

Mr. Junel Pineda, officer-in-charge of the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist in Sibalom, lauded the active participation of the farmers in the training and the support of the Antique Provincial FITS Center based in San Jose de Buenavista and the University of Antique (UA).

UA is the partner member agency for the Techno Gabay Program being bannered by the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC).

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Old Sagay’s nata pickles a hit

By Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications

Nata pickles, probably the first of its kind, is becoming popular in a fishing village of Sagay City, north of Negros Occidental. Locally known as atsara, the recipe is a new version of the Filipino pickled green papaya that has nata de coco trimmings instead of the usual shredded or julienned raw papaya.

The special atsara labeled Negrosanon’s Best is sourced from nata de coco produced by Negrosanon for Economic Development Multipurpose Cooperative (NEEDMPC) in Barangay Old Sagay in Sagay City.

Lucia Miñoza, NEEDMPC’s founder-manager, said the nata pickles is cooked the usual way with vinegar, sugar, carrots, ampalaya, eggplant, string beans, sweet pepper, salt, and ginger.

Together with fellow coop members, Miñoza developed the recipe early this year. Instead of discarding nata trimmings, they used them for pickles to maximize the use of the raw material. They thought of the novel idea to provide livelihood to housewives and rural women. Miñoza said the initiative helps boost the women’s self-esteem and make them rather productive in the household and the community.

In fact, nata pickles are not only healthy but also saleable because of its deliciously sour taste with some sweetness from nata. While a small plastic cup sells at P5, just fit for the schoolchildren’s budget, a bigger pack costs 10 pesos; a bottle P20; and jar P35. Nata pickles is served solo or paired with lechon baboy or lechon manok, fish, sausage and other grilled meat.

According to NEEDMPC Chairperson Myrna Dañas, the coop has entered into a contract with Green Harvest, a big nata de coco producer based in Murcia town. Despite Green Harvest’s high demand for the product in December and January, the coop was able to supply 160 kilos at 15 pesos per kilo.

To expand this venture and to make the product more saleable in the market, the coop requested technical and financial assistance on packaging from the Department of Science and Technology, through the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP).

In September 2009 the coop started nata production on P25,000 capital. “A return of our investment came three months after, through the big orders of Green Harvest, sales orders for fiestas and exhibits, and the brisk sales of nata pickles, Dañas added.

NEEDMPC acknowledges the support of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Negros Occidental for the livelihood training conducted by Nata de Coco Specialist Jusie Balinas. This training was made in coordination with Aquacultural Technologist Susan Apud and Provincial Fishery Livelihood Project Coordinator Elmer Tubola.

Aside from nata, NEEDMPC’s current activities and programs include rice trading and mushroom culture.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

CHMSC forges 2010 plans with FITS centers

By Jethro B. Dagunan
Regional Applied Communications
Carlos Hilado Memorial State College (CHMSC)

The Carlos Hilado Memorial State College (CHMSC), partner member agency (PMA) of Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC) based in Talisay City, Negros Occidental recently led the first consultative meeting with its Farmers Information and Technology Services (FITS) centers at the FITS Center Cadiz in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

Dr. Denesa Lamique, PMA’s team leader, along with CHMSC’s representatives of the regional management information system (RMIS) and regional applied communications (RAC), met with FITS managers Enrique A. Escares III of Cadiz City, Ferdinand V. Alico of Escalante City and Edna B. Garde of OPA Negros Occidental, who were joined by their respective information services specialists and technology services specialists.

Among others, the group presented and discussed the nitty-gritty required in preparing the Annual Accomplishment Reports at the FITS and PMA levels, 2010 work and financial plan, the Science and Technology Based Farm (STBF) proposal of FITS Cadiz and other similar concerns of the RMIS and RAC.

They also raised concerns on the Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) including the difficulty of passing the STBF proposal and financial constraints in improving and enhancing their technology intervention. The group observed that MSs who are more “well-off” than others advance faster and are able to avail themselves of the benefits from PCARRD’s financial support.

The group also acknowledged difficulties that arise in following the system set by WESVARRDEC. For most of them, they still need to understand and get familiar with the process of “accepting and owning the system.”

The group finally agreed on the flow of needed documents and data for the CHMSC PMA. Subsequent tasks include information and documentation of all activities and uploading in the WESVARRDEC website at FITS centers levels.

Ending the meeting in high spirits, the team was inspired to continue improving and strategizing in implementing the projects and services given to them as the consortium's major stakeholders.

Expanding mushroom venture

Coop awarded sterilizer, rice hull stove
by Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications

To help expand its livelihood venture on mushroom production, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Negros Occidental awarded a drum sterilizer and rice hull stove to the Negrosanon for Economic Development Multipurpose Cooperative (NEEDMPC) based in Barangay Old Sagay, Sagay City.

NEEDMPC Manager Lucia Miñoza said the new sterilizer given by OPA will help cut down their cooperative’s operating cost and increase production and income for its members.

Lilibeth Miñoza, team leader of the mushroom project, said that “since we started mushroom culture in September last year, we have been using a pressure cooker for canning to sterilize the fruiting bags. The cooker could only accommodate 12 bags. For fuel, we also used liquefied petroleum gas which is costly.”

“With the drum sterilizer, we could sterilize as much as 80 fruiting bags at a time. Rice hull, a farm waste which we use as fruiting media as well as fuel, is given free by a mill in the community and we only need to pay for hauling. This means big savings and more profit for us,” Miñoza said.

NEEDMPC availed itself of OPA training on subculturing of the mother spawn and multiplying them by inoculation into the fruiting bags. “We were able to make good spawns because we followed the procedure taught to us by Alexander Lecciones, Agriculturist II and Mushroom Culture Specialist of OPA,” Miñoza added.

According to Lecciones, OPA gave the mother spawn of the oyster mushroom species Pleurotus sajor cajo which is rich in protein, vitamins A and B complex, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium. A delicious, low-calorie, cholesterol-free, it also has anti-tumor properties.

Lecciones said there are styles of growing mushrooms and the coop devised its own by hanging the tubular-shaped fruiting bags using nylon ropes tied to the ceiling to pile as much as eight layers of the bags. The bags need to be sprinkled with water regularly for the mushroom fruits to pop out and be harvested. Because mushroom culture needs a cool temperature and the right humidity especially in hot summer months, foam moistened three times a day is placed at both sides of the growing house. After the mushroom production cycle is completed for about 2-3 months, the fruiting bags can be used as plant fertilizer. It’s zero waste, he added. According to Lecciones, people who engage in mushroom culture have to be diligent, meticulous and patient.

NEEDMPC Chairperson Myrna Dañas said the coop established its own growing house and laboratory for P70,000. It allocated a capital of P25,000 to jumpstart mass production after the September 2009 training and a return of investment came in two months.

Miñoza who is also a biology professor at the Northern Negros College of Science and Technology in Sagay City, said that they have 850 fruiting bags available. If they sell them at P25 each, they could get P21,250. This excludes the mushroom fruits that could be harvested from the fruiting bags.

It’s actually double income if you sell the fruiting bags and the fruits separately. Mushroom fruits command a high price of about P400 a kilo. There’s a lot of cash in mushroom,” Miñoza added.

Earlier, OPA distributed drum sterilizers and rice hull stoves to the 10 pilot organic villages in the province. The sterilizer-stove set costs about P10,000 and is being fabricated by the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Incorporated (AIDFI) in Bacolod City.

The equipment awarded could also be used to sterilized agar oatmeal or coco gel media for Trichoderma harzianum, a compost fungus activator that hastens the decomposition of rice farm waste for the production of organic fertilizer.

Other active mushroom growers in the province are Sipalay City which will market fruiting bags on their March 27 city fiesta and a Himamaylan City grower who regularly supplies Aboy’s Restaurant and Bacolod Adventist Medical Center in Bacolod City.

Turning 16 years this year, and with 847 active members in and outside Sagay City, NEEDMPC was named well-managed coastal vegetable garden (1st level) in the 2nd Farmers and Fisherfolks Summit and the 4th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival in November 2009 at the Bacolod Pavilion Hotel in Bacolod City.

The coop also manages a bangus pond, two fishing boats, rice trading, nata de coco making, and the production of nata pickles, its latest successful venture that has given livelihood to rural women.
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