By Alfonso A. Tan
I never had much information about organic agriculture and the principles behind it, until in October 2012 when I joined the conduct of ARC Level of Development Assessment (ALDA) in Dumingag town in Zamboanga del Sur. As a member of the regional monitoring team who is conducting ALDA, I came across two Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) organizations that discuss authoritatively about organic farming like it is the palm of their hands. The two organizations -- the Dumingag Organic Farmers Association (DOFA) and the Dumingag Organic Farmers Credit and Savings Cooperative (DOFCSC) – turned out to be just two of the several farmer organizations in Dumingag who are organic farming practitioners. And the technology has been gaining ground since this particular local government innovation was introduced by the municipal mayor more than five years ago.
My layman’s understanding of organic farming then, was simply farming without the use of pesticides, herbicides or any artificial fertilizers. I know it has good health benefits for our body because the farm produce are all-natural. It is environment-friendly too. Later on, I learned that there are also so-called “organic animals” or those that are not kept in cages and not fed with commercial available feeds, which are generally by-products of other animals.
The internet offers several helpful definitions of Organic Agriculture. The Bureau of Plant Industry in Australia defines organic farming as “the production of food and fibre without the use of synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia says, organic farming promotes the sustainable health and productivity of the ecosystem – soil, plants, animals and people. Organic foods are farmed in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way, focusing on soil regeneration, water conservation and animal welfare.
As far as local government innovations are concerned, I believe the organic farming technology as revolutionalized in the town of Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur is one for the books. Last year, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) awarded Dumingag as one of the five recipients of the “One World Award” for its organic farming program. IFOAM is a leading world coalition on sustainable agriculture mainly composed of civil society organizations and social movements Dumingag town is its only local government member. Started in 2008, the IFOAM award runs every two years to recognize organic farming initiatives that have made a difference in the area of sustainable development.
Dumingag is a second class municipality in the eastern part of the province of Zamboanga del Sur. It is composed of forty four --11 lowland and 33 upland-- barangays, with a total land area of 618.50 square kilometers and a population of 46,039 per 2007 census. Situated in the heartland of the Zamboanga peninsula and on the northwest portion of the fertile Salug Valley, Dumingag is bounded on the North by the municipality of Sergio Omeña, Sr.; on the East by the municipality of Mahayag; on the South by the municipalities of Sominot and Midsalip; and on the West by the municipality of Siayan, Zambonga del Norte. Dumingag was part of the municipality of Molave when it was created into a barrio in 1950. Dumingag was once a vast expanse of jungle and marshland, the favorite habitat of wildlife. Its first inhabitants were the Subanens who came from coastal areas of Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga del Sur.
The success of Dumingag started with the revolutionary idea of Mayor Nacianceno M. Pacalioga Jr., a former Maoist rebel in the 1980’s who almost singlehandedly transform Dumingag town into what it is now. After returning to the folds of law, Jun Pacalioga went tilling their family-owned upland farm in 1995. His former comrades...