Zambales Mayor Leads Organic Agriculture Advocacy

Once a front line worker, always a front line worker. Intervening circumstances or conditions will not distract a front line worker from doing what he or she loves and has trained for.

By Pete Samonte

For some 25 years, Masinloc incumbent mayor Desiree S.Edora was an extension worker of the Department of Agriculture (DA) assigned to the Provincial Agriculture Offce of Zambales. Her duties include organization of agricultural cooperatives, Rural Improvement Clubs (RICs), 4H clubs, rural development, weighing and monitoring of identifed malnourished children, and taking care of their nutritional requirements. Her background as a Home Economics graduate came in handy as an extension worker.

Even as the wife of mining engineer Jessu E. Edora, the three-term mayor of Masinloc town, Desiree continued to serve the small farmers and  fishermen, housewives, and youths in her own capacity even while tending to eight kids.

Vegetable plots using organic agricultural practices are prominently displayed at strategic points in the municipality to create awareness of organic agriculture.

Edora resigned from the DA in 2008 and ran two years later for her first elective position as municipal mayor, replacing her husband Jessu, in 2010.

Agricultural and fishery development became the focus of Mayor Edora
in her administration as mayor of this coastal frst class municipality.
Masinloc is home to a 600 megawatt (MW) power generation plant (with 
another 600 MGW facility in the offng); the sweetest mango in the world; and fsh sanctuaries covering 127 hectares (ha) in the coastal island of San Salvador, 105 ha in Panglit, and 50 ha in Brgy. Bani. The municipality also maintains a 2 ha taclobo (giant clam) coastal farm.

When the National Organic Agriculture Program was launched two years ago by the Department of Agriculture, Masinloc was the frst municipality in Central Luzon to adopt it.

Even before the program was offcially launched however, Mayor Edora initiated measures that focused on organic agriculture like making composts from market wastes, constructing vermicompost beds using African Night Crawlers (ANC), and organic vegetable gardens mainly to create awareness in organic agriculture.

During her frst year in offce, she organized and implemented the first Municipal Organic Agriculture Learning Site (MOALs), a 6,000 square meter facility in Brgy. Sta. Rita, where partner-implementors were trained  intensively in organic agriculture. The site expanded to a bigger lot a year later. The partner-implementors are the focal persons that recommend, initiate, demonstrate, and advocate organic agriculture in their own barangays or backyards. They were also tasked to establish Barangay Organic Agriculture Learning Sites (BOALS).

A year ago, K12 students under the local Department of Education (DepEd) offce collaborated with the municipal government for similar training sessions. The School Organic Agriculture Learning Site (SOALS) was established to expose students to and train them on organic agricultural practices.

Aside from MOALS, jobless workers are given the opportunity to work abroad after intensive training at the learning sites.

Thus far, the organic agriculture training sites have graduated ten dedicated barangay advocates, taught hundreds of students under the DepEd collaboration training sessions, and some jobless farm workers who had set their sights on working abroad. 

Masinloc Municipal Agriculture Offcer (MAO) Elmar Pulido correctly observed that after three years of using compost, vermicast, indigenous microorganisms(IMOs), fermented plant juice (FPJ), and other organic concoctions, the soil at the learning sites is now better than soils applied with commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and other deleterious chemicals. Standing crops at the learning sites have been found to have better yields contradicting preconceptions that organic agriculture cannot compete with inorganic farming.

The close coordination of Mayor Edora with Department of Agriculture Regional Office 03 Regional Director Andrew J. Villacorta resulted in the municipality receiving material assistance to support its organic agriculture projects.

Some of the support services provided by the regional office include a working carabao, native chickens, native pigs, native ducks, and rabbits for the learning sites; these came from the livestock sector.

The High-Value Crops Development sector provided the MOAL with three greenhouses, a regular supply of vegetable seeds, and a heavy duty vermi-tea brewer.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Training Institute provided technical know-how on organic agriculture and addressed the problem of the needed manpower whenever farmers were in training.

The Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) of the Central Offce likewise donated a 100-watt community broadcasting system that further enhanced the promotional strategy of the municipality. Broadcasts, mostly on organic agriculture, are aired daily, thus widening its reach to the local target audience. The community broadcasting facility has a 15 to 20 kilometer effective range, although it can reach a 30-kilometer radius in the low-lying areas of Masinloc.

A year ago, the DA turned over a R1-million Organic Trading Post to the Masinloc
municipality, followed by
200,000 for working capital and 300,000 worth of equipment and facilities. The organic trading posts will serve as an incentive for organic farmers, who will have a permanent place in the municipality where they can market organic products.

The efforts of the municipality of Masinloc did not go unrecognized. Last year, it was declared the regional winner for organic agriculture in the Barangay Food Terminal (BFT) GawadSaka awards.

The increasing awareness of consumers regarding the health benefts and food safety of organically raised crops is now providing the impetus for organic farmers to produce and earn more. Thanks
to a municipal executive who had the foresight to encourage her constituents to produce organic crops. Masinloc has placed itself on the map as a hub of organic products in Zambales and elsewhere in Central Luzon.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May 2014 issue. 

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