Creating livelihoods that are eco-friendly and provide the family with a solid income, are the backbone of Permaculture Aid. Here at the Green Warrior Permaculture Field School we teach people through demonstration. Our organic farm has to produce a quality product before the local people accept our programs.
Currently we are harvesting our second organic rice crop. All the inputs have been sourced locally. We used vermin-cast from a local supplier as our organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. Local organic tobacco and chili was used to make our organic pesticide and we plowed the rice paddies using buffalo and a traditional plow. The more local inputs we use, the more the money circulates in the local community.
Conventional rice farming is dependent on systemic chemicals, which are dangerous to the health of the farmers, the community and the environment. Local farmers use these chemicals without any awareness of the problems they are causing. I see several children a week in this area with obvious birth defects and birdlife is almost nonexistent due to the toxic effects of pesticides. Birds eating dying insects poisoned by these biocides become victims of the chemical ripple effect from conventional farming here in the Philippines.
Our farm has a growing bird population. Local villagers come and marvel at our dragonflies and butterflies, which haven’t been seen in these numbers here for many years. Our yields have been 25% higher than previous years and our rice tastes better. The rice also has a better texture when you are chewing it according to the locals who eat our product. Slowly we are winning the local farmers over to becoming organic.
At harvest time our Permaculture Aid Trainees join with the local people to harvest our rice crop. Traditionally farmers pay labourers 1/7 th of what they harvest as payment for their work. We have no trouble getting workers because people want our superior rice for their own family’s consumption as opposed to the conventional hybrid rice on other farms.
Next year we are sourcing funding to build an organic rice mill and create an investment package to assist farmers to convert to organic practices. Some of our trainees have sourced several local non-hybrid rice varieties that are pest resistant and have a special taste associated with Filipino culture. We will eventually have our own “Permaculture Certified” organic rice branded and packed here in Mablad. The farmers will join us as a collective giving them ownership and benefits as our business grows.
A conventional rice farmer is dirt poor here because he sells his rice for the lowest price to middlemen because he can’t afford to store it. A great deal of his profit also goes into buying hybrid rice seed, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizer. Money is also spent on plowing the fields unless he is lucky enough to own a buffalo or hand tractor. Finally the rice must be milled. The rice mills usually keep the bran from the rice and sell it to pig producers. There are no rich farmers around here, only rich middlemen who buy and sell the rice from the poor families.
With our crop of rice also comes with our crop of trainee trainers. Expansion is impossible without good field trainers. Local Filipino trainees work along side International trainees earning their hands-on skills in the field.
The end of harvest is celebrated with a few beers and a few organic wood fired pizzas. The local ladies divide up the rice they are owed and their family members carry it home. I always imagine after the harvest, their families eating our organic rice and marveling at its flavour and texture. We get a lot of positive feedback soon after.
Our next venture here is organic, native, free-range pigs. Stay tuned as we develop a whole range of livelihoods from this amazing traditional farm animal.