A young woman from this far-flung Bicol town is into natural farming, growing high-value organic crops and raising “vegetarian” hogs in a piggery farm that does not produce offensive smell.
Applying the natural farming approach, Arlene Dayo first produced bitter gourd (ampalaya), tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber and squash with sizes and quantity of fruits that equaled those grown by farmers using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. She used natural attractants to trap unfriendly insects.
Using the same technique, she later engaged in upland rice farming and produced the indigenous “red rice,” a variety that commands a higher market price both in the locality and in out-of-town areas, including Metro Manila.
Red rice contains more fiber than white rice. It is rich in anthocyanins, antioxidant nutrients that give red rice its color.
On dry seasons, when rain-fed rice lands in the area turn idle, Dayo said she could produce at least 50 cavans of red rice from her 8,000-square-meter upland farm, a quantity that is much higher than those produced by lowland farmers from same-size farms who depend on water and chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Dayo, 33, and a mother of three, is a former agricultural technician of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and an agribusiness graduate from the Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry.
“Natural farming applies no chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The savings I get from not using these synthetic farm inputs becomes part of my earnings. That makes my earnings significantly higher compared with what lowland rice farmers get,” she said.
Out of her 50-bag red rice production per cropping season during the last two years, Dayo said she realized an average net income of nearly P19,000 per harvest. Each year provides two cropping seasons for upland rice farming.
Her successful venture into natural rice and vegetable farming also took Dayo into the natural way of hog raising.
She said her low-cost, no-odor hog-raising project should inspire farmers who want to avoid expensive feed meals. The pigpen is well-ventilated, with one-meter-deep bedding backfilled with soil, salt, sawdust or coconut husk with beneficial microorganisms.
The animals follow their instinct to root and dig and they get the natural food, nutrient and minerals they need from the soil.
Dayo said she produces the forage mixed with rice bran and given to the hogs, such as trichanthera, flemengia, indigofera, talinum, rensonii, camote, kangkong and oregano. The pigs’ waterer or drinker contains oriental herbal nutrients and other major natural inputs.
The beddings remain odor- and housefly-free with a once-a-week spray of an indigenous microorganism concoction that Dayo and members of her household prepare.
Dayo said hog meat produced this way has a distinctly pleasing taste and good-cooking consistency. Her hog meat sells briskly even if it is sold at a price higher than pork obtained from conventionally raised hogs, she added.
“A visit to Dayo’s farm leaves some visitors in awe upon discovering that hogs can be raised in a clean, odor-free and environment-friendly farm,” DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said.
“This exceptional lady farmer fits well the United Nation’s description of women in promoting gender equity as particularly vulnerable for depending more on the natural environment for their livelihood than men do,” Dayao said.
“They cope with fewer resources and greater workload” was how the UN describes women in its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that includes women empowerment, Dayao said.
Moved by the results observed from Dayo’s farm and through her prodding, other women in the neighboring villages have gone into farming adopting the natural style.
Myrna Acayen of Bgy. Digdigon here has engaged in diversified and integrated farming system, as well as organic agriculture and with Dayo’s guidance, her venture has proven successful.
Since late last year, Acayen had also been growing rice and vegetables following the natural farming principles. That, according to Dayo, is “the combination of respect for life and environment; use of indigenous microorganism; and zero tillage, insecticides, herbicides and emission of harmful livestock waste.”
Several others in the locality, most of them women like Adela Magsino, followed suit by growing fruit trees like dalandan, lemon, pomelo and rambutan through natural farming.
With Dayo’s encouragement, Jane Concepcion of Bgy. Pinaglabanan is now growing corn the natural farming way.
Perhaps, Dayo’s most prominent technology adopter, is the local government unit (LGU) here which was “fired by her young fiery energy.” The municipality had recently set up a 20-head natural farming piggery project and a 3,500-square-meter natural farming demonstration farm within the town hall’s compound, municipal livestock coordinator Rosemarie Pacao said.
To further encourage natural farming among local farmers, the LGU now produces and sells at low cost inputs for both crops and livestock.
Dayo has credited town mayor Antero Lim for headways made in natural farming in the locality. She said, the mayor’s all-out support to natural farming system spurred her on.
Lim has identified natural farming for hog-raising as well as rice, corn, and vegetable production as priority projects of the LGU on agriculture and livelihood, Dayo added.
“Ultimately, institutionalizing natural farming supports environment-friendly agriculture, higher yield, reduced cost, better and quality of goods—big goals and a small woman like Dayo—is just making the difference,” Dayao remarked.
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