farmer scientist with a mind and heart for sustainable agriculture
Carlito P. Aquino spent
26 years of his life as a military man. Today, he is into a different
kind of field and fighting a different kind of battle. For the
past three years since his retirement he has gone into farming
and is staunchly advocating and promoting organic farming.
Although he was born and reared in a farm family it was only
during his stint in Mindanao when he had actually tried his hands
in farming .Today, he is back and happily settled in his birthplace
in the town of Ocampo in Camarines Sur province and going full
time into farming. In 2009, he organized the farmers in his barangay
under the name Cagmanaba Association of Neutral Domain for Union
Yield of Organic Farmers Group or CAANDUYOG which is also the
Bikol term for supporter or partner. From its original 21 members
the association has now 71 members. In 2010, he was appointed
Magsasaka Siyentista under the Techno Gabay program of PCARRD
. He is also a farmer co-operator of the Palayaman project of
the Bureau of Agricultural Research and the DA.
At 51, Tio Lito is full of bright and innovative ideas, dynamism
and enthusiasm. He has transformed the 3.7 hectare riceland owned
by their family into a diversified farm enterprise where he integrates
rice, vegetables, fish and fowls applying both science and technological
knowhow he had accessed and accumulated through reading, attendance
to seminars and trainings, tuning in to the radio and television
and through the internet.
A big portion of his farm (2.7 hectares) is devoted to rice production.
In one portion of the rice field a techno demo is currently established
to showcase Organic Rice Farming through the System of Rice Intensification
(SRI) technology. This is under the Techno Gabay Program of PCARRD
in collaboration with the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture
(CBSUA) and the LGU of Ocampo. It serves as a community seedbank
of traditional lowland rice varieties. The techno demo is now
on its 3rd cropping season and the result is very encouraging.
For the first cropping Tio Lito was able to harvest 80 cavans
in less than a hectare from the SRI demo site.
After attending a seminar sponsored by South East Asia Regional
Initiative for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) Tio Lito is convinced
that there is a need to institutionalize community initiatives
in conserving, developing and using plant genetic resources.
He also espouses and supports the promotion of farmers
seed exchanges and local knowledge systems and the establishment
of community agro-biodiversity conservation protection system.
He has to date collected 32 traditional rice varieties he obtained
from fellow farmers and other institutions. He hopes to propagate
these seeds and keep them in a seedbank.
He produces his own organic fertilizers and Indigenous Micro
Organisms (IMO) using available resources in their locality such
as molasses, kangkong, papaya, and kuhol for Fermented Plant
and Fruit Juices; rice straw, water lily, Azolla, kakawate, banana
trunk, kangkong, corn husk and weeds for composting.
Late last year he started his
vermiculture through the help of the Bureau of Soils and Water
Management (BSWM) of the DA which provided the vermi or earthworms
and technical assistance. Tio Lito said the vermicast or vermin
compost are excellent soil enhancer and bio fertilizer for organic
farming. He uses biodegradable farm wastes as feed for the vermi
such as rice straw, kakawate or madre de cacao, ipil, ipil, corn
cobs, rotten papaya, weeds, vegetable leaves and stalks, and
fruit peelings. He has also started making vermi tea using the
tea brewer provided by the BSWM. He says brewing should be done
for 72 hours before they can be used as organic fertilizer for
rice and vegetables on his farm.
About one third of his farm he utilized for vegetable production
of assorted vegetables like cucumber, pepper, jambalaya, squash,
tomato, upo, pole sitao, radish and carrots. The crawling plants
are covered and enclosed with bamboo trellises. The vegetable
plots are covered with plastic mulch. Tio Lito explains this
is to repress weeds, preserve the moisture and prevent the evaporation
of important nutrients into the air. His next plan is to set
up a green house for non- crawling plants. He had tried hydrophonics
on 150 lettuce plants before. But due to unexpected heavy rains
at the time the result was not very encouraging.
In another portion of his farm he has made his own innovation
of a vegetable fish culture. In between the plots of vegetables
he has established 6 mini ponds measuring 2 x 3 x 2 meters with
a depth of 1.5 meters between plots. There is an open pond which
connects to all the 6 mini ponds. In these ponds he had stocked
7breeders of Pangasius; 14 pieces Japanese Koi, 3 of which are
breeders; 2500 tilapia fingerlings and some carps. Most of the
fingerlings he obtained from the BFAR where he also gets information
and technical assistance on aquaculture technology.
He said that
before he put water and stock fingerlings into the mini ponds
he had the base or flooring filled with a layer of sand. Despite
the additional expense for the sand fill, he explains that this
is to keep the water clear. Without sand-filling at the base
he said ponds usually appear murky or muddy and some fingerlings
would not stay afloat but would burrow into the soil. Twice a
month he usually replaces the water. His source of water is the
irrigation canal, a shallow tube well and a creek along the boundary
of his farm.
He has 50 ducks, 22 of which were provided by the DA under the
Palayaman project, the rest he personally bought from fellow
farmers. He also has 25 native chickens 20 of which are
hens or breeders and 5 are roosters. He formulates his own feeds
for the fowls with rice and corn as main ingredients.
Through his efforts his association, the CAANDUYOG was able to
avail of a flatbed dryer from the PHILMECH. This has now been
installed in a portion of his farm and is now being utilized
by the farmers in their barangay.
In the middle of his farm he has built an A-frame shaped farm
shelter where there are no perpendicular walls. The Roof itself
which is made of anahaw leaves is extended downward and serves
as the wall. On both sides near the apex of the roof are two
dormer windows which allow light to filter in and provides natural
ventilation. In designing said structure, Tio Lito has put to
use his basic engineering knowledge as he actually spent two
years at the college of agricultural engineering at the Camarines
Sur State Agriculture College (CSSAC) before he shifted to an
AB course in Manila. The shelter sits above a pond where the
fishes from the mini ponds could take shelter when the temperature
is too hot.
This farm shelter serves as his office, conference hall, and
receiving area for visitors. It is also here where he conducts
briefings and stores his farm products and memorabilia such as
photo albums, instructional CDs and DVDs and other paraphernalia.
All other structures in the farm, (i.e. the shed for the vermiculture,
and the conference cum office of the CAANDUYOG) have the same
His knowledge on business management, capped by a masters
degree he obtained from Ateneo de Davao will now be put to use
as he has started earning income from his vegetables, rice seeds
(red blondie variety), ducks, and organic fertilizers. He keeps
a record of all his farm expenses and sales. He is updated on
the prevailing price of agricultural commodities in the market.
His title Magsasaka Siyentista is well-deserved because
his farm practices are science and technology based. He keeps
himself abreast with the latest information through attendance
to trainings and constant reading and accessing in the internet,
regular consultation with extension workers and experts and frequent
tuning in to radio and television programs worth his time. With
his laptop in tow even in the farm, he is always attuned to the
latest information, issues and developments in agriculture. But
with all the advancement in science and technology he believes
that the way to the future is through organic farming. He explains:
Para mapangalagaan natin ang ating kalusugan, kapaligiran
at masiguro ang kasapatan ng pagkain sa hinaharap dapat bumalik
tayo sa organic farming.
With the income from his farm enterprise Tio Lito is already
financially stable and adequately providing the needs of his
wife Aileen and only son Christopher Carl who is now pursuing
a college degree. But he has many other plans for his farm and
for his association. Among them is to have a community seed bank,
a network of local seed growers engaged in seed exchange; a village
level research center where farmers can conduct simple on-farm
trials and basic research.
He is currently preparing a manual on organic farming and intends
to also prepare a flyer so he can share his experiences and good
practices with other farmers. He plans to establish a green house
for non-crawling vegetables. He has coordinated with the Department
of Agriculture regarding this. He also plans to establish a pond
for freshwater shrimp (Ulang).
He envisions a show case of technologies on organic farming not
only for crops and fish but also for livestock. He is now preparing
a cage for his organic pig or the no- wash pig using the native
breed. For CAANDUYOG, he has already developed a plan for a Village
Research Training Center on Organic Farming. He has already procured
a lot adjacent to his farm where this center will be erected.
He has negotiated with a Japanese group for the construction
of the building to be funded by the Japanese government through
their GGP program.
He has demonstrated his leadership abilities not only as president
of CAANDUYOG but also as head of another association, the Cagmanaba
Base Farmer Organization (CABAFO) organized by the Provincial
Agriculture Office of Camarines Sur through the EU-PFVAS project
and the Municipal Accredited Cassava Organize Farmers Association
(MACOFA) organized by the Municipal Agriculture Office of Ocampo
and the DA regional office. He was also appointed as Committee
Chairman for Agriculture and Mechanization of MAFC and member
of the Camarines Sur Organic Agriculture and Industrial Development
Tio Lito is progressive-minded and very much receptive to new
technologies, scientific knowledge and good agricultural practices
of other farmers and institutions. He is forward-looking but
is well grounded and attuned to the realities and current state
of the agriculture sector and his fellow farmers. Although he
has been receiving a lot of support from the government and other
institutions he relies on his own effort and initiatives and
motivates his fellow farmers to be self-reliant. He is pro development
that is sustainable, ecologically sound and socially acceptable.
We need more farmers like him.