“Organic agriculture (OA) should be a lifestyle! Wag maging organic rider, ‘yung nakikisakay-sakay lang. Dapat maging believer po kayo. Believer is a two-coined word—BEING and LIVING. You are an organic and you are living organic. You are on the right track pag nasa organic ka.”

This was underscored by National Organic Agriculture Board Luzon Small Farmer Representative Dr. Victorio Fernando D. Nacpil during the 14th Bicol Organic Agriculture Congress held at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture Compound in Brgy. San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur on August 30-31, 2023.

About 200 delegates composed of OA advocates and practitioners, local government units, Department of Agriculture Bicol officials, National and Regional Organic Agriculture Program (N/ROAP)coordinators, CBSUA, and other OA stakeholders participated in the two-day Congress. With the theme, “Kabuhayang OA, Kinabukasang Okay,” the activity aimed to promote, propagate, and develop the OA industry in Bicol. Nacpil graced the event together with Lea Deriquito, Chief of NOAP Advocacy and Policy Division, who represented NOAP Director Bernadette San Juan. Also present were DA RFO V Regional Executive Director Rodel Tornilla, DA RFO V Regional Technical Director for Operations Luz Marcelino, DA RFO V Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division Chief and Regional OA Focal Person Adelina Losa, CBSUA President Alberto N. Naperi, DA RFO V Regulatory Division Chief Rosita Imperial and Agricultural Training Institute Regional Training Center V OIC Assistant Center Director Emmanuel Orogo.

Highlights of the activity were the awarding of certificates to the seven farmer cooperatives and associations (FCAs) who qualified for the FY 2023 OA Livelihood Project (OALP) worth a total of P20.5 million. They were: Oragon Farmers Agriculture Cooperative (OFAC) in Brgy. Handong, Libmanan, Camarines Sur; Goa Agri-Producers and Processors Association (GAPPA) in Brgy. Hiwacloy, Goa, Camarines Sur; Camarines Norte Federation of Cooperatives (CANOFECO) in Brgy. Sto. Domingo, Vinzons, Camarines Norte; Catanduanes Producers and Processors Association (COPPA) in Brgy. Sta. Elena, Virac, Catanduanes; Good Organic Practitioners Organization and Sustainable Agriculture of Gubat Inc. (GOAPOSAGUBAT); Sto. Niño Farmers Association in Brgy. Cagbacong, Legazpi City, and Maunlad Farmers’ Association in Brgy. Cabitan, Mandaon, Masbate.

DA Bicol also recognized and awarded the scholarship grants to 10 OA youth scholars under the ATI’s Youth Scholarship Grant on Organic Farming program. The first batch of OA youth scholars are the following: Blandino P. Alvarez of Brgy. Calongay, Pilar, Sorsogon; Hajie T. Tapia of Brgy. Obo, San Miguel, Catanduanes; Diosdado L. Culiat Jr. of Brgy. Pinit, Ocampo, Camarines Sur; Egidio Antonio F. Alberto of Brgy. San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur; Leo T. Galgal of Brgy. Carolina, Naga City, Camarines Sur; Christian D. Capitan of Brgy. Bolo Sur, Sipocot, Camarines Sur; Arjay B. Cahigao of Brgy. San Antonio, Tigaon, Camarines Sur; Fidel P. Marpuri of Brgy. Cagmanaba, Ocampo, Camarines Sur; Babyjean S. Meralpis of Brgy. Bolao Balite, Tinambac, Camarines Sur; and Janet J. Ibarrientos of Brgy. Guinaban, Ocampo, Camarines Sur. Each of them will receive P5,000-worth of stipend for nine months, start-up support or scholarship grant worth P150,000, and mentoring for the implementation of their business plan.

The Certificate of Accreditation as Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) Organic Certifying Body was also conferred to Pecuaria Development Cooperative during the event.

In his message, Tornilla commended the PDC for being the first PGS organic certifying body in the region.

“I commend the PDC for being one of the pillars of organic agriculture and staunch advocate of sustainable agriculture in Bicol… With the accreditation of Pecuaria Development Cooperative as PGS-certifying body, more organic farms will be able to apply for organic certification,” he said.

He added that with the new programs being implemented by the N/ROAP, he is optimistic that OA will continue to flourish towards a competitive and sustainable industry that contributes to the better incomes and sustainable livelihood of practitioners.

Meanwhile, in a message delivered by Deriquito, San Juan commended the regions including Bicol for attaining several milestones towards the institutionalization of OA in the country such as the development of inputs and technologies for OA and adoption of ordinances allocating funds to support OA activities and programs. She also regarded organic agriculture as an insurance of the future. This is by ensuring farmers’ production and income amid the rising cost of synthetic fertilizer through organic fertilizer production and securing the health both of the farmers and consumers through non-exposure to harmful chemicals.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Senator Cynthia A. Villar lauded the DA N/ROAB’s achievements. She enumerated her efforts to support the program particularly the enactment of the Republic Act 11511, amending RA 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, whom she principally authored and sponsored, that institutionalized the PGS as an alternative organic certification scheme.

Moreover, Nacpil, who served as the keynote speaker, also highlighted the importance of OA in producing healthy food, protecting the environment, increasing farmers’ income, and standardizing OA as a science-based agricultural system. He also shared his best practices and insights on organic agriculture on livestock and organic feed preparation.

To further advance the OA program implementation in the region, Losa presented the Regional OA Plan and Status while Provincial OA Focal Persons discussed their respective OA plans. According to the ROAB, Bicol has a proposed budget worth P39.74 million for OA. About P16.49 million of which is allocated for production support services while P7.95 million is alloted for extension support, education and training services, P1.83 million for irrigation network services, and P13.45 million for agricultural machineries, equipment, and facilities support services respectively.

“Sinisikap ng organic agriculture na worth increasan ng budget ang programa. Magtulong-tulong tayo para dumami ang mga organic-certified farms and farmer-practitioners,” Losa said.

As part of this year’s regional OA Congress, CBSUA Organic Agriculture Center Director Lily Casimiro presented an overview of CBSUA’s OA Center, which displayed some of its naturally grown and processed products and innovations at the mini-exhibit. Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) Senior Science Research Specialist Ronald John Lamano also oriented the participants on Accreditation of Core PGS Groups and its operations as organic certifying bodies while Healthy Options Business Unit Head for Fresh Produce and Sustainability Head Ian Junelord C. Invierno discussed the OA market opportunities in partnership with his company.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) defines OA as a “production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people.” OA is one of the six banner programs of the DA. Bicol already has 46,064.46 hectares of agricultural land devoted to OA and 82 organic farmer groups. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V with reports from Sarah A. Atanacio and Julie D. Pobocan, DA RFO V Organic Agricultural Program)

Photo Credits: Eduardo D. Collantes Jr. Ramon C. Adversario Jr., and William S. Lavapie