Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Winning from Waste

Sometimes, big problems in farming can be a blessing in disguise. That’s because people are forced to become more creative. Just like when the price of urea fertilizer suddenly increased to P2,200, from the usual P1,200 per bag of 50 kilos, eight years or so ago.

Farmers turned to organic fertilizer, especially vermicompost, which they themselves could produce at their own homes. Vermicompost is produced by earthworms that are fed with animal manure and other farm wastes.

FROM WASTE TO WEALTH Mayor Jonathan de Lara (second from left) and companions observe the operation of the mechanical shaker-strainer through which vermicompost is passed before bagging.
FROM WASTE TO WEALTH Mayor Jonathan de Lara (second from left) and companions observe the operation of the mechanical shaker-strainer through which vermicompost is passed before bagging.
Today, Solsona, a town in Ilocos Norte, is the top producer of vermicompost in the North. Some 500 small-hold farmers, who are members of a cooperative, are producing vermicompost for their own use as well as for sale to other users.

In 2013, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) gave Solsona an award that included cash for having been the No. 2 producer of vermicompost in the country. The No.1 then was Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Vermicomposting in Solsona started in earnest in 2011, led by former Mayor Joseph de Lara. The year before, de Lara came to know about vermicomposting when he visited the Philippine Carabao Center in Nueva Ecija. He thought if the technology could be adopted by his constituents, they would no longer have to buy expensive chemical fertilizers.

So he gave farmers in Solsona starter kits of one kilo of earthworms and taught them how to set up the vermiculture bins and how to prepare the farm wastes to feed the earthworms. It did not take long for the farmers to realize that vermicomposting was good for them. On their own, they were able to produce the fertilizer they needed for their farms and even had extra to sell. In a culture period of 45 days, the one kilo of earthworms had produced 250 kilos of compost worth P1,250 plus additional five kilos of earthworms worth R2,500 when sold.

According to Mayor Jonathan de Lara, who succeeded his father in 2013, he helped form a cooperative that is now being supervised by the local government to make sure the product meets quality standards. The co-op buys all the excess vermicompost produced by the farmers and then sells it to other farmers not only in Solsona but also in other towns, even outside Ilocos Norte.

The BSWM has been a big help in promoting the use of vermicompost in growing rice. It put up demonstration farms to show the good effects of organic fertilizers. During the first cropping of 2014, the agency bought P250,000 worth of vermicompost from the co-op that it applied on 100 hectares of farmland. Several hectares were also applied with chemical fertilizers for purposes of comparing the harvests.

During the second cropping, the BSWM doubled the area applied with vermicompost, buying P500,000 worth from the co-op. At harvest time, farmers were invited to the field day to see the results. According to de Lara, there was not much difference in the yield. But the big difference was the cost of production. Those fertilized with vermicompost cost much less to produce. Moreover, the grains of those fertilized with vermicompost were heavier. De Lara is truly proud of his town’s achievement.

Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/winning-from-waste/
Written by: Zac Sarian





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