Organic farming helps lessen health risks in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur

During his time as mayor of Cervantes town, Ilocos Sur, Benjamin Maggay noticed that whenever their farmers used chemicals, they developed lung problems two to three days after.

Organic farming would solve it, Maggay thought. 

“Ang purpose namin ay mabawasan ang mga magsasakang gumagamit ng commercial fertilizers at pesticides dahil nagiging sanhi ito ng mga health problems,” he said. (Our purpose was to lessen the number of farmers who were using commercial fertilizers and pesticides, because these are what's causing our health problems.) 

So Cervantes ventured into organic farming both as a strategy for agricultural development and as part of the town's health program.  

In 2010, the local government partnered with the Assisi Development Foundation (ADFI) to help the town in its agriculture and health projects. It was part of the mayor’s banner program called Cervantes Poverty Alleviation and Development for Rural Economy (Cervantes-PADRE).

The mobilization of farmers and local officials was the key to the success of organic farming in Cervantes. Farmers’ associations were introduced to organic farming.

Despite the disadvantages of organic farming in terms of crop yield, organic crops have health benefits due to the elimination of chemicals from commercial pesticides and fertilizers. And being healthy is an attractive option for consumers. 

Interested farmers’ associations were given capacity building trainings and seminars, along with exposure to organic farming sites. Once training was completed, the local government, with the help of ADFI, provided the starting budget and vegetable seeds to the farmers.

As time passed, more farmers’ associations and individuals adopted organic farming. Because of the method's success in Cervantes, the local government decided to create an organic model farm, against which people from different communities and local governments can benchmark their program. With this development in Cervantes, the health and income of the people improved.

The program initially started with 12 farmers. By 2017, approximately 300 farmers switched to organic. The farmers applied this new method well, with one of their barangays being cited as the Best Organic Barangay in Ilocos Sur for two consecutive years during the province’s annual Kannawidan Festival. 

The demand for organic produce and fertilizers increased as awareness of the health benefits of consuming organic rose. With this trend favoring organic products, the income of organic farmers in Cervantes increased by 60% since the program started. – 

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