“I wanted to try organic gardening because the price of synthetic fertilizer keeps going up while the price of our products is very uncertain”, said Aguilan slowly when asked why he is interested with organic farming. Aguilan and wife Gablay have been living on gardening and occasional por dia construction work. They have three young sons aged 10, 9 and 3 yrs old. They are both indigenous peoples coming from two tribes, the Applai Kanakanaey and the Bontok. Aguilan is the main operator of the garden owned by a distant relative who can not tend to her farm. He has been growing cabbage and bell pepper alternately the conventional way is one of those who takes risk year in and out on the high cost of farm inputs and very uncertain returns. Since Aguilan is often so occupied with work in the fields, Gablay who has to attend to the children at home had more time to attend the learning sessions on organic farming conducted in the neighborhood. She encouraged her husband to try to adopt what was being discussed. Aguilan decided to explore. He dedicated about 100 square meters, a terrace to grow organic cabbages while he continued to tend to his wider conventional plots.
The Project provided the organic plant enhancer AMO (Ako’y Magsasakang Organiko) and instructed him how to use it. “I used the commercially available siglat as fertilizer. Then I sprayed with AMO. But when the diamond back moth attacked my garden, I had to use insecticide although green label. I was afraid, the cabbages will all be destroyed if I did not use insecticides. But when the staff and consultant came encouraging me to continue with AMO, I did. I noticed, the plants recovered and the moths did not come back. Maybe the leaves are thicker now the worms do not like to munch on them, “ Aguilan narrates. “My sons are eating more cabbages now because the harvest is sweeter and we know it is much safer,” Gablay adds. “These are our dad’s organic cabbages!” , the two older sons proudly announced when their cabbages were being hauled to the market. These did not go so far outside of town. They were sold to the local police force and the teachers came flocking to buy. Some were already pre-ordered for delivery. Gablay went home happy with her sales having witnessed the support of the teachers and the police who bought them and having fetched a price better than the price at the trading post which was much lower.
Furthermore, the owner of the land Aguilan was tending offered to provide input for the organic production of bell pepper as next crop and that market is guaranteed to which Aguilan gamely agreed. Aguilan’s neighbor farmers are now expressing interest to also shift gradually knowing that after 2-3 years they have been operating their gardens, soil has degraded fast and they tenselves avoid feeding their harvest to their own families. Aguilan and Gablay’s story is yet to unfold. But they have made a choice to take a great step forward.