Sanchez: Negros Occidental Organic Agriculture Program

I was involved in organic farming as Vice Chairman of the Board of Organik na Negros! Association of Organic Producers and Resellers (Onopra). Based on the collective experience of highland farmers and indigenous peoples (IPs) of Negros Occidental and the Philippines, I was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program (NTFP -EP) Philippines and a member of its Asian peer group. I have also represented the Philippines in various conferences organized by the Mountain Partnership in Italy, Switzerland, France, Peru, Indonesia and Nepal.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic agriculture is an effective strategy for mitigating climate change by building robust soils that are better suited to the extreme weather conditions associated with climate change. The organic agriculture program in Negros Occidental began with the public-private organic agriculture initiative that established the organic vegetable farm at the back of the Capitol building in 2005 and the 15 pilot organic villages in the province.

Program components included training, information, education and campaigning (IEC); production of organic products (agro and aqua); the production of organic fertilizers and their promotion; marketing of organic products; research, development and extension; policy and advocacy; and support services and networking.

The organic agriculture program has many achievements such as:

* Conversion of nearly 15,000 hectares of land to organic farming

* Creation of laboratory production centers for biological agents in five of the six targeted villages

* Increased production and average farmer incomes by 25-30% through the provision of inputs and hands-on training on different organic farming technologies

* Ongoing support, collaboration and coordination with specific organized organic product groups of smallholder farmers

* Organization of provincial, municipal and municipal technical committees on organic agriculture in 32 cities and municipalities

* Ongoing hands-on trainings of field technicians and farmers on organic farming technologies and capacity building

* Annual celebration of the “Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival” to link agricultural fairs and fair trade at the local and national level

* Trained 1,500 farmers and people’s organizations (POs) and individuals on mushroom cultivation and production

Under the organic agriculture program, the province has received numerous awards, such as the Outstanding Province on Organic Agriculture Program award in 2013 and the Regional Organic Agriculture Achievers Award in 2014.

At environmental forums, feedback included “We need to restore our relationship with nature! », « Opt for ecological agricultural practices! Moderate warming and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can help some plants grow faster. However, more severe warming, flooding and drought can reduce yields. Livestock can be threatened, both directly by heat stress and indirectly by the reduced quality of their feed supply. Fisheries will be affected by changes in water temperature that make waters more hospitable to invasive species and alter the ranges or life cycles of some fish species.

Worldwide, agriculture is an important sector of the US economy. The crops, livestock, and seafood produced in the United States contribute more than $300 billion to the economy each year. When food service and other agriculture-related industries are included, the agriculture and food sectors contribute over $750 billion to gross domestic product.

Agriculture and fishing are highly dependent on the climate. The increase in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) can increase the yield of certain crops in certain places. But to realize these benefits, nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability and other conditions must also be met. Changes in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods could pose problems for farmers and herders and threaten food security. Meanwhile, warming water temperatures will likely shift the habitats of many species of fish and shellfish, potentially disrupting ecosystems.

Overall, climate change could make it harder to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and in the same places as we have in the past. Negrense environmentalists can proudly raise their heads to ensure safe and healthy food through organic farming and help mitigate climate change.

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