Thursday, May 21, 2009

Free book on sustainable rice agriculture

Whenever sustainable agriculture and organic farming are taken up in this space, quite a number of readers send in feedback and queries, or even offer information about what they are doing in their own farms and backyards. Which means that sustainable agriculture, natural farming, organic farming, or in the new Filipino jargon of enlightened farmers, “likas-kaya at organikong pagsasaka” (LKP) is gaining adherents and advocates.

(I do backyard organic gardening and have lately been eating so much patola—the short, gourd-like type which looks like an oversized sayote. I think I got the seeds from the Bureau of Plants. I have a lot of small, wild ampalaya for juicing.)

At last, the words sustainable agriculture and organic farming have been given a Filipino translation. And that is the title of the newly published book by University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UP-LB) professor Oscar B. Zamora and his team. “Likas-Kaya at Organikong Pagsasaka ng Palay” (Sustainable and Organic Rice Agriculture) was launched last week at the Go-Organic! Philippines forum and bazaar at the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) headquarters in Quezon City. I thought the book would be for sale but I was surprised when I was told it was free. It is in Filipino so whatever I quote here is my own translation into English.

Written and published for farmers, the book has no copyright and the publishers even encourage translations, adaptations, copying and mass dissemination. Just cite the author and publishers (PRRM, UP-LB College of Agriculture and Mind Builders Publishing House). If you are a farmer and want a free copy, contact Go-Organic! through PRRM, 59 Mother Ignacia St. corner Scout Lazcano, QC. Tel. 3724992, 3724994. Email: or, You may also visit

The book (8x11, 198 pp.) has 12 chapters and is amply illustrated. While it offers a lot of background and scientific information, the book is really a how-to book. Chapter 1 is on sustainable agriculture and organic farming. What do they mean, what are the principles, how are they practiced?

The book tackles land preparation, seed selection, seed preparation (wetbed, drybed, dapog and SRI methods), seeding (wet, dry). It discusses the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers on the soil. Water is an important subject too. A whole chapter is devoted to pest control and management. Chapter 10, Pagiiba at pag-uugnay ng mga gawaing pangsakahan, (changing and integrating farm activities) deals with transfer of energy, water and substances cycles, plants, animals, biodiversified farming system, synergy, etc.

Farm management is something farmers also need to learn well in order for their endeavors to be both profitable and sustainable.

A whole chapter is devoted to organic fertilizer production, composting methods, the Korean natural farming, Bokashi fermented fertilizer, carbonized rice hull.

The last chapter offers 10 principles and methods (vertical and horizontal conversion) on how to convert into likas-kayang pagsasaka (LKP) or sustainable agriculture. What to consider before converting, and more.

The book will surely boost the Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP), Phase 1 of which was launched in Nov. 2008. For Phase 1, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is targeting 10 percent organic conversion of rice fields. Partners in this effort are the DA, PRRM, Bureau of Soils and Management, La Liga Policy Institute and the city government of Alaminos. Go Organic! Philippines, a consortium of civil society groups, is right at the center of this.

I was in Bohol two weeks ago and I was pleased to find out that the province has its own Go Organic program. Bohol Initiators for Sustainable Agriculture and Development (BISAD) is also a consortium of non-government organizations, people’s organizations, government agencies and business enterprises working to promote, strengthen and mainstream the principles, technologies and strategies of sustainable agriculture and development. (Email: It is in partnership with Australian Aid.

I saw big BISAD tarpaulin posters with information on organic agriculture. Flyers and brochures are also available. Listed are places where one could buy organically grown products in Bohol. Dr. Zamora’s book will surely be a great boost for BISAD’s campaign.
Once more, what is organic agriculture? “It is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and utilizes management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

“`Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the DA’s Organic Rule (AO#13 series of 2002 and EO 481). The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of farming system into an ecological whole.”

Here are 8 reasons to go organic (from the Organic Trade Organization). Organic tastes great. It reduces health risks. Organic farms respect our water resources. Organic farmers build healthy soil. They work in harmony with nature. Organic producers are leaders in innovative research. They strive to preserve diversity. Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy.

Correction: The film “Lagablab sa Maribojoc” which featured Maribojoc, Bohol starred Cesar Ramirez, not Fernando Poe Jr. as mentioned last week. FPJ starred in “Esteban” which was also shot in Bohol.