Some 2,500 Filipinos have been trained by Japanese representatives on organic farming technology to enable them to be more competitive in the agricultural industry as well as provide local consumers with healthier options.

“How agriculture products are grown will have an impact on the ordinary Filipinos’ health and on the competitiveness of the local farmers in entering new markets,” said Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Senior Representative Yuko Tanaka. JICA is the assisting arm of the Japanese government for developing countries.

The training initiative, which started in 2013 is a 3-year programme. Representatives from JICA, Department of Agriculture (DA), and Japan Agricultural Exchange Council (JAEC) trained Filipino farmers on the use of organic materials which reduce chemicals like mokusaku – or wood vinegar, compost, and charcoal.

Through this technology, produce are grown and processed without synthetic pesticides, nor are bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge fertilizers used. These crops must be self-sustainable.

Generally, in producing organic crops, produce are given natural fertilizers, weeds are naturally controlled through hand rotation, mulching, hand weeding, and pests are controlled through natural methods such as using insects, whereas conventionally-grown produce use chemicals in controlling weeds and pests.

Organic crops are fresher, taste better, have more nutrients, and contain less pesticides which leads to less risk for illness.

In 2016, the US Environmental Working Group (EWG) ranked strawberries, apples, nectarines and peaches as the dirtiest produce – which have the highest loads of pesticides. Meanwhile, avocado, sweet corn, and pineapples are the cleanest.

The JICA and JAEC initiative has also trained around 800 extension workers and 400 personnel from the DA.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) noted that the second phase of the training project will focus on marketing, improved vegetable grading, and packing system which started in December 2016. 

“Our goal is to uplift the lives of the farmers by introducing them to technologies that will give them options for safe vegetable farming at the same time help improve their income,” according to JAEC Executive Director Ryoji Sakamoto. MIMS

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