Hope springs for organic farming in lahar-ravaged town

PORAC -- Recycling residual organic waste has never been this exciting for this town’s local agriculture industry.

The prospects of converting residual waste into organic fertilizer; reducing the local government’s expenses on garbage disposal; and at the same time helping local farmers with low cost fertilizer and rehabilitating lahar ravaged farmlands are the reasons that prompted the Municipal Government of Porac to embrace a simple yet revolutionary technology on organic fertilizer production. And to cap it all, the town need not spend a single centavo.

Porac town, through Mayor Condralito dela Cruz, has partnered with Japanese plant pathologist and entrepreneur Tsuyoshi Morita of Golden Opportunities Diversified and Japanese company Tokyo Tech for a waste management system using micro-organisms and vermi worms to decompose organic waste. The town has now embraced the “Morita System” to help solve the garbage problem of the town and totally eliminate residual organic waste.

The “Morita System” is a low-cost organic waste management system. The system is a two-fold approach of using a combination of anaerobic digestion by liquid micro-organisms called “compost activator” (CA) for residual organic waste and feeding the remaining solid parts that are not dissolved in the first process through vermi-culture. The process produces a combination of potent liquid and solid fertilizer that could be used as fertilizer and soil enhancer.

It is a way of turning what was otherwise as residual waste than end into dumpsites into an agricultural solution to help local farmers with low-cost fertilizer and lahar ravaged-lands to become productive again. The process involves the construction of compost ponds of at least 22 feet by four feet with depths of six feet. The ponds are made of concrete to prevent seepage.

Residual waste like leftover food, rotten fruits and vegetables, fish discards, and other kitchen and agricultural wastes are shredded and placed in the pits along with a treatment of liquid compost activator. The pits are covered with tarpaulin and left to decompose under the sun. The liquid from this process becomes the organic liquid fertilizer. The waste is turned everyday for a week, the liquid is then sifted using a mesh and applied to farmland and crops like a liquid fertilizer and soil conditioner.

Amazingly, the process produces tolerable emissions. Solid residual wastes that do not totally decompose are fed to vermi worms. The worms then turn the remaining solid parts into fertilizer. The liquid fertilizer can also revolutionize farming practices as it can also be used as fungicide, insecticide, and seed disinfectant. The system was in fact developed in Porac town. Initial testing of the system was implemented on lahar lands operated by Sweet Crystal Integrated Sugar Mill, a sugar cane processing plant.

Porac town is Pampanga’s biggest municipality with a land area of area of 31,400 hectares. Its main industry is farming. Farmers produce crops like sugarcane and palay while farmlands near Angeles City are utilized for high-value vegetable farming. After the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, the town was blanketed in thick layers of lahar with some of its villages and farmlands virtually erased from the map because of the lahar flows.

Morita thought of finding ways to rehabilitate lahar-affected sugarcane plantations. It was an experimentation of 13 years on the five-hectare sugarcane farm which he rented from a local farmer in the village of Planas, a hilly town west of the town proper. In 2001, Morita perfected the combination of liquid compost activator and vermi-culture to speed up the decomposition of organic waste and to make lahar-affected land productive again. He would later model and patented it and was given patent number 2-2014-000104 by the Intellectual Property Office on March 12. The system can rehabilitate not just farms but entire villages that are still covered in lahar.

The Municipal Government of Porac will not spend a single centavo for the project. In fact, after five years of implementation, the whole system may be taken over by the community or farmers’ cooperatives. The municipality allowed the two companies the use and development of a portion of the town’s materials recovery facility (MRF), where the town’s waste are segregated and sorted. The only requirement of the program is that barangays should become active partners in waste segregation in the grassroots level.

“This is part of the corporate social responsibility program of these two companies. The fertilizer itself would be sold at low cost so that they could at least cover for the cost of operation and keep the facilities running,” Mayor Dela Cruz said.

The project would also be pilot-tested in three barangays of the town to get people involved in waste segregation. The town has also invited barangay leaders for a seminar to promote the technology in their respective areas. Local officials here are optimistic of the program as it would offset expenses for disposal of residual waste into dumpsites. Porac contributes to the 5,000 tons daily waste generation of the Central Luzon region.

Dealing with the waste problem in the household level and promoting a culture of enterprise in the production of organic fertilizer is effective come on for local residents, Dela Cruz added. Dela Cruz said that Morita had started demo farms in the MRF, applying the fertilizer produced in the facility in raising vegetable crops and flower gardens.

Eden Farms, a 2.5-hectare land beside the Gugu Creek, embraced the project in December last year. The farm is located in a barangay which was totally buried by lahar when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 and sits on top of an estimated 30 feet of lahar.

With the organic farm methodology, the farm is already producing 200 kilos of Chinese pechay or pak choi daily using the Morita System Soil Conditioner from the CA. The vegetable is sold at farm-gate price of P25 per kilo.

Beginning this year, Eden Farms will start with its integrated farm method by introducing livestock and poultry, as well as different varieties of vegetables.
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