CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Local government units (LGUs) have been encouraged to establish organic gardens to ensure a sustainable supply of organic produce and encourage communities to be self-sufficient.
In fact, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued Memorandum Circular 2019-129 on August 9, 2019, calling on all mayors and governors to promote organic gardens in their respective areas based on the provisions of the Philippine National Standards for Organic Agriculture.
The DILG issued the circular in response to the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) Resolution 14, Series of 2019 that asks the DILG, through its Gulayan sa Barangay Program, to establish organic gardens.
The NOAB is the frontline agency in the implementation of Republic Act 10068, also known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.
The law was approved and signed on April 6, 2010. It states that organic agriculture includes all agricultural systems that promote the ecologically sound, socially acceptable, economically viable and technically feasible production of food and fibers.
It covers soil fertility management, varietal breeding and selection under chemical-free conditions, and the use of biotechnology and other cultural practices that are consistent with the principles and policies of RA 10068. It excludes the use of modified organisms or GMOs.
Role of LGUs
According to the NOAB, LGUs have a pivotal role as frontliners in the implementation of the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010. LGUs can come up with ordinances and resolutions that would institutionalize local organic agriculture programs as strategies to solve concerns on food security, environment, health and wellness and poverty alleviation.
And with about 80 percent of the poor population in rural areas dependent on subsistence agriculture, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), organic gardens can well address issues on food security.
The DILG and NOAB are looking at the integration of the organic gardens into the pre-existing Gulayan sa Barangay Programs. The Gulayan program is among the hunger mitigation efforts of the government to encourage communities to become self-sufficient by producing their own food.
This is also seen as an answer to affordability issues in food production, as well as issues of food security, environmental concerns and climate mitigation.
However, while there is a law on organic agriculture, not many people in the agriculture sector are taking advantage of its positive provisions.
The NOAB sees the Gulayan sa Barangay program as the best initiative to promote organic farming among communities and farmers. Many local government units have their urban and rural gardening programs, though not many of them focus on organic farming.
However, the lack of effective local laws institutionalizing the Gulayan sa Barangay program makes these urban gardens susceptible to the political whims of local officials.
One example is an area in Barangay Del Pilar that was once the site of the first ever floating garden in Pampanga that used the technology of water hyacinths as floating rafts for garden and vegetable cultivation.
The organic garden employed technology learned from the Philippine Rice Research Institute. The organic garden once had 200 floating rafts at the almost 2.3-hectare property that was constantly flooded by water even during summer.
The organic garden was managed by volunteers who also raise chickens and ducks that were also given to residents for free. The organic garden was reportedly discontinued after a change in the political leadership in the said barangay.
Fortunately, interest in urban gardening seems to be changing as the City of San Fernando in 2018, hosted an inter-barangay "Gulayan sa Kababaihan" contest in line with the celebration of Women's Month.
The city sees the involvement of the women sector in promoting community gardens as an effective way for everyone to have access to garden vegetables. This is also aimed to lessen malnutrition among children.
Farm produce from organic farms also pose no health hazards as organic farming practices do not use synthetic pesticide and inorganic fertilizer.
One of the only few organic gardens run by an LGU in Central Luzon is the Gulayan sa Barangay in Barangay Balibago in Angeles City. Here, the barangay officials run an organic garden alongside an eco-friendly livestock farm.
The barangay was able to turn a former dumpsite inside Hadrian Village into a community farm were residents and volunteers tend to vegetable production. Residents receive whatever is produced from the garden for free.
In Angeles City too, the City Government sees urban gardening as an effective way to reduce waste and recycle certain materials for farm use. Here, the use of recyclable materials such as used tires, and plastic bottles serve as pots for plants and vegetables.
According to the DA, organic farming produces less carbon footprint and poses less impact on the environment.
Aside from the obvious health and environmental benefits, those who are into organic farming are expected to have lesser expenses and increased profit compared to non-organic farming.