A MULTI-AWARDED Negrense integrated and organic farmer who sits as the new director of the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) representing small farmers in the Visayas is pushing for sustainability among organic farmers in the country.

Jesus Antonio "Jet" Orbida, who took oath before Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar during the virtual closing ceremony of the Organic Agricultural Month on Tuesday, December 1, said they will push for the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) as per the latest amendment on the Organic Agriculture Law.

Orbida said the PGS will enable them, small farmers, to certify their produce as organically grown in line with Dar's challenge for organic farming to be sustainable particularly for the small farmers.

"The certification has been a major hindrance. Some farmers are moving back from going organic because their products cannot be labeled as organic," he said, adding that farmers have to spend P100,000 to P130,000 per product for organic certification.

The multi-awarded farmer is the president of PeacePond Farmers Association that runs a less than five-hectare farm and fish production area at Barangay Enclaro in Binalbagan town promoting integrated and diversified farming.

In November 2019, he was awarded as finalist in the National Organic Agriculture Achievers Award (NOAAA) small farmer (individual) category.

In September of the same year, Orbida received the award for the same category in the 2019 Regional Organic Agriculture Achievers Awards (ROAAA) in Iloilo City.

Prior to these recognitions, Orbida was also a recipient of various awards, including the Outstanding Coconut Farmer in the Pasidungog sa Panguma, Pangisda kag Pangkasapatan in 2017, Negros Island Outstanding Coconut farmer in 2017, Outstanding Coconut Farmer in the Third Niyogros Festival and 2018 Regional Coconut Week Celebration, 2018 Regional Gawad Saka Outstanding Coconut, and national finalist Outstanding Coconut Farmer in 2018.

Also in 2018, he was recognized by the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental for coconut and integrated farming during the 2nd Food Production Heroes Assembly.

Their association, PeacePond Farmers Association, also bagged the 2018 The Outstanding Farmer of the Philippines (Tofarm) gold award for agriculture initiatives category.

Being the only DOT-accredited tourism establishment in Binalbagan, PeacePond practices agroforestry by intercropping other farm produce between coconut trees.

The farm's main products are coconut and by-products like cocosugar, virgin coconut VCO, natural and organic vinegar.

It has a Mangrove Crab Farm inside the mangrove sanctuary under the Aquasilvi project of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Also, the farm hosts the Plastic Bottle Learning Center and Eco Seed Factory aimed at promoting health, education, information dissemination, and food security especially among small farmer-families.

Through the Blastik or the Balik Plastic Bottle Project, which is a full-circle plastic bottle collection and recycling program, the group hopes to teach public and private sector groups on how to lessen the plastic footprint among communities.

Among the latest recognition of Orbida is being the 2019 Outstanding Negrosanon for organic farming given by the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental during the commemoration of Al Cinco de Noviembre.

As he represents the Visayas small farmers in the NOAB from 2020 to 2023, Orbida said he will also push for the Organic Sugar Resolution initially pushed by Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino and former NOAB Director Pastor Jerry Dionson, who is so a multi-awarded Negrense farmer.

He said the pending NOAB resolution which was presented during the Organic Agriculture Congress in 2019 requests the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to have a separate sugar classification for organic sugar.

"We will continue to advocate for this resolution to be considered for future amendments in the Organic Agriculture Law," Orbida said.

Also, the new NOAB director underscored that seed sourcing is a major issue when it comes to organic farming.

"We want to enhance seed banking practices to assure the future generation of farmers of quality seeds and avoid dependency on imported and genetically-modified organism (GMO) seeds," he added.