Young Benguet farmers start organic practices training

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Some 150 young farmers have started a 29-day training to acquire skills in organic farming at the newly launched Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in Benguet province and with this, the region is expected to produce better agricultural products at higher value.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Benguet Provincial Director Angela Gabriel said the 150 students, mostly below 30– years–old, will be eligible for a level 2 national certification (NC II) upon completion of the training that would certify them as knowledgeable with internationally acceptable skills.

Gabriel said the initial 150 students are distributed to the first three Tesda-accredited FFS organic farms namely Lily of the Valley Farm, Master’s Garden Farm and the Cosmic Garden Farm, all in Benguet’s capital town La Trinidad.

Each school will receive an initial 50 students under the government’s scholarship program. Tesda launched the FFS program in the Cordillera two weeks ago.

Gabriel said the trainers, who are also NC II holders, are experienced and are considered experts in the field, having been engaged in organic farming for years.

During the 29-day session, students will be taught the correct processes in producing organically agricultural products, basics of soil composition and will be required to do practical organic farm work.

Compared to other regular training courses offered by Tesda, Gabriel said this one is special because the guidelines in getting trainers is more relaxed because lessons will come from the actual experience in addition to the indigenous way of producing vegetables minus the commercial fertilizers and pesticides.

Rogel Marsan, owner of Cosmic Garden Farm, said the approach is innovative, participatory and interactive, with learning that emphasizes problem solving and is discovery-based.

“FFS aims to build farmers’ capacity to analyze their production systems, identify problems, test possible solutions, and eventually encourage the participants to adopt the practices most suitable to their farming systems,” he said.

He added FFS can also provide an opportunity for farmers to practice and test or evaluate sustainable land use technologies, and introduce new technologies by comparing their conventional technologies developed with their own tradition and culture.

Being a Tesda-accredited course, the graduates will receive a National Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) level I certification.

The officers said the training was approved under Tesda skills training after President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos, during the start of his term, to produce food at their own backyard, in order to end the hunger problem, “so that there will be nobody who will go to sleep with an empty stomach,” the President said in one of his speeches.

Tesda officers said about half of all Filipinos live in rural–farming or fishing areas and 70 percent of the poor families are in rural areas.

The younger generation, whose farmer-parents grow old poor, do not see agriculture as a lucrative career.

But Ambrocio Acosta, owner of Masters’ Garden, which is one of the first three Tesda-accredited farm field schools in the Cordillera, said organic farming is very profitable, if it is done right.

“It is very simple. Everything is in the field and there is no point in buying commercial farm inputs. The ideal concept of production is in the farm,” he said. (PNA)