Ugnayan at Bahaginan: The Haiyan Experience | Organic bond: Father and Son Team Up in Pioneering Sustainable Agriculture Practice in Community

by ACCORD, Inc.

Building Back Better and Safer : Mainstreaming IRM in livelihood programming


Benidicto M. Cabilte or Mano Ben, as everybody calls him, is a frail man at 63. He is apologetic and quite shy when we went to see him in his house in Barangay Bulod, part of Sta. Fe municipality in Leyte.  He lives in a small house together with his son, Junior. The father and son tandem cultivates a ¼ hectare of land owned by a relative residing in Palo. They plant rice and vegetables. Half of their rice harvest is given to the land owner as a form of rent, while the rest they keep for their consumption.  Mano Ben used to work as a security guard in Tacloban and Samar. His wife and their children were the ones tending the farm. But when his wife got sick of tuberculosis, he stopped working as a security guard and took care of her. It was also during this time that Mano Ben went back to farming. 

The couple survived Yolanda’s wrath, but unfortunately last year, Mano Ben’s wife died. The old man got so depressed that at times he turned to drinking to forget his pain. When he is sober Mano Ben continues to work in the farm together with his son Jun. The farm provides for their food and other needs and at the same time serves as therapy for Mano Ben. The daily toil keeps his mind off some problems. 

Mano Ben came to know ACCORD through the livelihood assistance project for their barangay where he is a beneficiary. For the first tranche, he received P3,000.00 which he used to buy feeds for a piglet he already owns.  For the second tranche, the livelihood group that Mano Ben was a member pooled part of the assistance they received and decided to buy a rice thresher and a carabao. They agreed this will enable them to expand their farms and increase productivity, thereby increasing their income.

Mano Ben consistently attended meetings and trainings facilitated by ACCORD. Most memorable to him is the sustainable agriculture training. He got interested upon hearing that the training involves actual demonstration on how to make organic fertilizer and insecticide.  It was very appropriate at that time since he was having trouble with some insects and pests in his farm and commercial fertilizer was too expensive that he can’t afford to buy them. 

Prior to attending the seminar on sustainable agriculture, Mano Ben used chemical sprayers and fertilizer in their rice field such as Superharvest and Restorer. He notes that it isn’t good for his health because of weakness and pains he endures after spraying.  He also observes that chemicals harm the environment, and the plant stems are more infirm and shorter. However, like other farmers, he was used to it and had little knowledge on how to shift to organic farming, although he had heard about it in seminars he attended before.  

Mano Ben shared that the trainings were very helpful because of the step-by-step process taught them.   He was so enthusiastic during the training, he took pains jotting important notes and made sure to bring with him a copy of the recipes for organic concoctions.  He wanted to share it with his son and try making some for their own use. Jun, on the one hand, was introduced to a 15-day course on gardening in high school. “Mabuti na lang nagturo sila tungkol sa gardening sa amin, napakahalaga ng kaalamang iyon.” said Jun. Aside from what he learned from high school, he also actively does research on useful techniques and supplements the organic farming knowledge his father learned during the Sustainable Agriculture seminar. For their first attempt, Mano Ben and Jun made fermented fruit juice and insect attractant. They applied the fermented fruit juice and insect attractant on their vegetable crops of squash, red chili, string beans, watermelon and eggplant. 

Since then, they have observed a significant change in the quality of both rice and vegetable crops with convincing testimonies on the effects of organic fertilizers on production. They said that the crops were bigger than before, with firmer stems and greener in color, with increased yield and faster growth rate compared with crops using chemical fertilizers. Organic fertilizers also do not cause acidity in the soil, thus, continuously producing good crops. Father and son also happily relate how effective the organic attractant they have concocted in deflecting pests off their crops. They also tried to mix the fermented fruit juice to feed the pigs and deworm them.  At present, they are tending 6 pigs, a dozen chickens, and a few ducks.

Mano Ben was so proud when his neighbors noticed the difference in his vegetable garden that they started to ask what he applied to achieve such healthy-looking vegetables. He also adds that one of the big landowners in their barangay sought their help on how to make the organic concoctions.  He boasts that he has convinced three farmers to go organic, too.

The passion of Mano Ben and Jun about practicing organic farming is very evident in the way they talk about their experiences.  They are very proud of their practice that is more environmentally friendly and are very keen on encouraging their community to do the same. Jun plans to share his knowledge more extensively with the youth after proving the effectiveness of organic farming which they tested and practiced in their vegetable garden.  Mano Ben continues to be busy throughout the day attending to the farm and their livestock.  For both of them, life is simply getting better.  Mano Ben at 63 is indeed still active and dynamic by going organic. 


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