PILCD’s education project on sustainable agriculture started in the year 2003. It was crafted from the framework of “Continuing Education for Sustainable Development” anchored from two integrated perspectives.
From an adult education perspective, it is a continuing education strategy where farmers are involved in continuing process of action-reflection experience to gradually transform themselves from conventional farmers to organic farming practitioners and advocates.
From a sustainable agriculture frame, it carries a holistic view of organic agriculture that looks beyond the elimination of the use of chemical inputs. Rather, it is a farming system that will work closely with natures design and promotion of ecology and human health is an overarching value.
The projects design was framed following an action learning approach where learning by doing dominate the over-all learning process. The farmers took an active part from setting up the project plan, design to developing the first demonstration farm. It is a farm-based approach of continuing education and training for small farmers on sustainable agriculture that includes soil management, cropping systems, and pest/disease management, leadership development and entrepreneurship/business training.
Specifically, this aims to enable farmers to:
The three basic elements of this program are learning, knowledge generation, and organising. The three overlap in practice, but it all begins with education. The next step is the provision of opportunities for farmers to build their skills. These activities further farmers’ learning so that they are able to: a) develop their own knowledge through on-farm applied research; and b) organise groups and activities. The final phase includes activities that will enhance the capacities of farmers to create their own mechanisms to manage and market their resources.
PILCD maintains an organic farm center in Loo, Buguias, Benguet where training and learning activities are mainly conducted.
Noel Salvino is one of the participants of the project. He is also a local official of the village. Already more than sixty years of age, “Manong” Noel as we respectfully call him is not a native of Buguias but from a nearby town – Tublay. He came to Buguias when he married his wifemanang Aida who is very much active in PILCD’s projects involving their women’s organization.
He was motivated to join the program because he wanted to reduce their cost of input in farming. “I really wanted to reduce my cost of input because we are not gaining anymore from the conventional farming that we do. But I have my doubts because how can a vegetable grow without fertilizer… a lot of the farmers here who are rich got rich because they used fertilizers and chemicals”, he said.
Despite the doubt, manong Noel actively participated in the project – from the series of lectures to farm visits. He was the first participant who started transforming around 1,000 square meters of his farmland to an organic farm. “I really thought that what will be taught is composting only. PILCD emphasized the importance of saving the environment and taking care of our health and of our consumers too… and that really struck me”, he said.
“PILCD did not only train us but they showed us and went with us along the way into our farms to do it”.