BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
A downpour June 5 evening delayed for one hour my rendezvous with cold light beer in a nearby store. But it was one night to remember after I turned on the radio.
It was anchors Rod Teczon’s and Emerson Labrillazo’s baritone voices that popped out of the box airing a variety ranging from showbiz to social commentaries.
“Ground Zero” radio magazine, Monday through Saturday evening, has a 20-minute segment featuring discussions on agriculture with Larry Locara, a “floating ship” at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, as resource person.
With Larry on farming, the issue is predictable: earth-friendly system that frowns on mono-cropping and synthetic inputs, chemicals in brief.
Larry has been writing on natural farming since 1996 when yours truly was editorial consultant of a local daily. I invited him to contribute columns. He later wrote for another daily and the Agriculture magazine of the Manila Bulletin group. When cyberspace reached Iloilo, he opened two blogs, one dedicated to crops and livestock, the other on fighting cocks.
Yours truly have been following Larry’s pieces that debunk the myth of the superiority of chemical-oriented farming and mono-cropping systems. For him, farmers are not machines blindly following advise from so-called experts to use chemicals that expose themselves and communities to health and environmental hazards on one hand, and on the other, benefitting agri-chem giants, mostly transnational corporations, which corner super profits from Filipino farmers poisoning themselves.
In sum, Larry points out that the farmer is a human tasked with the responsibility of producing not only safe farm products. The farmer must also practice green systems that ensure profits and sustainability. At this juncture of our history where climate change spreads fast, systems that encourages planting of fruit and forest trees, contribute invaluably in saving the earth.
The program allots 20 minutes to Larry starting 8:30. The first time I tuned in, Larry was harping on the importance of diversifying crops that he called “integration”, for example, devoting lower portions of the farm to rice and the slope or upper ground to drought resistant crops including fruit trees and coconuts. “The more we turn farm wastes into fertilizer and the lesser we use chemicals, the more profits we reap,” he says.
Listeners rained the anchors with text messages that they forwarded to Larry. The question-and-answer was fast only to be interrupted by the STL draw.
After the lottery results were announced, the show resumed with more texted queries thrown to Larry.
The remaining minutes focused on coconuts. Without spending on chemicals, rice farmers can add to their income by integrating coconuts with rice. Coconut is mistakenly called “tree” as people call it “tree of life” that it really is, only that it should be called “palm”.
Not even “Owa Mangunguma”, anchored by a big-wig from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) which bankrolls the block time on another broadcast station every Saturday evening, could match Larry who systematically and in simple language, rattled off information on the benefits farmers get when they grow both rice and coconut. During the dry months, they have coconuts to turn to so to stave off hunger either in revenue or as food that the family itself consumes.
Farmers earn more by planting cacao trees in between coconut trunks. The partial shade from the coconut suits the cacao that farmers themselves can process into chocolate bricks, a nutritious ingredient in confectionaries, thus adding value.
Here is one instance where farmers enhance skills and become cottage entrepreneurs.
I call Larry a “floating ship” above because it aptly captures his status. He is the chief of the evaluation division, Iloilo Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) but is now “floating” since 2004.
Being “floated” is a torment. Larry, however, transformed that misfortune into productive consultancy venture.
Incidentally, Rod’s 10,000-head layer farm in Guimaras is the only one in W. Visayas that avoids antibiotics. He himself makes “probiotics”, a safe and cheaper technic that reduces odor and makes his birds resistant. His workers planted vacant spaces at the poultry to vegetables that reduced food expenses.
He learned that from Larry, for free. No wonder, he picked him star of the show.