The Sustainable Vegetable Production Project in Guimaras - empowering local farmers to increase farm income through environmental-friendly vegetable production

Johannes Geisen


The productivity of the agricultural enterprises in the Province of Guimaras, a small island in the Philippines, is observed to be low. Small farmers generally find that their farm income is insufficient to meet their cost of living. Despite a potential for vegetable production, which can be more profitable than most other agricultural enterprises, only few local farmers engage in the activity. Most locally sold vegetables come from other provinces. Facing this fact, and the heavy and indiscriminate application of synthetic agro-chemicals in Philippine vegetable production with all its resulting problems, it was decided by the Provincial Government to especially promote organic vegetable farming in the province.
The project that was conceptualized uses a two-pronged strategy, offering to its cooperators information on both organic and integrated production methods. Cooperators producing organically reduce pest and disease infestation by employing cultural and mechanical methods and control them, if necessary, by biological methods. The project stresses that botanicals are no panacea and may be as hazardous as synthetic agrochemicals if used indiscriminately. The results obtained show a clear potential for organic vegetable production. Gross production output and marketable yields from organic production are so far not significantly different to those produced under Integrated Crop Management (ICM). Both production systems produce higher yields than the conventional production method (farmer's practice). This fact is due to the very low productivity of the latter.
Notwithstanding, as organic farming is more labor-intensive and carries a perceived increased risk of crop failure, farmers expect to realize higher market prices, while in the local markets organic products have to compete with non-organic products on the same price levels. To realize higher prices, cooperators must engage in direct marketing. It can be concluded that organic production makes most sense in areas situated close to cities or population centers, where markets and individual consumers are easily accessible and willing to pay higher prices for healthier products. Notwithstanding, the Guimaras experience shows that organic vegetable production, while more labor- and knowledge-intensive than the "conventional" way of farming, can be economically viable even in an unfavorable market environment. While further research is needed, this experience can indisputably serve as a model to other small farmers.

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