Grassroots paralegal group calls for enforcement of buffer zone

February 24th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY – A paralegal group composed of farmers and residents from the third district reiterated their call for the City Government to implement proper buffer zones in the upland areas even as the Watershed Multipartite Monitoring Team (WMMT) finished last Tuesday  its plans  to monitor violations of the provisions of the watershed code.

The 122-strong Kinaiyahan Amumahon Panalipdan Panggaon ug  Irespeto (KAPPI) said that plantations in the uplands have not been complying with the buffer zone requirements and called for the WMMT to investigate and penalize violators.

“We welcome the formation of the WMMT and we hope that it will do its function of monitoring violations.’, according to KAPPI Advocacy Campaign Officer Rey Sapid .

Under the Watershed Code, the WMMTs  are  legally appointed bodies which will monitor the implementation of the Watershed Code.  Its membership includes representatives from the  government , the academe, the civil society  and the local barangay unit. There are three WMMTs , each in charge of monitoring one cluster zone in the watershed area.

Last Tuesday, the WMMT  had just finished its annual work plan for the implementation of the Code.  Among its tasks are to enforce the establishment of  proper buffer zones,  identify and secure landslide-prone communities, conduct ground monitoring and recommend filing of cases for violators.

The Watershed Code of Davao mandates that   40-meter buffer zones must be established around recharge zones, riverbanks, rivers, springs, wells, and other critical areas.  Meanwhile, areas with residential houses, schools and other community infrastructure must have 30-meter buffer zones from surrounding plantations.

KAPPI noted that most plantations have not been complying with the provisions.  “Buffer zones should be planted with trees to catch the drift from pesticides but most of the plantations are only content to establish shrubs along the edges of their plantations and call it a proper buffer zone.” , said Sapid.

“The WMMT should investigate these cases promptly and penalize violators. They should not wait for residents to complain  before acting on the problem.”, he said.

KAPPI is prepared to assist the WMMT in monitoring the grassroots implementation of the Code. “ Our members are present in all the 14 barangays in the 3rd district.  We know firsthand how plantations have disregarded the environment in their drive to expand their areas.”

Even before the Watershed Code was drafted, environmentalists have long lobbied for the proper establishment of buffer zones.  Buffer zones are important areas because they safeguard the sources of water and rural communities from the toxic effects of chemicals used by monocrop plantations.  During heavy rains, they minimize flooding as they absorb the surface run-off.  ( #)

Levelling the playing field: Davao’s small farmers push for second party organic certification

February 20th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY –  Organic small farmers  are pushing for a second party organic certification to enable them greater market access for their products.

Tranquilina Alibango, an organic farmer who markets her produce every Sunday at the women managed organic vegetable bagsakan at the Calinan market, says that third party organic certification is complicated and very  expensive for a small farmer like her.

“Dili man namo makaya kay mahal kaayo. Kung ing-ana ang mamahimong paagi, dili gihapon kalahutay nga mupartisipar ang mga gagmay nga mag uuma sa organikong  merkado.”, according to her.

Alibango’s case is symptomatic of the dilemma that small organic farmers face under Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.  While the Act  provides  support and incentives for farmers to  shift to organic farming,  helping small farmers access the growing global market for organic produce remains problematic.

In the international market, much depends on the certification of a product.  In the case of the organic market, this means the acknowledgement that the marketed products have been produced according to the applicable organic production standards.  Such certification may be obtained through any of three levels:  branding, or 1st party certification,where the farmer brands his product as organic; participatory guaranty system (PGS), or 2nd party certification, where a network of farmer peers certify the product as organic; and private organic marking, or 3rd party certification, where a  independent group of private inspectors certify the product as organic.

In the Philippines, the OA law only recognizes 3rd party certification. This means that only certified by an independent and accredited  third party as organic will be the  ones allowed to market and brand themselves as such. Any sale  of products with organic labels or claims without the approval of the certification body will be illegal. The same applies to imported products.

But according to Ling Castro, Policy Officer for Interface Development Interventions, the  third party certification process puts small farmers at a disadvantage.

“Getting a 3rd party certification will cost a farmer P 100,000.00 per crop.”, Castro said. According to her,  the certification is only good for one year, after which, it must be renewed. “ For the small organic  farmer who practices diversified cropping, it would be very expensive.”, she said.

“We need to level the playing field between small farmers and big farmers.”, she stressed.

For Castro and the rest  of the Go Organic Davao City, a network of organic farming practitioners and advocates,  this will entail the adoption of the 2nd party certification so that farmers will be able  to engage the international market.

Castro pointed out the experience of MASIPAG, a non government organization  engaged in sustainable farming, which already practices 2nd party certification among its partner organizations.  “The Masipag Farmer’s Guarantee System (MFGS) is an appropriate system  for Davao’s small  organic farmers to follow because it empowers the small farmers in that it allows them to participate in the certification process.”, she said.

Last week, GO DC had invited MASIPAG National Coordinator, Dr. Chito Medina, PhD , to give an orientation on the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) which the GO DC  is pushing for as an alternative to 3rd party certification.

“As an example of a 2nd party certification, the PGS  is even more reliable than the 3rd party process because monitoring is built among the farmers.”, according to  Dr.Medina.

Under the PGS system,  organic producers are certified based on the active participation of stakeholders, built on trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.  “For instance, communities can be mobilized around the clock to ensure that their organic fields are safe and healthy.”, Medina said.

It is also very much cheaper than 3rd party certification.  “In PGS, local inspectors are trained to conduct monitoring and evaluation. There is no need to pay expensive fees for 3rd party certification inspectors.”, he pointed out.

Around the world, various countries have already adopted their own versions of the PGS. Australia, India and Brazil which supply most of the world’s demand for organic produce are already using their own versions, according to Medina.

At last year’s national conference on organic agriculture , the Aquino administration had estimated that in 2012, the high potential of organically grown commodities in the world market would cost around $40 billlion- $70 billion.

“With a potential market like that, small  farmers need to take advantage of it but only if the necessary mechanisms are in place.”, said Medina.

Locally, this will entail mainstreaming the PGS model among the  farmers in the grassroots.  On a national scope, this will mean amending the OA law to include PGS as a valid organic certification process.

Go DC, which is taking the lead in drafting its own version of PGS, hopes that  this 2nd party certification will be adopted by Davao City as part of the implementation of  its Organic Agriculture Ordinance.

“If the Organic Agricultural Management Council  (OAMC) mainstreams the PGS,  this will mean that small farmers like Alibango will not have  only the Calinan district to market their organic products, but the whole world.”, said Tina Delima, Go DC member and officer-in-charge of  SIMCARRD.

“Through  PGS, we aim to make organic agriculture more inclusive and facilitative for our small organic farmers.”, she  added. (Mindanao Daily Mirror, Feb 19, 2012)

Davao to ban entry of GMOs

February 20th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY—After disallowing the growing of genetically modified plants alongside organic crops, including the experimental culture of the so-called Frankenstein varieties, the city council has started tackling a more detailed proposal to keep modified organisms out of the city.

The move was hailed by local anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) groups. “While the local Organic Agriculture Ordinance explicitly said that organic crops cannot coexist with genetically modified crops, we still need to protect our agricultural biodiversity from future attempts to plant GMO crops in the city,” Tina Delima of the group Sustainable Integrated Area Development  Initiatives in Mindanao-Convergence for Asset Reform and Regional Development, said of the proposed ordinance.

Under the proposed ordinance, now the subject of public consultations being conducted by the city council, the mere entry of GMOs was to be outlawed.

Its importation, introduction, planting, growing, selling and trading would not be allowed, Councilor Benjamin Al-ag said of the proposed ordinance recently passed by Councilor Pilar Braga.

Go Organic Davao City, a network of organic farming practitioners and their supporters, said the approval of the proposed ordinance would totally shut down the city from GMOs.

It was also timely, the group said, as there had been recent attempts to revive field testing of GMOs at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Mindanao campus here.

The field tests were halted in 2010 when Mayor Sara Duterte ordered genetically modified eggplant seedlings being grown at the UP Mindanao campus uprooted amid protests by anti-GMO groups led by Go Organic Davao City.

If the ordinance banning GMOs were approved, it would allow the city to tap the growing demand for organic products for domestic and international markets, said Ling Castro, policy advocacy officer of the Interface Development Interventions.

The market for organic products has been expanding at 10 to 30 per cent per year, she said. “Davao City, which is branding itself as Green Davao, can easily tap this market,” she added.

“By  ensuring that no GMO crops  will pollute  our agricultural fields in the future, not only can we assure our food security but also the healthy quality of our produce,” she said. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao