Thursday, October 18, 2012

Still Waiting

Sigh. Everything moves at a snails pace around here. I've learned to take it easy, but can't help the occasional frustration. I'm still waiting for the necessary papers I need to start the process of procuring the farmland I negotiated for.

Here is the beautiful piece of land that is worth the wait. Although, I can't say how much longer my coffee seedlings can wait.

Indigenous Microorganisms in Natural Farming (IMO)

I found these videos on YouTube and can say they basically describe the formulas I learned to make at the Natural Farming seminar I attended with some negligible differences.

How to capture, cultivate, preserve, and use IMO.

IMO 1 - 5

Lactic Acid Bacteria (LABS)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Food Revolution

If you've lived or visited San Francisco you will certainly have heard of Alice Waters, owner/proprietor of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. This article about a paradigm shift in how Americans relate to their food shows a video of AW talking about how she came to revolutionize food in America, this video SPEAKS to me! For one, my present interest in farming stems from my love of food. Like her, my trip to Paris changed the way I viewed food forever. I didn't start out with a philosophical stand, I simply wanted the basic ingredients I used to cook to have optimal flavor. I started to wonder why it didn't in the first place. Why did a tomato in France taste different from the ones in the US or the Philippines? Or a yellow pepper, chicken, or chanterelle mushroom for that matter? That simple desire to have access to flavorful produce led to a hotbed of political, industrial, social, and philosophical quagmires that left me no choice but to be a radical revolutionary! Yet, am I? For one thing, eating for one's wellbeing is not a new phenomenon. Eating for health is where great cuisines stem from and in many parts of the world continues to be.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Roundtable Discussion on Renewable Energy

While in Davao I was invited by Prof. Tess Olives to sit in the discussion between Mindanao renewable energy NGOs and local government. The discussion was sponsored by Ateneo Davao and organized by Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. To begin, the premise of the whole discussion was the new FIT and corresponding idea of SoFIT. I am not familiar with these new ordinances so will not discuss it, instead I have some thoughts on renewable energy in general and the the role of Mindanao.

Renewable energy is attractive to environmentalists because of the renewable nature of its sources - wind, ocean, hydro, solar, geothermal, and biofuels, but achieving environmental sustainability will depend on the goals set by the implementers and not solely on the use of its resources. Continuing with the present power industry's paradigm will not lead to sustainability even if the source of power is renewable. The most disturbing idea I heard is using hydro-power to power Mindanao. Apparently, Mindanao is rich in water resources and the complaint was that a national plan was underway to subsidise wind power which would leave Mindanao paying for a technology that didn't apply to their provinces, since wind is not strong enough in the region as it is for Luzon and the Visayas. A subsidy for renewable energy in general would be more beneficial so each region can use the resource most available in their particular areas. I would have to agree with this, not only for it's sound logic, but also for the diversity of technologies this would create. But harnessing water from Mindanao's rivers, which could only mean building mega-dams, would be environmentally disastrous and thus unsustainable. So why is it even being discussed? Obviously, each group had their own agendas in the discussion, not all were savvy in the world of environmental sustainability, and even those that were my not have the same sentiments.

In my opinion, if we are talking about environmental sustainability and climate change then the discussion must include, first and foremost, a plan to drastically reduce energy consumption and design policies around energy efficiency. This would necessarily begin with, or in conjunction with, urban planning. Creating policies solely on producing renewable energy technology to replace the present polluting technologies will eventually lead to the same fate we are trying to avoid. And we don't get a second chance this time. Changing the toys but not the game will do nothing to slow down climate change or help the country move towards sustainable development, if indeed this is the goal. In fact the goals of government and corporations may be simply to replace the present technology because in fact the resources these technologies depend on is fast running out. So on to the next available resource. But can we run out of air, water, and sunlight? It's not that simple. The question should be, would renewable energy projects create meaningful change in the issue of Climate Change? If the goal is environmental sustainability then one must consider the entire process of production and implementation to achieve goals of sustainability. Looking at only one part of the process and ignoring the rest will not lead us any closer to our goals. Let's take wind energy as an example, harnessing wind power to supply energy to businesses and households sounds environmentally benign, but if we take the construction of modern windmills into consideration we then see that it is no longer environmentally-friendly. Modern windmills are made of steel, which needs to be see where I'm going. A credit/debit accounting of the whole process is needed to show that the technology will lead to goals of sustainability. The NGOs present know the whys and hows of creating a sustainable energy future, but will government and corporations, who are new to the game, listen?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Natural Farming Training Seminar

A truly wonderful 4-day training on how to grow crops, fruit trees, and livestock without any chemical pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and hormones. More than that it teaches you how to enjoy farming,be self-reliant,respect life, and lead a healthy happy life. When I started this blog about 10 years ago this was the vision I had when I hired a consultant to turn my 2000 sqm property in Antipolo into an organic farm. Unfortunately, this person was unscrupulous and I had to give up the dream. I tried to do it on my own but my only resources were books on Permaculture and Organic Farming, all from a northern perspective. It was very difficult to apply to a tropical climate and looking for alternatives was even more daunting and time consuming. One would have to be educated in botany, entomology, soil science, ecology, etc, etc. Or at the very least have a degree in agriculture. I decided instead to pursue environmental studies and environmental conservation is the work I do now. In the process I have come back to farming in one of my foundation's projects. Conventional agriculture is one of the greatest foes of wildlife habitat and causes massive environmental degradation. It is also not very lucrative for the farm worker who stays poor and lives on a hand-to-mouth existence. Something has to be done to change this. Afterall, where would we be without farmers, or the environment for that matter? The farmer's status in society has gone way down since the Green Revolution. It's no longer a job anyone aspires to, but is undertaken out of necessity. Farm owners, on the other hand, are lucrative and wealthy. It has become a business like any other that has taken the processes of nature and the wellbeing of people out of the equation. Conventional farm owners, to put it simply, have only one thing in mind and that is to make a profit, which unfailingly leads to cutting corners. Thus, nutrition and flavor of the produce was placed on the wayside as well as kindness to living things, self-reliance, and pride in one's work. There is no virtue in conventional agriculture.

One thing to keep in mind, Natural Farming is not for the lazy. The 4-day training was intense. In the end I came out armed with the philosophical and practical knowledge I need to start farming the proper way. I went with two of my staff. Mario was with me from the beginning in Antipolo, a farmer from Negros who will come with me to Antique. Noriel works for me in CAPE Foundation, Inc. and will eventually be training other farmers. Natural Farming is different from organic farming in that it uses the Korean method of applying the principles of nature in controlling the outcome of one's produce. The use of indigenous microorganisms in making fertilizers and inducing growth is the main component of Korean Natural Farming, a method of farming developed in the 1960's by Cho Han-kyu. Today, this method of farming has centers in Japan, China,Thailand, Malaysia (center of NF in SEA), Philippines, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Now just imagine that this farming method has been in existence before the present widespread conventional agriculture that was initiated and touted as the Green Revolution by the USA. In fact, traditional farming in many parts of the world has been lost and replaced by the pervasive monoculture farming method which relies on buying farming inputs and depending on technology provided by these corporations. To earn a decent profit from it would need to be done on a large scale. The bigger the farm, the better. Because of the sheer size of conventional farms, having machinery is necessary, which means being reliant on fossil fuels. As a matter-of-fact, conventional farming is completely relient on fossil fuels. You can imagine how much capital you'd need to start a conventional farm. You would think that this would be a lucrative business because of its pervasiveness and the simple fact that you have a ready market. Yet, do you know of a rich farmer in the US or anywhere in the world? I haven't heard of a farmer making the Forbes 500. Yet, the corporations that sell farming inputs, farm machinery and farm produce litter the Fortune 500 list. In the Philippines, government seats are filled with agricultural landowners.

An alternative, or rather, going back to traditional methods of farming and ridding ourselves of the type of farming that is destructive to nature and our wellbeing is necessary if we are to achieve food security and environmental sustainability.

Mutants On Your Plate by Alan C. Robles
An article that explains the nature of GMO and its effects on health and the environment.

Why Are Filipino Hungry? by Ernesto N. OrdoƱez
A comprehensive look at the causes of hunger in the Philippines.

Inappropriate Antibiotic Use in the Philippines
A paper on the multiple effects of inappropriate use of antibiotics. The section of antibiotic use in agriculture and aquaculture is relevant to this post.

Antibiotic Sourced from Mushroom to Boost Livestock
An interesting paper on using Clitopilus passeckerianus in fermented juices.

How Sustainable is Organic Agriculture in the Philippines?

Philippine Organic Agriculture Information Network

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Transportation and Rio+20

Transportation policies and principles in Urban Design is the crux of issues concerning Climate Change. Modern cities are built around the use of only one form of transportation - the automobile. Pedestrians, bikes, and public transport, of which combined creates a walkable city, are left on the wayside and those that can afford to are often forced to use a car to make it to work, do shopping, drop off the kids, go to a friends house, etc. Those that can't afford to are forced to take cramped public transportation, breath carcinogenic air, and many times do not make it to work at all. That is why the $175 billion pledge made by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and seven other multilateral development banks (MDBs) towards the improvement of sustainable transportation in developing countries is such an important step made in the recently concluded Rio+20 Summit. I look forward to seeing the changes this commitment will bring to countries around the world, especially the Philippines.

The Rio+20 Summit was a failure by many standards, but this is not to say that all is lost. The significance of Rio+20 is that it has become perfectly clear that leading governments across the globe are not going to do a thing about the environmental crisis. It makes me wonder why they even showed up.

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro promised an era of aggressive action on biodiversity loss and global warming, the United Nations Rio+20 sustainability summit ended Friday with recriminations and a growing sense that international institutions will play an increasingly diminished role in solving environmental problems. World leaders — with the notable absence of the heads of the U.S., U.K, Germany, and Russia — approved an agreement that lacked specifics, commitments, and measurable targets on how to promote sustainable economic development. Numerous conservationists and officials said that cities, local governments, the private sector, and environmental groups will now have to play the key role in fostering sustainable economic growth, slowing climate change, and preserving biodiversity. “The greening of our economies will have to happen without the blessing of world leaders,” said Lasse Gustavson, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund. Speaking on the final day of the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. would partner with 400 companies to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains and would provide $20 million in grants for clean energy projects in Africa.

Important as it is that governments cooperate, it is even more important that individuals, businesses, and cities or nations move towards a sustainable future inspite of what is happening with their national governments. Indeed these things are already happening and well on it's way to a movement strengthened by nothing more than the will to do what is right.

Ban Ki-moon: the momentum for change at Rio+20 is irreversible

Cowards at Rio?: organizations decry 'pathetic' agreement

Rio+20 Outcome: The Anthropocene Challenge

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Andry Lim, Natural Farming Advocate

Growing crops and raising livestock without the use of synthetic chemicals is humane, healthy for people, environmentally-friendly, and cost-effective. I would be hard pressed to imagine anything negative about this system of farming, on the contrary it is a viable alternative to conventional farming, which is destroying our natural areas and polluting our waters. Conventional farming is also highly dependent on fossil fuels, which is a major driver of Climate Change. I've heard much about Andry Lim and even spoke to him on the phone before I decided to take his seminar in Natural Farming, which is principally a system of farming called Integrated Farming. Many people have benefited from his expertise and many more will. The next seminar is on July 23-28 in Davao.

Natural Farming Transforms a Formerly Run-Down Farm

Natural Farming with Andry Lim

Another farm I know of which holds seminars in Natural Farming is the Costales Nature Farms.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Natural Farming Training in Davao

Since I arrived two years ago (Wow has it been that long already?) I founded a conservation organization that does work in an area I've come to love. I live by the beach and everyday I witness a spectacular sunset, a flock of egrets flying from their roost at dawn and coming back before the sun sets, bats feeding on fruit trees at night, and every month the evening shadows made by the intense glow of the full moon. Being at the perimeter of a protected natural park I see more wildlife in my garden, and in my house, than anywhere else before. But the real adventure is in hiking up the mountains to see hornbills, snakes, unusual wild plants, fresh water turtles, forest crabs, yes crabs! And many other hidden creatures whose chirps and cries I can only hear and haven't seen. I am, oddly, very comfortable in this rural and wild place. Although, I've always enjoyed spending some time in the wilderness I've never actually thought of living in a remote area. Remote may be too strong to describe where I live. It is rural with almost none of the city conveniences, but it is only a forty minute drive to one very small city and a twenty minute drive to a small town. I love being here so much that I have been under negotiations to purchase a plot of land to finally have a proper farm. After the fiasco a couple of years back, which ended up with a failed farm, I am more confident now that things will turn out better. For one thing, the training for natural farming is now widely available and has been proven to work in many areas of the Philippines. Unlike a couple of years ago when I hired the only person that had the skills needed to establish a natural farm. Unfortunately, he was selfish with that knowledge and only pretended to want to help when in fact he just took the money and didn't deliver his end of the deal. The trainers for natural farming now-a-days have made it their advocacy and is eager to train as many farmers and would-be-farmers. The cost of training itself is quite affordable and the benefits are enormous. But let's not get ahead of ourselves! I will soon be blogging about it all.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Food & History

Exciting things are happening in Metro Manila. I attended two forums on Philippine Food, one on Green Tropical Architecture and a revealing historical tour of Intramuros.

It's a great feeling to know that something I advocate, local sustainable food (wherever I am), is finally gaining some ground in the metropolis. Although, it is far from the mainstream, important and influential people in the world of Phil. food are talking about it and spreading the word. Good food is appreciated by everyone, so I am not of the belief that local sustainable food is an exercise in failure or an out-of-date concept. Other factors lie in the demise of small farms growing heritage crops and "artisan" producers. But I won't go there just yet.

All the speakers in both food forums had intriguing and well thought out ideas on the state of Philippine food. The talks, although about food, delved into culture, business and history. The last to talk in the first forum I attended, Alain Ducasse: Before Cuisine There Was Nature, was the famous French Chef himself who summed up the forum by talking about the concept of Glocal food. Glocal in a nutshell means to, “think globally, act locally.” In the world of food and cuisine, it means to use global techniques in cooking while using local sustainable produce. In this age of Climate Change, this is a wise attitude to take.

Straight from the food forum I went to another forum this time by Green Architecture Advocacy Philippines. Each time a practicing green architect gives a talk on the different aspects of Tropical Green Architecture. The one I went to was about cooling buildings and homes. Arch. Raymond Sih explained the why’s and how’s of cooling structures in an urban setting. These talks occur every month as advocates of green architecture explain the necessity and practicality of building or retrofitting with the environment in mind.

The second food forum on Phil. food, Ang Sariling Atin, conducted by Amy Besa of The Purple Yam restaurant in New York and author of the award winning cookbook Memories of Philippine Kitchens, was bittersweet. It was pure delight seeing the different local Filipino food processes and listening to Ambeth Ocampo on Filipino food in history. It was interesting to learn that ube comes in a number of varieties from white to deep purple in color, white being the more flavorful. I never knew that and will now make it my mission to try all the ube varieties I can! In the same forum we sadly heard of the vanishing local delicacies. Arenga vinegar and the different varieties of Negros suman which can no longer be obtained have lost it’s appeal for producers. The Negros suman brought over by Lyn Besa-Gamboa were just delicious: Alupi, Sundol, Latik, Pururutong and Mais, all of which had to be made special for that day by artisan producers. It really is a pity.

That evening, the icing on the cake for that day, was the sunset Intramuros Tour of Carlos Celdran, to mark the 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Manila. The moon was out and it was a lovely way to spend the evening. The tour began at the Manila Cathedral then we walked around moonlit Intramuros, stopping at particular Hispanic and American buildings where Carlos would give an entertaining history of the Spanish-American War of Phil. Independence. The way it really happened. We then proceeded to the Bamboo Gardens for dinner and the mellow music of a Flamenco guitar band. The evening ended with more than a hundred people lighting up the skies with “spirit balloons”. Here are some snapshots of the tour...