"Support to Improve Livelihood of Poor Farmers through Production of Organic and Reduced-Chemical Produce" (SILFOR) *Ended in 2015
SILFOR aims to improve livelihood of micro-scale farmers in the northern Luzon Island in the Philippines through environmentally-sustainable production and sales of organic and reduced-chemical produce. Farmers' markets are also held across the country by our organization "Vizcaya FRESH!" to make the environment, farmers and consumers happy through organic produce.
SILFOR started off as Promotion of Participatory Forest Management in Critical Watershed project (PPFM: 2008-2011), as illegal logging and slash-and-burn were widespread and serious environmental degradation was haunting Nueva Vizcaya.
The environmental issues of Nueva Vizcaya
Nueva Vizcaya province is located at the top basin of Magat and Cagayan rivers, which comprise the largest basin of the Philippines. These rivers supply water to one of the biggest granaries in the country and thus play the important role of stabilizing economy and ensuring food supply for the nation. Regardless, the flood control function of the land has been degraded due to unregulated and large-scale deforestation in the post-WWII period as well as unplanned development of farmland that followed suit. As a result, frequent destruction of riverbanks and flooding have been occurring, leading to declined agricultural productivity.
To ameliorate this situation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched Community-Based Forest Management program (CBFM). In CBFM, residents within and just around the ruined publicly-owned forest land were given the right of utilization through a community organization. It was hoped that the community would then form its own forestry management group to voluntarily and sustainably manage the forest land while using the forest resources. However, it turned out that not only did the community organization have insufficient forest management ability, but also the public agencies that were supposed to support the community group had weak capacity. As a result, things did not move forward as originally planned and the environmental problem could not be resolved.
Promotion of Participatory Forest Management in Critical Watershed (PPFM)
With the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan, in 2008 GLMi started running a participatory forest management project in Nueva Vizcaya. This project was led by the residents of the barangai (village) and involved the assistance of local NGOs and the government. The environmental-sustainable activities of the project included the establishment of contour farming, development of small-scale irrigation facilities and education on forest environment, etc. Through these activities, there was notable progress on spreading sustainable agroforestry management techniques and strengthening forest conservation activities.
Summary of Activities
As we were running the PPFM project and were thinking how the local people can maintain an environmentally sustainable livelihood, we felt the need to help them produce and sell organic and chemical-reduced vegetables that are grown by environmentally sustainable methods. We thus implemented a project that aimed to realize both a wealthy lifestyle and environmental sustenance (with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affair's Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects). By branding the produce through our certification system called "Vizcaya Fresh!" and holding farmers' markets, the project established a sales system that satisfies the environment, farmers as well as consumers.
Infrastructure building for production, trade and sales
In Year 1, we built a foundation for the production of organic and chemical-reduced vegetables. The hard aspect included preparing irrigation facilities, constructing rain-proof greenhouses, and purchasing refrigerators to store the produce. We moreover conducted training on how to produce organic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as started building sales network.
Building of the implementation system and foundation of "Vizcaya Fresh! Organic Advocates, Inc."
After building the foundation in Year 1, in Year 2 we expanded the sales channel for organic and chemical-reduced produce to the urban areas. Specifically, we regularly held farmers' market in Manila and Bayombong, and founded a producers/sellers group called "Vizcaya Fresh! Organic Advocates, Inc." (VFI) in July 2013 to make this activity more effective and sustainable.
Also, we built a participatory certification system for organic produce, which started operating in September 2013, with the cooperation of the local government agencies and universities. This project attracted attention from in and outside of Nueva Vizcaya province. VFI was indeed invited to various events including the National Organic Agriculture Conference held by the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as promotion events for organic produce. It was furthermore featured in newspapers.
Strengthening of VFI and full-scale marketing
In Year 3, a VFI store was established in each city of Santiago and Solano. Also, by this point more frequent customers were flocking into the Sunday market in Makati, a prime location in Manila. We moreover conducted training on certification for farmers and prepared business plans and operation manuals. Furthermore, to solidify VFI's basis as a social business and make it sustainable, we trained a number of personnel on marketing and business as well as built network with the local administration. The networking substantially succeeded in the end and VFI was invited to and participated in virtually all events related to organic farming.
As a result, the income of farmers and the amount of organic vegetables forwarded quadrupled in Year 3 compared to the previous years. The beneficiaries were 150 producers in 11 villages, and they sold over 3 tons of more than 30-40 types of vegetables every month, reaching a total of 370,000 pesos in sales revenue.
The project ended on March 2015 and VFI is now owned and run entirely by the local people. GLMi, meanwhile, continues to follow up on their work and gives assistance on knowledge, skills, technology, etc. as necessary.