Organic Agriculture (OA) is slowly but surely gaining ground at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). Since the early 1990s, the course Ecological Agriculture, the early roots of organic agriculture has been a required course for all BS Agriculture students at UPLB. Recently on May 21, 2018, the UPLB University Council special meeting approved the curricular proposals for the revision of the BS Agriculture program. Among others, this included the institution of two organic agriculture courses namely ASYS 110 (Organic Agriculture) and ASYS 130 (Sustainable Management of Organic Agricultural Systems). ASYS 110 is a required major course while ASYS 130 is one of the specialization courses under the BS Agriculture – Major in Agricultural Systems curriculum.
Last March 21, 2018, a simple ground-breaking ceremony initiated the construction of a modest building for the Organic Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Center at UPLB (OARDEC@UPLB). The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) granted the major funds with counterpart share from UPLB. This multi-purpose building, targeted to be completed by year-end, shall serve as venue for conducting strategic R&D, capability building programs, market and industry information hub, policy studies and network promotion related to organic agriculture. It is envisioned to serve the whole country particularly RDE centers located in other State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and national and regional government departments and agencies. This is in view of the ASEAN Economic Integration as well as the global organic agriculture RDE arena. Outputs of research and extension studies shall also be important inputs to the academic curricula of organic agriculture for BS, MS and PhD students at UPLB.
The OARDEC@UPLB building is being constructed within a 7-hectare area which has been set aside and is currently being developed to become a certified organic farm for long-term research and for extension and capability building programs. It shall also be used as an open-air classroom and living laboratory for OA academic courses as well as a learning area for students’ field practicum, internship or thesis. It shall also be open to academe-industry RDE collaboration.
On a smaller scale, an OA Demonstration and Learning Garden (about 2,000m2) is also taking shape within the UPLB campus (near Copeland Gym) for use by UPLB researchers and students. It is also becoming a quick accessible “mini-agri-tourism” area where the general public can preview and get interested in the various on-going research activities on organic vegetable production technologies, organic soil amendments, vermicomposting, indigenous stingless bees and pollination trials.
Aside from physical structures, on 29 August 2017, the Interdisciplinary Studies Center on Organic Agriculture (IDSC-OA) was created by UPLB Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr as a virtual center mandated to pursue holistic inter- and trans-disciplinary basic and applied research, development and extension (RDE) programs on organic agriculture. This is in order for UPLB to contribute to the attainment of national goals related to sustainable food systems. IDSC-OA shall also initiate local, national and global partnerships that further strengthen and expand interdisciplinary studies related to organic agriculture. The creation of the IDSC-OA shows UPLB’s commitment to strengthen science-based knowledge and capacity building needs of various stakeholders to strengthen industry development and inclusive community programs on organic agriculture.
With growing strong institutional support, UPLB, as a constituent National University and in partnership with OA stakeholders, shall continue to contribute to strategic science-based knowledge generation, capacity development, information dissemination and entrepreneurship to boost further the organic agriculture industry in the country and internationally.
Article by Dr. Blesilda M. Calub of the Agricultural Systems Cluster, College of Agriculture, UPLB Photo source: https://uplb.edu.ph/component/k2/949-organic-agriculture-edifice-to-rise-in-uplb