During Benjamin Maggay’s time as a mayor of Cervantes town, Ilocos Sur, he noticed the increasing number of farmers who are suffering from lung problems. He thought organic farming would solve it. His purpose was to lessen the number of farmers who were using commercial fertilizers and pesticides to improve their health conditions. So Cervantes ventured into organic farming both as a strategy for agricultural development and as part of the town’s health program.
The local government partnered with the Assisi Development Foundation (ADFI) to help the town in its agriculture and health projects. It was part of the mayor’s banner program called Cervantes Poverty Alleviation and Development for Rural Economy (Cervantes-PADRE).
The success of organic farming in Cervantes was the mobilization for farmers and local officials. Aside from the advantage of organic farming in terms of more crop yield with less inputs, organic crops have health benefits due to the elimination of chemicals from commercial pesticides and fertilizers and being healthy is an attractive option for consumers.
Interested farmers’ associations were given capacity building trainings and seminars, along with exposure to organic farming sites. Once training was completed, the local government, with the help of ADFI, provided the starting budget and vegetable seeds to the farmers.
After 8 years of implementation, more farmers’ associations and individuals adopted organic farming and because of the successful implementation of the program, the local government decided to create an organic model farm which people from different communities and local governments can practice their learning and set standard for benchmarking of crop production management. With this development in Cervantes, the health and income of the people improved.
The program initially started with 12 farmers in the year of 2010. By 2018, approximately 400 farmers switched to organic farming. The farmers are being accustomed with the organic farming practices, and in fact one of their barangays being cited as the Best Organic Barangay in Ilocos Sur for two consecutive years during the province’s annual Kannawidan Festival. The demand for organic produce and fertilizers increased as awareness of the health benefits of consuming organic rose. With this trend favoring organic products, the income of organic farmers in Cervantes increased by 60% since the program started; and they became more aware of what could positively bring to their health by their engagement in organic farming.