The Philippines is at the forefront when we talk about biodiversity, as it is one of the Megadiverse Countries; countries that are inhabited by most of the earth’s species. Location, climate and topography are the key factors as to why this country is abundant with life; and we’re not talking about plants and animals alone. Ranked 9th (for countries with population exceeding 10 million) and 38th overall, this Southeast Asian nation is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. With great number of people, comes great responsibility; feeding them.
Blessed with conditions that are favorable to a wide host of species, this country has failed to take advantage of this fact; lagging behind in food production. Most of our farmers dream of moving closer to the city in order to find better paying jobs. This has resulted to untended lands, that otherwise could have been producing food. Some of these farmers have found success, most of them however fail. I know that this phenomenon is not unique to the Philippines and we need to reverse this trend soon. If we don’t do anything about it, there will be no more farmers left and we will all face a major crisis.
I am Dax Olfindo, 26 years old and founder of Dream Agritech Consultancy Services. Our group was formed because we saw the need for our country to turn its attention towards food production and food security. We are composed of graduates of Agriculture and its related fields. From plant breeding to swine production; soil scientists to horticulturists to environmental scientists; we are all under one roof. One of our missions is to turn unproductive lands into productive ones. Convince land owners to develop their land for farming, instead of selling it; seeing its value as a vital cog in society, as a job creator and a food producer. We also want to make farming attractive to the youth, make them see it as a viable career option while elevating the status of being a farmer.
We want to be able to lease highly viable agricultural lands that are left untended. A short lease, typically 1-2 years, to reshape the tract of land into something that will benefit the community at large.
We begin this project by finding a land owner. For the purposes of this proposal, we already have an agreement in principle on a 3,700 square meter plot. We will conduct all the necessary soil and water tests. This will serve as the basis of our fertilizer program and any other interventions that we may need to make before planting. Tests like these are estimated to cost around $350 for a comprehensive reading and result. The plot will be leased at a rate of $40-50 a month.
We plan to plant crops that are quick to harvest: Lettuce (45-60 days), Carrots (60-80 days), Potato (90-120 days), Chili Pepper (60-90 days), Cabbage (60-90 days) and Eggplant (75-90 days) are some of the vegetables we are considering. This is to ensure that we can sustain the farm throughout the year. We also plan to plant culinary herbs like Basil, Arugula, and Parsley.
Crop insurance is of utmost importance given our country’s propensity to adverse climactic conditions. This is estimated to cost around $100-$150 dollars, depending on the cost of inputs. Farming materials (seeds, tools, growing media, nursery shed and fertilizers) will cost us $1,500-2,000.
This project also aims to build the capacity of youth, teaching them farming methods that are Science-based and guided by the principles of Sustainable Agriculture. We will be employing two out-of-school youth and train them how to farm these vegetables and herbs. The main reason why we are picking the youth is because the world is in need of young farmers; to learn the skills and keep them abreast with the technologies that modern agriculture has to offer. Training them in the scientific way of farming will lead to less guesswork and help sharpen their minds to be critical thinkers. We want the next generation of farmers to harness the wisdom of the traditional methods and making it work alongside scientific methods of farming.
While they may not have the benefit of traditional schooling, this project can help educate them, giving them a skill that they can parlay into a rewarding career.
We also want to give them a livable wage in order for them to be encouraged to continue farming and at the same time, taking them off the streets; making it less likely for them to turn towards crime to make a living. This will cost us about $2,500 for the whole year.
Our goal is to maximize the earning potential of the plot by allotting the appropriate area per each crop while at the same time, taking into consideration their cropping cycles, so that we can continuously harvest from the plot almost every month. We hope that by earning, we will be able to pay for the salaries of our workers.
This grant, if ever we are selected, will help our group significantly. 3 years would be the time it would take for us to raise the same amount through our consultancy projects. We will be hitting one of our goals very early on, taking a huge step towards fulfilling one of our missions. We will also create awareness that this model can help solve the problem of food security. By turning these idle lands to productive ones, our country will take a step towards achieving self-sustainability.
Job creation, adding prestige to being a farmer and giving a chance for these out-of-school youth to learn a noble trade, are just some of the by-products of this endeavor.
We aim to be able to lease more of these lands across the country and encourage the land owners to see how a farm works with the hopes of turning the landowner towards agriculture. Our group will also help educate the landowner about the ins and outs of farming, giving an update through the blogposts we will be writing.
Our group is guided by our vision: To help anyone, plant, grow and harvest. This is our calling. We hope to help transform; not only lands, but lives as well. We are optimistic that this can be the start of something that will change the way people look at Agriculture.
Idle land to Ideal land.
Idle youth to Ideal youth.
These are transformations we can all root for.
Blogpost submitted by Dax Olfindo (Philippines) – josephcarlolfindo(at)gmail.com
Photo courtesy: Beni Jardinero
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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