Learning With Charito (EMBRACE PROJECT)

Charito, 34 years old, from Barangay Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat tries for the first time   precision seeding taught at the organic farming demonstration farm.(Photo: Genevive Estacaan/Oxfam)

Charito, 34 years old, from Barangay Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat tries for the first time precision seeding taught at the organic farming demonstration farm.(Photo: Genevive Estacaan/Oxfam)

Name: Charito Villarde, 34 years old with two sons (11 y/o and 4 y/o)

Brief background: She is one of the 30 students of the organic farm school held for 3­hours every Wednesday morning. Her husband is also a farmer, but attends to other responsibilities while she studies at the farmer school.

Someone has told me that there is a seminar about organic farming so I was very interested toattend. I wanted to know how I can reap more harvest without using much seeds. I also wanted to learn to make my own fertilizers. We have been using urea and it costs us a lot. Each sack costs 940 PHP (20 USD)  which we use for four cans of rice seeds for one­fourth of a hectare.

I do not own any land, but I cultivate my mother­-in­-law’s one ­hectare farm. Every harvest season, I usually reap 11 sack of rice, of which, two goes to my mother­in­law. Each sack, when sold, earns us around 800 to 1000 PHP (21 USD). But we do not get all that we earn, since we have to pay for the rent of the threshing machine, as well as the loans to buy fertiliser at a ten percent interest. It takes us three to four months before we harvest.

Every day, I wake up as early as 3:00 in the morning, cook, and prepare the children for school. They have to leave our house by 6:30 because they only walk school. When I have the chance, I also work as day labourer harvesting from other farmers’ corn fields. If I fill a sack, I earn 25 PHP (1 USD). I can finish ten sacks a day.

We plant our own farms because it is very costly to hire other farmers to do it. I have beenfarming since I was young, and now that I’m already 34 years old I still follow the conventional way of farming. My father taught me how to do it. The method involves cultivating a seedbed. Once seeds have sprouted, we scatter the seeds on the farm (broadcast seeding). It just takes us a half­day to complete our farm.

My family needs to produce 20 sacks of rice this season. But because we have very little fertilizer, we only produce 11 sacks. We use a lot of fertilizer, but his hardens the soil and turns it into cement­like.

When we started planting here (at the demonstration farm), I was very shocked because we were sowing the seeds one­ by­ one, with a fixed space from each other. I was worried that the sprouts will not survive and germinate new seeds. It was also slower. But we were taught by the facilitator that this method is better because it give ample space for seeds to germinate so they will yield healthier and bigger grains. This will benefit us because we can save seeds and give us a better harvest.

In the conventional way, some seeds drown if there is too much water or mud. But in this method, we used seeds with longer sprouts, so they will surely survive. Using conventional seeds will cost us 120 kilos of rice seeds per hectare. But if we used the organic seeds, we will only need merely six kilos. That is the reason why I was very shocked! This is the first time I have seen and heard about this. We still have a lot of seeds left. We can really save here! So even though my son had class and I had many chores at home, I decided to come here because I am very interested.

Now, I want to learn about the fertilizers. We used to apply it when sprouts have already grown stalks. But this morning, I learned that I should apply them while the sprouts are still small. If we use this method, we can say that anyone can eat our produce because they are organic. But right now, even us consume our own harvest and we eat all these chemicals. We fear that if we do not spray insecticides, pests will feast on our farms and we will be left with nothing.

I know I have a lot of chores at home, but I prioritize this because I know through this we can save money. At the moment I still have a loan of 8000PHP with an eight percent interest. I can’t pay it in full because I have to buy food for the house. Hindi na ako makaalis­alis sa pangutang. (I cannot get away from the loans.) I am really learning a lot by attending here, because in this town, we barely have opportunities to learn things like these.