Balaynihan for Dolores, Samar gets underway

Farmers initiate ecological seeds mission to the typhoon-stricken province

Press release - December 15, 2014
Negros Oriental, Philippines - A group of ecological farming practitioners and advocates have pooled their expertise and resources to help other farmers in typhoon-stricken Dolores, Eastern Samar. Farmers from Cebu, Bohol and Negros, gathered ecologically farmed rice seeds, root crops, vegetable seeds [1] and organic fertilizers which were loaded on two boats to help Dolores farming communities who are trying to get back on their feet following the onslaught of Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit) that hit the country on the 6th of December.

Julie Cunanan, 43, in Cebu City, helps pack mung beans to be delivered to farmers affected by the typhoon Hagupit in Dolores, Eastern Samar, Philippines. People and ecological farmers join forces to provide urgent help to the community of Dolores, supplying them with seeds and knowledge to regenerate farmland damaged by Typhoon Hagupit and to make their agriculture system more resilient to climate change. 12/14/2014 © Victor Kintanar / Greenpeace

“In times of crisis, it is important for Filipinos to come together and help each other, offering whatever aid or service they can give. In the spirit of balaynihan, a Visayan word that connotes lending a helping hand to a neighbor in need,  I want to reach out to my fellow farmers by sending out seeds to help them with their livelihood and to ensure food security in the region,” said Ariel dela Cruz an organic farmer from Negros Occidental.  “With the constant threat of extreme typhoons and drought, farmers should always have a secure seed supply within their reach, without relying too much on external sources, to be able to provide nutritious and diverse food to people.”

Vegetable seeds, some with food color to protect from seed pests, ready to be packed in Cebu City, Philippines, to be delivered to farmers affected by typhoon Hagupit in Dolores, Eastern Samar 12/14/2014 © Victor Kintanar / GreenpeaceIn the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby — the strongest typhoon to hit the country in 2014 — damage to Philippine agriculture was estimated at PHP 1.9 billion. In Dolores, where the storm first made landfall, local authorities say almost 100 % of the region’s farmland was damaged. The majority of the damaged crops were rice and corn, while some rootcrops, vegetables, abaca, banana and coconut trees were also destroyed by the typhoon’s ferocious winds.

Farmers and experts agree in the face of climate change, Philippine agriculture must become more resilient. This can be achieved through ecological agriculture- a farming system that does not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) [2]. Instead, ecological agriculture uses the diversity of nature to help the soil retain more water and stay healthier to provide nutrients to crops, while crop diversity also enables farms to withstand different stresses, including climate shocks.

Dexter Baguio,23, (L), Victor Catubig, 29, and Gerry Quezon, 42, helps in packing vegetable seeds in Cebu City, to be delivered to farmers affected by the typhoon Hagupit in Dolores, Eastern Samar, Philippines. People and ecological farmers join forces to provide urgent help to the community of Dolores, supplying them with seeds and knowledge to regenerate farmland damaged by Typhoon Hagupit and to make their agriculture system more resilient to climate change. 12/15/2014 © Victor Kintanar / GreenpeaceThe provinces of Bohol, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental — strong movers of sustainable and ecological agriculture — have provincial ordinances banning the planting of GMOs. The province of Cebu, through its Vice-governor Ina Magpale, has also declared its strong support for ecological farming and is looking to follow the footsteps of Bohol, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental in instituting programs to advance sustainable and ecological agriculture in the province.

“Filipinos need to have access to diverse food and diet that include naturally nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables all year-round, for food and nutrition security. It is therefore important that communities be able to grow their own food and augment the food supply in areas affected by typhoons,” said Praxedes Embalzado of GMO-Free Cebu. “This is where ecological farming becomes more valuable as it involves having diversity in farms and in home gardens which is a way to climate proof agriculture and ensure diverse sources of food.” 

“Protecting the soil and ensuring healthy soil will improve crop yields and help food production to meet our demands,” said Francisco Manigo of Matabao Organic Farmers Association in Bohol.  “In the event of a typhoon, it is important that rebuiliding efforts focus on technology to ensure that our food production will help sustain us and also protect our environment.”

Notes to the Editor:

[1] Vegetable seeds and other planting materials to be sent to Dolores, Samar include Tiniguib corn, mungbean, sweet potato, cassava, okra, kangkong (water spinach), radish, string beans, Baguio beans, bitter gourd, carrots, eggplant, tomato, native pechay, lettuce and malunggay (Moringa).

[2] Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are products of genetic engineering (GE) in which certain traits of one organism are randomly inserted into another organism’s genes in a way that can never happen naturally. Manipulating the genes of organisms is an inherently risky process. To date, there is still no scientific consensus to the safety of GMOs to human consumption and to the environment.

For more information, please contact:

Ariel dela Cruz (Organic farmer based in Negros Occidental) 0935-9531820
Praxedes Embalzado (GMO-Free Cebu) 0922-7719582
Francisco Manigno (Organic Farmers Association in Bohol) 0926-8377835
Daniel Ocampo (Greenpeace Philippines) 0917-8110469