KAPATAGAN: UPSCALING ORGANIC FARMING INCREASES FARMERS’ PRODUCTIVITY
KAPATAGAN started as a registered farmers’ credit and savings cooperative in 1992. One of the main objectives of the Cooperative back then was to improve the economic condition of its members. When this undertaking did not prove successful, it then ventured in Organic Fertilizer (OF) production to help farmers reduce their cost on agricultural inputs. Many small farmers who use its Green Friend Organic Fertilizer (GBOF) claim that they have improved their income by 25-30%. Likewise, many farmers say that GBOF makes their crops resilient to calamities and the roots of their crops stronger. While there is typically only two cropping seasons for paddy rice in Isabela Province, many farmers especially those reached by irrigation service and who use GBOF can even do three cropping cycles in one year due to increased soil fertility.
KAPATAGAN is also engaged in production of fruit bearing and forest tree seedlings productions and livestock business - organic chicken, native pig and duck production. Like the OF business, the seedling production has been gaining momentum as potential income streams in the last two years with a turnover of around 350K Euros in 2012.
In the last three years, with the passage of Organic Law, organic agriculture is certainly growing its popularity. The key government agencies like Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources are indeed in the forefront in terms of promoting this method of farming. Organic production to a certain extent is now becoming a popular strategy to increase farm productivity and reduce poverty through improvement in farmers’ yield and income. Generally, apart from active promotion from government and non-government sector, many farmers shift from chemical to organic method of production because of lower production cost, better and quality yield (with added value because products are organic), less exposure to toxic chemicals and improvement of soil fertility, among others. Undoubtedly, because of these, Kapatagan was able to grow and bring its OF production to a level that is effective enough to get a good market share in the fertilizer market in areas where it operates.
Aside from its sustainability character, organic agriculture is already a tested approach to reduce production cost, and increase the yield and income of 75% of Filipino farmers who are poor. It is for this reason that supporting the growth plans of KAPATAGAN Cooperative through investment was considered by ICCO-Investments and thus the infusion of new capital from ICCO Investments came in. With this investment, KAPATAGAN expects to triple its organic fertilizer production from 200,000 to at least 650,000 bags per year. At this production level, it expects to benefit 20,000 small farmers with 30% reduction in their agricultural production cost. The Cooperative, with the investment amount aims to employ 140 cooperative members, establish and support 60 small nurseries, provide business opportunities to 90 chicken poultry owners by buying their chicken manure and in the process help KAPATAGAN to increase its annual turn over six times. It would also contribute significantly to the target for the seedling production, i.e. achieving food security and environmental protection initiatives.
The consistent efforts of KAPATAGAN, supported by investors like ICCO, have helped in making organic agriculture a widely accepted sustainable agricultural practice in the Philippines. The movement is steadily gaining popularity among small farmers in the country.