Making affordable locally produced farm machinery available and encouraging farmers to go organic is the key to Philippine agriculture’s survival, a US-based Filipino agriculture biosystems engineer, said.
Manuel Reyes, a research professor at Kansas State University, was one of the resource persons at the “Philippine open systems agriculture machinery manufacturing workshop” at a Regenerative Agriculture International Conference at May’s Garden in Barangay Pahanocoy, Bacolod City, that ended Wednesday, July 6.
“We need to focus on agriculture where the money returns to the community,” Reyes said.
“We are dependent on sophisticated foreign machines that our farmers do not need, we need simple machines made by Filipinos for Filipinos,” he said.
Open systems agriculture machinery manufacturing focuses on local designs that address the farmers’ needs, Reyes said.
Under the system there will no longer be any patents so machinery designs can be shared for local production to help bring down costs, Reyes said.
This will result in the local production of affordable machinery such as tractors and farm implements that farmers can repair on their own, he added.
There is a need to veer away from buying expensive, complicated imported machinery that farmers cannot repair on their own, and where the money does not return to the community, Reyes said.
If the Philippines continues to rely on imported farm machinery, the farmers will always be stuck in poverty, Reyes said
“We need to develop machines for the farmers, targeting the farmers and giving employment to the community,” he said.
Reyes also stressed the need to focus on organic agriculture and the use of locally produced fertilizer.
Organic fertilizer produced by local farmers will free the country from having to buy expensive imported fossil fuel-based fertilizer, he said.
Reyes said government should start punting programs in place that will make the Philippines independent of imported artificial fertilizer.
The implication on climate change is production of fossil fuel-based fertilizer generates a lot of carbon dioxide that goes back into the atmosphere, he said.
Production of organic fertilizer returns the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere back to the soil, Reyes said.
Production of organic fertilizer will also bring jobs to the people, bring wealth to community and make the soil healthy, he said.
Organic farming will also enable farmers to diversify into other crops, protect the environment and biodiversity, and boost the health of the people, he said.
Reyes said “with the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine it is pretty obvious right now that the world is resetting – we must be food and nutrition secure”.
Ramon Uy, president of the RU- Ecological and Agricultural Development Foundation Inc. that hosted the international conference, said the production of local farm machinery will provide jobs and organic fertilizer will be additional sources of income for farmers.
“Unfortunately the focus of the government is always on increasing production, not on increasing the wealth of the farmers,” he said.
More production does not translate to more profit for the farmers, Uy said.
There should be focus on how to make the farmers rich and farming sustainable, he said.
Uy said he hopes President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. puts more focus on organic farming and allocates a larger budget for it.
The focus should be on nutritious food sufficiency, he said.
Uy also said if more people eat organic food, it will lessen their health problems.
This in turn will reduce government’s expenses for the health needs of the people, he added.
Romualdo Martinez, director for research development and extension of the Philippine Center for Post Harvest Development and Mechanization, said locally produced machinery for farmers is technically feasible and economically viable.
The center, which is under the Department of Agriculture, helps link local producers of farm machinery to agencies who can provide funding.*