PCDForum Column #34,   Release Date May 1, 1992

by Nicanor Perlas

Everyone knows that to feed its growing population the world must rely on
the chemical intensive agricultural technologies of the Green Revolution.
Everyone, that is, except the growing number of farmers who are outperforming
their chemical dependent neighbors using methods that work with, rather than
against, natural ecological forces. Their commercial scale success is beginning
to win over even resistent skeptics.

The staging center for the original green revolution was the Philippine
based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Its hybrid rice varieties
produced record yields in response to intensive inputs of chemical fertilizers,
pesticides, and irrigation. International institutions such as the World Bank
mobilized massive funding to encourage wide-spread monoculture of these

IRRI produced its first "miracle" rice variety in the 1960s. By
1973 the majority of Philippine farmers were already using the new seeds, but
their harvests of 1.7 tons per hectare were well below IRRI yields because
fertilizer and other inputs were not up to recommended levels. Suffering a
serious rice deficit, the Philippine government launched Masagana 99, a program
intended to raise rice yields to 99 cavans per hectare (nearly 5 tons) by
significantly increasing use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Lorenzo Jose, a small rice farmer in Pampanga Province, became one of the
government’s early green revolution heroes by producing a yield of over 8 tons
of paddy rice per hectare on his 1.6 hectare plot. Yet less than ten years
latter, Mr. Jose found his soil so depleted that he had to apply four times more
chemical fertilizer to maintain his earlier yields. His soil had also became
hard, sticky and difficult to plow. To control infestations of increasingly
chemical resistent insects he had to continually increase insecticide
applications. Wild fishes and snails, important protein sources, began to
disappear. Returns no longer covered costs and his debts mounted. He was more
prone to illness. His skin was itchy and wounds healed slowly.

Farmers from the Abra River Irrigators’ Association, who had "green
revolution" experiences similar to Mr. Jose’s, went with representatives of
a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Abra River Irrigation Project,
to ask the government’s Department of Agriculture (DA) for help in shifting to
organic farming methods. Meeting a hostile reception they turned to the Center
for Alternative Development Initiatives (CADI), an NGO promoting ecological
agriculture, and Ikapati Farms and Company, CADI’s for-profit affiliate that
operates several farms throughout the Philippines. Ikapati demonstrates the
commercial viability of bio-dynamic farming using high yielding seeds combined
with natural pest control and preparations and practices that enhance the
fertility of the soil, maintain nitrogen levels, promote the balanced breakdown
of composts, and stimulate the activity of photosynthesis and other beneficial
physiological reactions.

Working with Ikapati and CADI, the Abra farmers chose the methods they
wanted to try and worked out plans for commercial scale trials on their farms.
DA technicians stopped by regularly during the trials to ridicule the farmers
until the rice plants began to grow green, vigorous and aromatic, yielding
bountiful quantities of golden grain. Though the farmers used not a drop of
pesticide, their fields were kept virtually free of harmful pests by beneficial
insects, such as wolf spiders.

In the first year of large-scale experimentation, one farmer who used the
full spectrum of Ikapati technology harvested 6.5 tons per hectare, three times
the provincial average. One third of participants had yields that exceeded the
Masagana 99 target and well over twice the provincial average. Nearly all had
yields in excess of the average for chemical farmers. The enhanced flavor and
aroma of the bio-dynamically grown rice brought premium prices, while input
costs per ton were substantially lower, resulting in net profits in some
instances more than two and a half times those of typical chemical farmers.

The farmers’ final triumph came the day that DA technicians erected a big
placard in front of one of their fields proudly announcing "Bio-Dynamic
Rice" in luminous DA colors and the DA initiated a program to promote the
methods in other regions.

These farmers demonstrated that it is possible to shift immediately from
chemical to bio-dynamic methods on a commercial scale while increasing yields
and profits. Contrary to prevailing myth, it is the continued reliance on
chemical-intensive agriculture that threatens the food security of a growing
world population. Fortunately, small farmers and NGOs around the world are now
leading the way toward detoxifying the green revolution.

Nicanor Perlas is president of the Center for Alternative Development
Initiatives (110 Scout Rallos, Quezon City, Philippines), general manager of
Ikapati Farms and Company and a contributing editor of the People-Centered
Development Forum. This column was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum
based on a case study Perlas co-authored with Mos Viado and Mary Josephine

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