In a meeting I attended last December 3, I heard Gov. Teddy Baguilat himself, governor of the province of Ifugao, describe his plans for organic production in Ifugao, home of the world-famous Ifugao rice terraces. Ifugao’s commitment to organic farming means four of the Philippines’ 89 provinces are now committed to organic production: Cebu, Ifugao, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
There may even be more than four. Ifugao is hosting on January 29-31, 2009 in Lagawe, Ifugao, the 4th Regional Organic Congress in the Cordilleras. The Cordillera mountain ranges in Northern Luzon of the Philippines is home to the country’s Igorots. These hardy indigenous peoples built with their bare hands and a few hand tools thousands of kilometers of rice terraces, considered by many to be the eighth wonder of the world.
The Cordillera region includes Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province.
The Benguet vegetable industry is so heavily chemicalized that nearly 90% of all cancer cases in the Baguio General Hospital, a doctor there told me, came from the town of Buguias, where Benguet’s vegetable production is concentrated. The five other provinces, however, hold the promise of organic vegetables, rice and other products for their inhabitants and the surrounding regions.
In fact, Gov. Baguilat says, at least five towns of Ifugao have no market for agrochemicals, and are therefore already “organic by default”. These include the towns of Banaue, Mayaoyao, Hungduan, Upper Kiangan (Asipulo) and Hingyon. Ifugao is already exporting 10 tons of organic indigenous rice, the tinawon, to the U.S., he says. They can also supply organic coffee. The main problem, according to him, is linking producers to markets and third-party organic certification, and that’s what they are working on now.
If five of the six Cordillera provinces join the organic bandwagon, that could make it eight provinces out of 89 soon. We are moving forward!