Farmer's Choice. Xmas card, IPM Check, Henri Fayol & Vic Ladlad

clip_image002CITY OF SAN FERNANDO: I'm beginning to write this in this city in La Union in Northern Philippines. 24 November 2013: I was the facilitator the other day and yesterday, Saturday, for the 2nd installment of a farmers' training under the auspices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) contracted for by UMIC International, of which we are consultants, under the project titled Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS). ARCCESS is unique and brilliant, if you ask me; my congratulations to the DAR. ARCCESS demands the best in you as consultant; it demands the best for the DAR farmers; it demands the best from the farmers too. The Department of Agriculture (DA) should learn from it too, if the DA knows what's good for the farmers.

For the farmer beneficiaries of the agrarian reform law, via ARCCESS, the DAR wants primarily, as according to our Terms of Reference, the "provision of decision-support tools" with the assumption that "the primary role of (consultants) is to provide capacity development to (agrarian coops) and members so they could decide on issues like markets and sources of supplies." Mind that: The consultant cannot be the adviser; at best, he can only be the provider of options, teaching the farmers how to come up with alternatives, and then how to decide which one to take.

There is the imperative, nay imperial note in the TOR contracted by UMIC that "(Consultants) must not, under any circumstance, force or influence ARBOs to decide on agri-technology, source of supplies, and markets." ARBOs are agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations, which are cooperatives. In response, in 2 words, our role as consultants, as I have already thought of and written about, is to teach Farmer's Choice (see also my earlier "Farmer's Choice. A Day in the Life of a Trainer of Trainors," 20 November 2013, Frank A Hilario, blogspot.com).

My team has Butchoy Espino as Team Leader; Dormie del Carmen as Crop Specialist; and I as Training Specialist. My role fits me to a T – I have a BS Agriculture degree from the College of Agriculture of the State University, and I am a certified teacher. The subject assigned to me is IPM, short for Integrated Pest Management – now, how do you teach IPM to farmers who have probably never reached high school, or even grade school? You can teach them about theory, but in the end you have to be practical. You have to be grounded on reality.

My first class is made up of farmers from Malasiqui and vicinities in Pangasinan. The training is held at the headquarters of Atlas Mabuna Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Lasip, Malasiqui. My second class is held at the new headquarters of the Progressive MPC at Oraan East, San Fabian, also in Pangasinan. My third class is at Santa Cecilia in Aringay, La Union; it is held under the mango tree – I'm not joking.

So now let me continue my story that I have begun (see "Hilario's Theory of Technology Infusion. Dark thoughts early morning," 25 November 2013, Frank A Hilario, blogspot.com), where at tarp #1 I stop after I say something about IPM being complicated.

I flip tarp #1 over and out comes tarp #2 showing many images that either indicate being integrated – or not quite. It's an original presentation, not copied anywhere. The title of the tarp has a question mark below the text, one punctuation mark to dramatize the need to learn more. I tell my class that I want to be sure that everyone really understands the concept of integrated, because if they don't have a good idea what that word means, how can they ever tell if they're doing IPM or not? I'm not asking you to define it, I tell them, because it's complicated; I just want to be sure you to have a good idea of it.

(In my third class, at Santa Cecilia, to hold the 11 tarps bound together at the top with platinum bars, first we string Japanese straw between 2 trees. After 3 strands have been wound between the trees, I have an idea: I wind a 4th strand around the first 3 strands from one end to another. Why do I do that? Because suddenly, I have the idea that 3 strands don't make a rope, but a 4th strand that binds them together make a rope – the 4th strand makes all of them integrated. That's what I tell my class of farmers. Wide eyes and nods tell me they get the idea!

So I proceed.

Tarp #3, "Basics of IPM, Ayds Adalla" – Economic Threshold, Applied Ecology, and Economic & Social Acceptance. I point out to my farmer class, in Tagalog and Ilocano, the language of whose tribe I belong to, that social acceptance is emphasized by this expert; that is to say, for instance, is the planting of Bt corn acceptable to the people in the area? It's up to you people to decide.

It so happens that I can relate this one to an illustrative and enlightening story of which I am directly involved. I am the only one who can tell this decision support story, and it's illustrative of life after the academe and learning science. It happened almost 50 years ago. I tell them this personal story, and I know it's true because I am the teacher here, at the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines (UP). Ayds Adalla was my student in Horticulture (Lab), and she was bright, so I gave her a grade of 1 (a grade of Perfect at UP). One of her classmates was Vic Ladlad, and he was also bright, and I also gave him a grade of 1. They were in the same class, so they heard from me and saw exactly the same things. Then, two roads diverged in the yellow woods, even as I myself had to take another one less travelled by. I became a creative writer for science. Ayds Adalla became Dean of the College of Agriculture; she almost became Chancellor of UP Los Baños. Vic Ladlad became a Commander of the New People's Army, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. One chose the side of peace, the other chose the side of war. I chose the side of words. So, I tell my class of farmers, my hands cutting the air, "What happens to your life is your choice!"

Farmer's Choice.

The next 4 tarps teach a common lesson: There are as many basics of IPM as there are experts; not one expert agrees with another. It's your choice as learner. I show them and explain a little:

Tarp #4, "Basics of IPM, ICRISAT" – Monitoring, Indigenous Methods, Pest-Tolerant Varieties, and Biological Control. Source is the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, which is based in India. Indigenous methods: I tell them about the Indians releasing chickens to pick on the worms in a field of pigeon pea (Tagalog kadios, Ilocano kardis).

Tarp #5, "Basics of IPM, BC" – Good Growing Practices, Resistant Stocks, Predatory Insects, and Chemicals. Source is the Ministry of Agriculture of British Colombia in Canada. I tell them this is the only one that says the use of chemicals is basic to IPM. What is "basic" again? Fundamental, essential – you have to do it; you can't do without it. (If you want to check, click this: agf.gov.be.ca.) I tell my class of farmers that IPM has been designed to avoid chemicals, but here is one source that prescribes it as a necessity. I do not ask for a discussion. Now they're getting the idea that there are experts and there are experts.

Tarp #6, "Basics of IPM, U of Maryland" – Building Knowledge Base, Monitoring, Making Decisions, Intervening, and Keeping Records. Source is the University of Maryland, USA. I tell my class of farmers that "building knowledge base" as basic to IPM is a unique claim among the experts. I tell them: Masapul nga nayonanyo ti ammoyo. Kailangan dagdagan ang alam ninyo. You have to add to your knowledge. That's exactly what we're doing right now.

Tarp #7, "Basics of IPM, U of California" – Preventing Pest Problems, Identifying Pests, Monitoring, Economic Threshold, and Integrating Methods. Source is the University of California in the USA. I point to my class of farmers the balloon that says "Integrating Methods." I tell them that this includes all the other methods, so it cannot be one of the basics. You have experts and you have experts.

Tarp #8, "5 Views of IPM" simply represents those previous 5 tarps, to emphasize the non-agreement on the basics of IPM. Isn't IPM complicated? This is to introduce the class to the activity. I tell them:

Group yourselves into 5 or 6, then write on the Manila paper with the marker we are going to provide you, what you have been doing that you think is related to IPM.

I do not tell them to rush, that they have only so many minutes to do it. I do not give them instructions on what is proper to write. I let the conversations flow and the writing continue. After about half an hour, I ask volunteers from each group to make a report to the whole class, ad lib. The idea is for us consultants to have a good idea of the farmers' knowledge and practice of IPM without us telling them what they should be doing – in the first place, telling them what to do is not what we are supposed to be doing.

(In my 3rd class, which is at Santa Cecilia in Aringay, La Union, I share with my class a group output in my 2nd class. at Oraan East in Malasiqui, Pangasinan, the one that shows boxes that have arrows pointing to the middle box titled "IPM Practices." Same pattern as my Christmas Card. I point out to my class the need to integrate everything.)

Tarp #9, "6 Functions of Management, Henri Fayol" – The functions are: Planning, Organizing, Commanding, Controlling, Coordinating, and Forecasting. What has Henri Fayol to do with integrated pest management?! I tell my class: "Integrated, Pest, Management" – the commas indicating my pauses. Now, we have to be sure we know the concept of management. Henri Fayol, a Frenchman, is the father of modern management. Now, I tell my class, I must tell you that the first step is Planning – you can't proceed without a plan. You have to organize what you want to do. There must be only 1 Commander in Chief; look what's happening in Tacloban, Leyte – there are too many commanders in chief. Chaos. How do you control? By money, says one of the farmers. I agree. And you have to coordinate with others. And you have to be able to forecast not the rains but your market(s), which means you have to choose your crop(s).

Tarp #10, "IPM Check" – The tarp lists several methods, each with a check mark under 7 groups of methods: Cultural, Mechanical, Physical, Biological, Chemical, Genetic, and Regulatory. I tell them IPM Check is another of my inventions, following "PalayCheck" of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Actually, my IPM Check does not copy from PhilRice's PalayCheck – only the name is similar. (If you want to know more, you have to attend my class.)

Tarp #11, "ICM" – 7 balloons: Good Seeds, Good Soil, Good Irrigation, Good Timing, Good Fertilizers, Good Crops, and Good Cultivation. Good Soil. I tell them about the story of Enso, my cousin, who learned from me about how to make your soil rich in organic matter, which I learned from American gentleman farmer Edward Faulkner almost 50 years ago, from a book I read at the library of the old UP College of Agriculture in Los Baños, Laguna. Enso's neighboring farmers copied all that he did, except trash farming, which he didn't tell them, so over the years Enso had much higher yields than the copycat farmers who did not know his "secret" for a good soil. (The technical term is trash farming.)

So far, for this ARCCESS training of the DAR farmers, I have invented these 5 tools for training farmers:

Farmer's Choice. This is a perspective that I repeatedly tell my class of farmers: Everything you do towards the life you want is your own decision. You are not to be mere absorbers of knowledge. You have to increase your knowledge. You have to do your own research. Do not just believe what the experts tell you.

Christmas card. Actually, the half-sheet Xmas card is a color printout of the entire training program, 10 balloons, with the balloon in the middle saying "Farmer's Choice." This is repeating without repeating.

IPM Check. This is to emphasize that there are many things to do when it comes to IPM.

Teaching "Integrated" and "Management" inside IPM. Before this, I'm sure there have been no books or experts explaining these 2 concepts separately first, then integrating them. I'm the first. I, writer, belong to the Ilocano tribe; I have always been an original aboriginal.

ICM. I ask my class of farmers, "Apay ket ti focusyo ket peste?" "Bakit ang focus ninyo ay sa peste?" "Why do you focus on the pest?" I don't answer my own question; I do not ask for answers – it is a rhetorical question, and everyone in my class of farmers knows it. I say that for IPM, I have an alternative for them but, I say, I'm not saying it's better; it's their own decision which one to use as model. What's the C in ICM? Crop. ICM is Integrated Crop Management. You focus on the crop, not on the pest. If you do ICM, I say, you will have a healthy crop.

I leave it at that.

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