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DAVAO CITY –  Organic farms, herbs, and livestock that boost health and nutrition are being showcased at the Kadayawan festival starting Wednesday until the end of August through an Organic Food and Product Fair.

The fair showcased agricultural products from various small and farmer-producers of fruits, vegetables, herb vegetables and ornamental plants which were cultivated without using chemicals. Livestocks fed with organic food were also showcased.

One of the fair’s highlights was the launching of a certification system by the City Agriculture Office (CAO) with farmers’ advocates to help boost small-scale organic production.

The system, called the participatory guarantee system (PGS), is an alternative product certification system that advocates say is less costly and pro-small-farmer.

Masipag advocacy officer Geonathan Barro said that the PGS has been a global practice that helps small-scale farmers with less costs, as compared to the more expensive standard practice of a third-party certification.

“The practice of third-party certification is costly for the farmer as he has to pay 5,000 pesos annually per crop and per livestock,” Barro said.

Product certification is an assurance among the consumers that the organic product has passed the standards of organic agriculture. Certified products usually have a seal or logo from the certifying body.

“But with the PGS, the farmer would only shell out 500 pesos to have a third-party go to his community to certify his products,” Barro claimed.

Only minimal fees are given to the PGS team that involves a multi-sectoral inspection team composed of farmers, consumers and different sectors from the community.

“In a second-party certification system like the PGS, we are well-represented in the committee and our opinions and knowledge are recognized,” said Jose Ben Travilla, an organic farmer and PGS inspector from Mlang, North Cotabato who visited the PGS National Conference a day before the PGS Davao launching. “Hence, PGS is more appropriate to our conditions, culture and capacities.”

Anita Morales, chair of the Davao City PGS and executive director of the METSA Foundation, said the PGS helps not only small-scale producers but also consumers.

“Having a PGS as a certification system will also ultimately help our ordinary consumers to enjoy safe and healthy organic products,” she said.

CAO officer Rocelio Tabay said they adapted the PGS to help strengthen the city’s organic agriculture program.

Barro claimed there are about 50 farm groups in Davao region that would benefit economically from this practice.

CAO also promotes the organic farmers’ products by facilitating the organic market every Friday afternoon at Rizal Park in San Pedro Street.

Barro said aside from Davao City, Quezon and Nueva Vizcaya provinces have officially adapted PGS where ordinances have been passed, technical committees were set-up and trained, and resources were made available.

“Majority of our farmers and producers are resource-poor but with sustainable organic farming, they may achieve food security at the household and community-level,” said Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG national coordinator. “Small-scale family farms have more diversity where surplus products become extra income for the family’s needs. By putting a more affordable and participatory certification system in place, these small producers can have a shot at the growing organic market.”

Another highlight of the Organic fair was the showcase of herbal vegetables such as those produced by Lourmon Garden which sells 34 varieties of organic vegetable plants that can be grown in one’s backyard.

The vegetables include celery, thai basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, which owner Lourdes Cue said are imported from the United States but were grown organically in her garden.

“You just water them once in the morning and give them enough sunlight, and they will grow,” she told Davao Today.

She had also stevia plants, whose sweet-tasting leaves serve as an alternative sweetener for diabetics.

Cue said she started this practice through the prodding of her daughter, an agriculture and veterinary graduate from University of the Philippines Los Baños, after her first venture in ornamental plants flopped.

But she said with this herbal garden, she had a steady stream of customers, mostly foreigners or expats who had settled in Davao City, and Chinese restaurant owners.

Cue has also taught and helped her friends in cultivating and doing business with organic herbs.

As the Kadayawan originated as an indigenous tribe’s celebration of harvests, the fair highlights efforts of health-conscious and farmer-oriented groups to earn and live green.(davaotoday.com)

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