Regeneration International, Filipino League of Organic Municipalities Cities and Provinces Sign ‘Regeneration Philippines’ Pact

BISLIG, PHILIPPINES – If anyone knows first-hand what the global climate crisis is all about, it’s the people who live in the Philippines. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan, the second-strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Eastern Hemisphere, slammed the island nation with winds of 195 miles/hour, leaving 6,300 dead. 

It was a devastating event. But the nation of islands is fighting back.

Inspired by the country’s high level of local autonomy, 200 municipalities in the Philippines are taking the extraordinary step of signing an agreement among themselves, and with Regeneration International (RI), to create new policies that both recognize soil health as a powerful tool in addressing the climate crisis and reward farmers for drawing down greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering them in their soil.

When fully implemented in 2022, the agreement will cover 1.2 million hectares of land—almost 3 million acres. As a representative of RI, I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in this unprecedented endeavour almost from its beginning.

The plans for this project culminated June 14, at the 11th General Assembly of the Filipino League of Organic Municipalities Cities and Provinces (LOAMCP), where I gave a presentation on agricultural climate mitigation and signed a Memorandum of Understanding between LOAMCP and RI, dubbed the “Regeneration Philippines (RP)” Memorandum.

This story really began back in 2017, in my London office when I received a call from a business contact in the Philippines who was working with LOAMCP (at the time it was LOAMC). He said, “Oliver, I think I have something newsworthy for you.” Then he passed me on to a contact who asked whether I could help generate press on an event that was happening during the 2017 AGRILINK trade fair, one of Asia’s biggest agricultural trade fairs.

Assuming he was going to pitch me on the latest industrial chicken feeding unit, I said, “Okay, great, who do you represent and what’s the event?”

“My name is Patrick Belisario of the Organic Producer and Trade Association of the Philippines,” he said.  “We work with a group of 200 mayors who are going to sign an agreement to implement new laws in their constituencies that would ban the use of toxic agrichemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

I paused a second and said, “Really? How would that work?”

He then explained that local governments in the Philippines could write their own laws without going through the central government (a bit like in the U.S., but very different from other Asian countries).

As it happened, it turned out to be both an interesting, and an exclusive, news tip.

Three months later I flew to the event to produce video coverage of the signing ceremony, which took place at the home of one of the most influential senators in the Philippines, Senator Cynthia Villar.

It was there that I met with the Hon. Rommel C. Arnado, mayor of the city of Kauswagan Lanao Del Norte on the Island of Mindanao and president of the League of Organic Municipalities and Cities (which has since expanded to Provinces). During an interview with Mayor Arnado I quickly learned that these policymakers were deadly serious. The use of toxic agrichemicals and GMOs is not allowed, he told me, and we have sanctions in place that could lead to imprisonment for those who break the laws.

Mayor Arnado’s community had suffered decades of heavily armed conflict, and through tough politics of care for his people, he put in place an award-winning conflict resolution and insertion program, “From Arms To Farms,” that brought Christian and Islamic rebel fighters to surrender  a part of their arsenal in exchange for education around organic food and farming, made available to all.

Mayor Arnado has since become a world leader for the organic movement, one who doesn’t mince his words and who puts radical action in place for the highest benefit of his citizens’ health and wealth.

Our coverage of the event was a success—we produced a three-minute video that reached more than 1 million people worldwide.

In 2019, I headed back to the Philippines to visit the Arms To Farms program and produce coverage for ‘Trails of Regeneration,’ an ongoing RI series produced in collaboration with Kiss the Ground.

During my trip I met up with LAOMCP Executive Director, agronomist and farmer Victoriano Tagupa, whom I had met in 2018 through the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)[LR2]  Asia at a summit of the Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture.

Victoriano—nicknamed Vic 1.0, as there are two other Vics in his family—is a true soil advocate. On his farm on the Filipino island of Mindanao, Tagupa combines biodynamics and natural agriculture within a fully integrated system using indigenous seeds, cover crops and holistic livestock management. In an interview, Tagupa said LOAMCP had a plan to convert 1.2 Million hectares of land to completely organic production by 2022. Tagupa discussed the significance this would have in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and about the possible needs and opportunities to implement new policies to train and reward farmers.

One month later Tagupa and I met again, but this time it was in Japan with Andre Leu, RI’s international director, for “Agriculture is the Solution to Climate Change,” an event organised by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the 4 per 1000 Initiative. Before the event, Tagupa, Leu and I worked together on a joint presentation promoting rice intensification systems.

At that event we quickly identified how LOAMCP could be instrumental in contributing to new policies on agricultural climate mitigation and could help inspire the international community through the 4 per 1000 Initiative.

Things progressed further when LOAMCP invited RI to give a presentation at the next LOAMCP General Assembly, and Tagupa and I suggested we sign an MoU that would contain all the elements we had been discussing. So, I got onto my laptop and drafted the “Regeneration Philippines” Memorandum, which was then sent to the RI board of directors, where it received swift approval.

I then flew to Bislig City for the LOAMCP General Assembly and met with LOAMCP’s officers before the day of the event to present to them the freshly minted “Regeneration Philippines” Memorandum. The memorandum content was adopted by the entire assembly. Many LOAMCP members were very supportive of LOAMCP moving beyond protecting the public from dangerous agrochemicals and into directly confronting the dangers of climate change. 

At the General Assembly I was able to point out the pressing issues we face with the climate crisis, its threat to human civilization and the need to act fast. I then showcased how by using regenerative agriculture to switch back on the soil microbiome, we can turn conventional farms into carbon sinks. I also spoke of the great hope that farmers represent in mitigating climate change through soil health. I also presented the 4 per 1000 Initiative—its purpose, its background and RI’s involvement—followed by the 4p1000 video “Farmers for Climate,” and an account of our[LR1]  recent LOAMCP RI trip to Japan with 4p1000.

I discussed the great potential LOAMCP could have in helping shape new policies on agricultural climate mitigation by using the 4p1000 framework, and then the LOAMCP officers and I presented the MoU. I it read aloud and asked the audience whether anyone had any objections, comments or suggestions. Hearing no objections from the audience, we launched the signing ceremony with LOAMCP President, Mayor Rommel Arnado.

LOAMCP has become a powerful organization in the Philippines, and this year it has expanded from the island nation’s cities and municipalities to its provinces. LOAMCP is an important organization that brings lawmakers together to protect human health and the environment from corporate greed in the agricultural sector.

There is an organic agriculture law in the Philippines that requires 5 percent of all the country’s farmland to be organic, and many in LOAMCP are fighting to push that figure to 100 percent. In a very encouraging move, the Department of the Interior for Local Governments (DILG) has officially asked every municipality in the Philippines become a LOAMCP member.

This development is particularly interesting, as it came just a few weeks after the Filipino government announced $614 million USD in subsidies for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides originating from Qatar—and Mayor Librado Navarro of Bislig City opened his address to the LOAMP 11th General Assembly by stating that under his mandate, Bislig will never accept these subsidies. Navarro’s comments were welcomed with an uproar of cheers and applause from the General Assembly.

In more good news, RI and LOAMCP are now collaborating to create “Regeneration Philippines,” a branch within LOAMCP designed to help steer LOAMCP’s efforts toward concepts of, and implementation of, regenerative agricultural development. LOAMCP’s next general meeting will be in November 2019 in Cebu, Philippines. RI plans at that meeting to officially launch Regeneration Philippines and set up a Regeneration Philippines office alongside those of LOAMCP and IFOAM Asia.

With the climate crisis bearing down on the Philippines, the country is taking bold steps to confront the crisis. The future looks good for these efforts to forge a national consensus around regenerative agriculture as a key factor in climate mitigation.

08302019-1549. Societal Convergence in Climate Action and Sustainable Agriculture Development.

08302019-1549. Societal Convergence in Climate Action and Sustainable Agriculture Development.

The Greenpeace Southeast Asia, IFOAM Asia and LOAMCP-PH (League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities, Cities and Provinces of the Philippines) are in chorus to initially consolidate the on the ground impacts initiatives in SDGs 13 (Climate Action), 1 (No Poverty), 2(Zero Hunger) and 3 (Good Health and Well-being) of the 17 interdependent SDGs 2030 of the United Nations.

The initial meeting was successfully conducted to call for the National Civil Society Organizations ( CSOs) Summit in Climate Action and Sustainable Agriculture on November 27, 2019 prior to the LOAMCP-PH General Assembly on November 28, 2019, at the PICC.

PH CSOs with impacts initiatives in family farms and/or communities are encouraged to CONNECT to this national event to functionally CONNECT to the on the GROUND BEST IMPACTS INITIATIVES and ADAPTIVE REPLICATIONS of RA 10068, RA 9003, RA 8749, RA 9275 RA 8435 and RA 7160 among others and the UN SDGs 2030.

Good Cocoa Nursery Establishment and Management

The success of a cocoa farm to a larger extent will depend on a good planting material. You can grow your cocoa farm from the seed (directly) or seedling. We recommend you do it with the cocoa seedlings from a good cocoa nursery establishment.

What is a cocoa nursery?

Cocoa nursery is where you raise cocoa seedlings for transplanting to the field at the appropriate time. The work on cocoa nursery should start somewhere between November and December. This timing will help you meet the rains at time of transplanting to the field.

Site selection for cocoa nursery establishment

Make the following considerations when you are thinking of a place to establish your nursery.

  1. Water. The nursery will require water and especially at the period you will be doing it. So make sure there is available and accessible water source.
  2. Select a flat land, preferably close to the farm on which they will be transplanted.
  3. The soil must have good drainage. Water-logging is not good for your nursery.
  4. The site for your nursery should be away (about 10meters) from the nearest cocoa farm. Pest from these cocoa farms can also attack the seedlings.
  5. Some shady trees my pose a problem for the nursery and may even promote the infection of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD).

Land preparation and shading of the cocoa nursery site

You must weed and clear the site of all obstacles that will impede work in the nursery.

Cocoa nursery establishment requires that you erect a temporal shade with shade nets or palm fronds. This is to protect the seedlings from direct sunlight. Raise the shade about 2meters above the ground.

If there are livestock around that could pose threat to the seedlings, fence it.

Nursing the cocoa

You can raise the cocoa seedling in;

  1. Pots / Polythene bags
  2. Seed bed
Raising cocoa seedlings in pots/polythene bags

1. Get your polythene bags

a. If you are nursing the cocoa for a shorter period, say 3months, the bags can be smaller in size (about 12.5 cm x 25 cm)
b. If you are nursing for up to 6 months use a much bigger polythene bag (18cm x 25cm)

2. Create drainage holes at the bottom of the polythene bags. This will allow excess water to drain off and prevent logging.

3. The you fill poly bags with soil to the brim. Use soils with good aeration, water retention and high in organic matter.

4. For easy management, arrange the bags in block. Let each row have 10bags wide and 100bags longs. That will be 1000bags per block.

5. To make movement easy through the blocks, leave a gap of about 45-60cm. This will be used as path during the various operations on the nursery.

6. Water the soil in the bags before sowing the cocoa beans.

7. Sow the bean at a depth of 2cm with pointed side of the bean upward. If you are not sure, place it flat at the same depth. Avoid seeds that are already germinating.

8. Monitor germination and growth.

Cocoa nursery establishment on nursery beds

1. Weed and clear the area of all plant debris.

2. Prepare your bed of about 12.5cm high and 120cm wide. The length could go as you want. However, leave a gap of about 45-60cm to serve a path. This will help avoid stepping on the bed and compacting it during various operations in the nursery.

3. Level the top of the beds and create grooves 20cm apart on the entire bed.

4. Now, place the cocoa beans in the grooves 10cm apart.

5. Provide shade as it is done in the polythene bags method.

Note: Do not keep seedlings for more than 4months before transplanting when you raise them on beds.

How to maintain the cocoa nursery

After germination, watering should be done in the morning and evening when it is not raining. This will not be the case in the rainy season. Water as and when it is required. Too much watering can cause damping-off.

Control weeds regularly on polythene bags or nursery bed by hand.

Applying fertilizer or manure

Little or no fertilization may be needed if good soils are used in the cocoa nursery establishment.

However, if they are lacking in nutrients you can apply the recommended rate of fertilizer a month after germination. Be careful, if granules are used they don’t fall on the leaves. They can scorch the leaves. Water well so that the granular fertilizer can dissolve for the roots to use.

Controlling pest and disease

Use recommended fungicides and insecticides to control pests and diseases.

Do not apply those chemicals with knapsack sprayers used for applying herbicides.

Hardening the seedlings

Hardening helps to prepare the seedlings for transplant to their permanent field.

This is done by reducing the shade gradually a month before transplanting. The shade is then removed completely a week to transplanting.

At this stage, reduce watering and do not apply fertilizer.

How to transport seedlings from nursery to the field

This is a critical stage after the cocoa nursery establishment. The seedlings if not well handled can be damaged during transporting.

Do not overcrowd the seedlings. Carry just as much as the space available.

Records keeping on cocoa nursery establishment.

This activity should be done at the beginning, during and at the end of the nursery establishment. Keep records on everything including the source and quantity of materials used, the number of seeds planted, the number of seeds germinated, etc.