From ‘Magsasako’ to ‘Magsasaka’ through Organic Agriculture
Mr. Bernardino Nunez, also known as Ka Bernie is from San Rafael, Bulacan. He is married to Victoria Nunez and they are gifted with four (4) children. Mr. Nuñez has 37 years of extensive farming experience and learned about organic agriculture by attending training courses conducted by the Central Luzon Organic Farmers’ Association (CLORFA) and by the Bulacan Agricultural State College (BASC). He is a member of the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council (MAFC), Palayamanan Farmers Association, Organic Farmers Association of Bulacan, and CLORFA where he was able to attend trainings on proper crop and animal management, as well as share meaningful discussions with his fellow farmers.
Ka Bernie has been awarded several recognitions on organic farming including Dangal ng Lipi ng Bulacan and National Gawad Saka Award (Farm Family Category) both in 2012. In 2013 he was awarded as the Best Farmer Cooperator by BASC.
Ka Bernie started farming in 1978 and was a heavy chemical user until 2008. He noticed that the chemical inputs he had been using for 30 years had adversely affected his health. He was very thin and gets easily exhausted all the time. Also at that time, instead of referring to himself as “magsasaka”, Ka Bernie considers himself a “magsasako” referring to the “sako” or container bags of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He borrows money to buy these costly inputs and after harvest, he pays-off his debts from creditors with bags of paddy rice.
Through the knowledge he gained from the training he attended, the realization of putting his family’s health at risk, and the negative effects to the environment, he decided to shift to organic farming. With his determination to change his conventional farming ways, he did not just aim for profit and high productivity, but he became more concerned with caring for people’s health and that of the environment.
Ka Bernie observed that over time, the soil condition of his farm had improved. The soil became more fertile, friable, and the soil’s water holding capacity increased. This was unlike when he was still practicing conventional (chemical) farming, wherein the field should be prepared a day before transplanting to retain the puddled condition. He also noticed the soil is easier to plow even if left fallow (unplanted) for sometime after land preparation.
With time, his organic rice yield gradually increased. Recently he was able to harvest 6.35 tons per hectare. His successful transformation from conventional farming was made known to other farmers whenever he is invited in training courses to testify about his experiences on organic farming. His exposure as resource person had boosted his confidence such that he was able to influence several farmers to engage in organic farming.
His farm income enabled him to send all his children to school and finish college. He considers this an achievement and source of pride since he only finished elementary schooling. Although his children are all gainfully employed in jobs related to their college degrees, they are all aware of the benefits of organic farming and are all involved in it, following the footsteps of Ka Bernie. Their organic farm, which is now a family endeavour, was the basis for the National Gawad Saka Farm Family award that was given by the Department of Agriculture in 2012.
Ka Bernie still wants to expand his knowledge on organic agriculture and he wants to venture into organic animal raising. He also plans to apply for organic certification of his farm with assistance from the Department of Agriculture. Ka Bernie will still continue to encourage other farmers to engage in organic farming by sharing his knowledge and experiences and be a living testimony on what organic farming can do.
(This article is written by: Bernardino Nunez and Dinah Marie C. Dayag and has been drawn from the book, ORGANIC AGRICULTURE TECHNOLOGIES AND SYSTEMS DEVELOPED AND ADAPTED BY FARMERS IN THE PHILIPPINES, with consent from the Editors: Oscar B. Zamora and Blesilda M. Calub.)