Tiller's Cooperative Strikes Gold in Organic Farming - The PDCi Story
LIVING in a rolling pasture land may be hard but a cooperative of farmers-the Pecuaria Development Cooperative (PDCi) based in Lanipga, Bula, Camarines Sur-is trying to change just that.
PDCi was established in September 30, 1991 as a community-based cooperative of farmers in the village.
It is situated in the 817 hectares of land awarded to the farmers in 1992 through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of the government.
Originally, the goal of the cooperative was to manage the land to make it productive, and to assist settlers who were just finding sources of livelihood then.
But it has grown gradually into a cooperative that affiliates and links itself with non-government organizations, government organizations, people's organizations, and funding agencies to pursue its goals.
Now, members of the cooperative are not only farmers from the area but also those from six other towns in Camarines Sur-Baao, Pili, Ocampo, Nabua, Minalabac, and Calabanga.
When the cooperative was first established most of the members engaged in livestock-raising because Barangay Lanipga has good grazing grounds for cattle. They started raising imported breeds such as the Australian Brahman. Soon, however, they discovered that the imported cow variety was not suited to the area.
Then that they decided to invest in other things, although they still raise native cattle.
When the cooperative ventured into production of organic rice, they found the proverbial golden goose. Now, the cooperative is the leading single producer of organic rice in Bicol Region.
Organic rice is produced by growing rice in soil made productive by crop rotation, organic fertilizers, and mechanical cultivation, without the use of synthetic fertilizers and insecticides.
Organic rice distributed by the cooperative was grown by member farmers using organic fertilizer also produced by the cooperative.
Much of the facilities needed for production were acquired through the revenue generated by various enterprises of the cooperative and from financial assistance from partner institutions including the Federation of Peoples' Sustainable Development Cooperatives (FPSDC).
"FPSDC alone have loaned us approximately P7 million," said Juan Jollado Jr., former chair and now the cooperative secretary of PDC.
He said partnering with institution such as FPSDC had helped the cooperative especially in sourcing out capital. "But FPSDC has assisted us not only through microfinance," he added.
He further said that FPSDC also had regularly given trainings for cooperative members including seminars on leadership, environmental awareness, gender development, and on using latest farming technology.
Buoyed up by benefits of partnerships, PCD is applying to be member of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Coop Natcco, and Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
As the leading single producer of organic rice in Bicol Region, PDCi has posted skyrocketing revenues.
Jollado said PDC made its first P100,000 in organic rice trading and marketing in 2003, and since then, the cooperative's earnings had climbed to million-peso mark In 2006, the cooperative's net earnings from organic rice production was P600, 000 while earnings from 2004 and 2005 were P1.5 million and P2.5 million, respectively. Miller Bicaldo, PDC general manager, said that in 2008, the earning of the cooperative from producing organic rice almost had climbed to P8 million, while their income from manufacturing organic fertilizer had risen to P2 million. The cooperative also earned from producing muscovado or raw sugar derived from stalks of sugarcane grown through organic farming Goods produced by the cooperative are sold in several nationwide outlets including Shoemart (SM) supermarkets, and also in leading local stores. Although the PDC has gone far, it strives to keep its feet on the ground, according to Bicaldo, adding that the cooperative always has made sure that its members receive due benefits, and shares.