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Organic Agriculture in the Philippines: Going back to basic

Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca


While many think of organic farming as something new, it is actually centuries old. Organic farming was the original type of agriculture and had been used for thousands of years. One can surmise therefore that the practice of organic farming or organic agriculture in the Philippines began when man started to domesticate the land. Our forefathers used organic materials as their primary means to grow and cultivate their crops.

However, this method of farming regained popularity again in the 1980s and has been re-shaping, at present, the agricultural management and production in site-specific locations. The practice persisted until the dawn of the chemically induced fertilizers.

What is therefore historically recent is the use of synthetic fertilizers which were introduced in abundance during the early part of the 20th century.

As agriculture moved to modern times, greater use of mineral fertilizers began through systematic experimentation. Fertilizer factories sprouted in Europe and America and along with the Green Revolution movement sparked the intensive use of inorganic or chemical fertilizers. Thus, in the early 70s, when the oil price shot up, so did the price of chemical fertilizer. (Cosico, 2010). This scenario pivoted the gradual entry of organic agriculture in the main stream of agricultural production. Hence, it may be said that the renewed interest on organic materials as fertilizers in search for alternative sources of nutrients loomed in the face of escalating prices of fertilizers.


By definition, organic materials are derived from plants and animals. They include crop residues, plant biomass, green manure, farmyard manure, composts, household wastes, industrial and urban wastes, commercial products produced from plant and animal materials. Organic fertilizer refer to a specific group of organic materials produced from decomposed plant or animal materials and used as a source of nutrients for crops, while chemical fertilizers, on the other hand, are synthesized from minerals or non-living matter.

The definition of organic agriculture as articulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is an agricultural production system that promotes environmentally, socially and economically sound production of food and fibers and excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, livestock feed additives and genetically modified organisms."


According to Rodel G.Manghirang of the University of the Philippines (UPLB) in a presentation on OA in the Philippines, the organic production area in the country rose from 3,500-hectares in 2004 to roughly 39,400-hectares in 2006. Estimates also showed an increase of 45 percent or 52,400-hectares in the 2008-2009 year level. The global organic market likewise jumped from 23B (US$) in 2002 to 51B (US$) in 2008.

In a study made by IFOAM in 2007, the global organic agriculture area of 32.2 million hectare of agricultural land is managed organically. More than one-third (1/3) of the world's organic land is in Oceania (38 percent), followed by Europe (24 percent), Latin America (20 percent), Asia and Africa at 9 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

This simply illustrates the global and regional appreciation for organic agriculture and what this can do to agriculture and the environment. Organic agriculture must also be viewed as an imperative for sustainable development taking into consideration the benefit of human health, food security, poverty alleviation and the ecology. These principles are the roots from which organic agriculture grows and develops. They express the contention that organic agriculture can make the world a better place to live.

Organic fertilizers have been in use in the Philippines for years, but its prominence has increased since the world wide invasion of the organic agriculture movement, which has worked hand-in-hand with ensuring food quality and safety in the country. The government has invested in research and development for organic fertilizers to support farming activities by increasing yield, but at the same time minimizing input costs by turning to traditional knowledge and cheaper sources of materials for organic fertilizer production.

The government of the Philippines has enacted several enabling measures and legislations and perhaps will continue to do so in order to ensure the success and development of the organic agriculture program in the land. And those involved must guarantee fairness at all levels and systems of production whether or not organic agriculture is the accepted norm. After all, our aim is to produce sufficient supply and quality food.


2. ifoam/principle/index.html
3. Papaer Abstract, Overview of organic fertilizer use in rice in the Philippines by Wilfreso C. Cosico International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
4. Paper Presentation of R.G Manghirang, et al, UPLB on Sustainable Organic Agriculture in the Philippines