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Philippines’ duck-aided farming gets a thumbs up

Recommended for farmers who will receive land from Hacienda Luisita

Gulf News

Manila: Farmers who will soon be receiving land from the Hacienda Luisita in central Luzon, which is owned by the family of former President Corazon Aquino, should resort to a productive duck-aided farming technology that helped farmers in the southern Philippines 16 years ago, with the help of a non-government organisation that built a hatchery for ducks, a local paper said.

More farmers will need this kind of natural technology because the agrarian department has already said owners of a total of one million hectare of land nationwide are required to implement the land reform programme, which they failed to do during the time of Mrs Aquino in the late 1980s, Jose Apollo Pacamalan, COO of the Philippine Agrarian Reform Foundation for National Development (Parfund), a civil society group, told the Inquirer.

Some 6,296 families will benefit from the land partition of Hacienda Luisita’s 6,435 hectare, said the land reform department.

“[In that case] we need a good supply of eggs so we will have good ducks [for better farming],” Jose Noel “Butch” Olano, Parfund’s executive director said, adding this was the reason why Parfund established a duck breeding centre in Butuan, Agusan 16 years ago.

At the time, Peace and Equity Foundation, a non-government organisation, extended a P6.7 million (Dh558,333.33) loan to Parfund for the construction of a breeding centre and incubator, and purchase of mother ducks to supply ducklings for to 1,800 farmers who volunteered to undertake the project in five years.

Parfund also received an additional P2.16 million grant for programme management, capacity building, field coaching and monitoring of farmers.

In time, Parfund’s 5,000 ducks laid 3,000 eggs a day. They were hatched into baby ducks that were sent to farmers who paid with cash, or ducklings, or rice after harvest.

When week-old ducks swim around the grains, they kill the anaerobic bacteria that produce methane gas; they also prevent carbon dioxide from trapping heat in the atmosphere, and reduce global warming, Parfund explained.

Around 150 ducks are needed for a hectare of rice, which costs P10,000, half of it for the net built around the farm, which last for five years.

In comparison, investment in fertilizers and pesticides is around P25,000 to P30,000 per hectare, in addition to manpower to control weeds and snails.

Giving their testimonies to the Inquirer about their duck-aided farming, Julia Manguera said her one hectare farm in Maramag town, Bukidnon produces nine tonnes of rice a year, compared to 3.8 tonnes of rice produced per hectare in chemical aided farms.

Emmanuel Pepito said he produces six tonnes of rice per hectare in his duck-filled 26-hectare farm in Esperanza town, Bukidnon.

Joseph Aguilar said his overhead cost remained low at P5,000 with 200 ducks in his two hectare farm at Catmonan, Speranza whereas chemicals for the same size would cost P30,000, he added.

After the harvest season, ducklings turn three and a half months-old, ready to be sold to the market. Duck meat is sought for haute cuisine dishes like “patotin,” Peking Duck, and duck burger; its liver is made into foie gras.

Duck eggs are also made into “balut,” which has a seven-day-old fetus, known as an aphrodisiac in the Philippines.

Candaba, Pampanga in northern Luzon and the southern Luzon regions produce 10 million baluts annually. The Butuan market in the southern Philippines is now consuming 100,000 balut a week.

Sixteen years ago, the project was aimed to help farmers after Mrs Aquino pushed for the implementation of a legislated land reform programme, which, however, did not take place in her own farm: it offered stocks, and not land, to farmers.

The project began also with the help of Japan’s Takao Furuno, who propagated in 1980 “ancient agro-ecological principles” in farming.

He met and encouraged Pacmalan to attend the Furuno-initiated seminars in Japan and South Korea and visit natural farming projects in Asia.

At the time, Pacmalan had an undergraduate course in agriculture from the Xavier University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

He also complained of severe headache when he sprayed rice fields with chemicals. It ended when he realised, with Furuno’s help, that ducks are “God’s true gifts to farmers”.