The use of pesticides and chemicals is common in today’s agriculture sector, but on the Philippine island Palawan, a culture of “back to basics” is gaining momentum.

South of the capital Puerto Princesa is the property Yamang Bukid, which means “the farm is rich”. Its practice of organic farming is changing the face of Palawan’s agriculture and food security sector.

Farmer Alfredo Juntado says that Yamang Bukid is a family; “everybody has their own responsibilities… in the future, this farm will grow and grow. Everybody will be sharing the good and the goodness of the earth.”

Romeo Cabungcal, agriculturist at the Provincial Government, believes organic farming has a promising future.

“Organic farms with high commercial value vegetables like cabbage and other things, really produce in the Province,” he said.

“We have been importing, but now we have some of the areas that can be cultivated for food production.”

Yamang Bukid was originally a turmeric farm. In just two years, it has evolved into growing all different kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and now sells its produce by the side of the road and in the local shopping mall.

It also takes a socially responsible approach to its workforce and hires once illegal loggers to be farm hands.


(Photo: Jacinta Neal)


According to farm consultant Rodolfo Abalus, 95 per cent of the farm’s workforce used to be involved in illegal forest activities.

“But now they are environmentalists,” he said. “Because they are planting, harvesting, and growing… they don’t have time to do those kinds of activities anymore. It benefits us, and it benefits them.”

The farm attracts these workers by offering 320 pesos a day, 20 pesos more than they previously made. Food is provided during the working week and their children are sponsored to go to school.

Although organic farming in Palawan is small, it has a promising future.

“Palawan is relatively new in this field as far as our office is concerned,” Romeo Cabungcal adds. “We just started to naturally produce it without the use of pesticides or insecticide… but as far as the office is concerned, it will continue to grow.”

Alfredo Juntado agrees; “people are getting interested… because it is natural. Everything should grow to be natural, it’s not always about money… it’s about health and family.”

— Jacinta Neal @Jacinta__Neal

*The author travelled to the Philippines as part of The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour, a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) programme supported by the New Colombo Plan (NCP grants) which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).