"Most outstanding farmer practices indigenous farming"
By Francis Martin
High Plains Journal


BONTOC, Mt. Province - Indigenous farming practices, sustained environmental protection, balanced utilization of natural resources, involvement in various community activities, are some of the traits that made Mrs. Caroline Baybay as the 2009’s Most Outstanding Farmer of Mt. Province.

Baybay, a mother of six from barangay Ankileng, Sagada, proved once more that women can be at par with the men. Walking through the rice paddies on her way to school as a young lass, savoring the sweet aroma of ripe mountain rice mixed with the pine scent and feel the cool wind from the mountainside has inspired Caroline to become a farmer.

Caroline and her husband turned the land she inherited from her parents into a diversified farm using indigenous farming methods. Within the farm, she made a fish pond, a vegetable garden, an orchard and a piggery.

Mrs. Baybay learned the art of farming from her parents. In her younger years to her adulthood, she developed her skills on the indigenous way of tilling the field while preserving and protecting the environment.

Indigenous agricultural practice varies in the Cordillera, but when it comes to preservation and protection of environment, primarily the water source, all the provinces have one goal, that is to maintain a “muyong” of man-made forest which holds water to irrigate the farms.

Usually, some areas were transformed into a ricefield or vegetable garden but leaving a wider array of pine and other kinds of trees to make sure that an ample supply of water is reserved in the forest.

With her experiences in farming, Caroline said that modern technology which include machineries and chemicals being utilized in the lowland increase farm yields, this is not applicable in the hinterlands of Sagada.

Modern farm inputs are welcome, but natural way of farming is mostly adapted by farmers. These include animal wastes and rice straw mixed with the soil which is left for a couple of days underwater until rotten before it is planted with rice seedling. This will preserve the natural fertility of the soil, Baybay said.

We also practice natural composting technology in the community to produce organic fertilizer, that’s why we seldom buy commercial fertilizers for our plants as we start producing organic vegetables for a healthier lifestyle, she explained.

Natural pesticides such as the indigenous wild leaves found in the community are utilized to protect the plants from pests rather than using chemical pesticides that are harmful to human and animals.

Some farmers have also incorporated tilapia farming with rice known as the “rice-fish culture” introduced by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (BFAR) in the province.

The technology has expanded in the whole municipality and in the province. This has created additional income to the farmers and an instant food supplier from the backyard aside from their swine and poultry.

Her persistent attitude towards farming endeavor has led her to become the 2009’s most outstanding farmer in Mt. Province. Besting other nominees, the achievement of Caroline shows that Filipino women can work hand-in-hand with the government for social and economic development in the countryside.