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Organic Fertilizer Production Project: Local Government Unit of MacArthur, Leyte

By Yolanda L. Abrina

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When we hear about mining, there is already a negative connotation linking the activity to soil and water pollution, landslides and environmental degradation. This line of thinking can be attributed to the many tragedies brought about by failure of some mining companies to implement sustainable and responsible mining communities, graft and corrupt practices by scrupulous government officials. After the mining activity, the community once teeming with life usually becomes dead leaving the residents who are usually marginal farmers without any livelihood, their farms not tenable. And the usual conclusion of the story about mining in this country is that there is no life after mining both for the people and the environment! This has been happening ever since I was a child.

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MacArthur is a 5th class municipality of Leyte with farming and fishing as the main source of livelihood. It is approximately 1,110 kilometers from Manila and is more accessible via Tacloban City. The municipality has a population of 16,844, consisting of 31 barangays. In the past few years, rice farming has not been profitable due to very low yields (40 cavans/hectare) which was attributed to heavy ironsand/magnetite deposits in ricelands. With the coming of mining companies engaging in magnetite mining, rice farmers sold their farms to these firms. Magnetite is a magnetic and very dense mineral iron which is an important source of iron for iron and steel industries but it also has other uses as an industrial mineral to produce many value-added products. NICUA-Leyte Ironsand Corporation(NICUA-LIC) is one of the firms which bought ricelands for magnetite mining particularly in 6 host barangays, Pongon, San Pedro, Maya, Liwayway, Romualdez, and Villa Imelda which form part of the five hundred twenty-three hectares and five thousand six hundred sixty-eightsquare meters (523.5668 has). The Leyte Magnetite Mining Project is located within the areas covered by the exploration permit denominated as MPSA 290-2009 VIIIwith Mr. Elmer R. Ragas as Resident Manager who is always supportive to the social development and management programs of the company.

Mining of magnetite sand deposit in the project involves processing of magnetite-bearing sand through a series of magnetite separators and screens and grinding the concentrate in a ball mill to produce marketable magnetite concentrate using water in all stages of processing.

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As part of the mining company’s social development and management program, Ms. Luzviminda T. Oropesa, Social Development Officer initiated the rehabilitation of mined out farms by seeking the technical assistance of DA-BSWM Organic Fertilizer Production Project. After a thorough evaluation of the area, rehabilitation through vermicast application was advised and to ensure continuous supply of vermicasts, the farmers in the three barangays (Pongon, San Pedro, and Maya) were organized into three farmers associations: Madig-on Farmers’ Association, Mainuswagon Farmers’ Association, Maya Farmers’ Association. Farmers were trained on vermiculture/vermicomposting, vermitea brewing, nature farming especially on the production of effective and indigenous microorganisms. Vermibeds and African Night Crawlers were provided by the mining firm including the vermihouses and training centers. NICUA-LIC agreed to buy the vermicasts produced by the farmers. This scheme is the driving force for the farmers to diligently follow our technology. Hands-on training on vermiculture and vermicomposting, vermin tea brewing, nature and organic farming were conducted through the support of the mining company. Mr. Juanito Poliquit, President of Region VIII Farmers’ Federation, assists them in training the farmers in growing crops through nature farming technologies. The active participation of the Barangay Local Government Units in all activities is very critical in the success of the program while LGU support inspired the community to do their best. Mayor Rene R. Leria, convinced that farmers’ lives can be improved has been very supportive of the programs of NICUA-LIC and the Municipal Agriculture Office headed by Ms. Nelda U. Cornelio. Mr. Armando B. Arcamo, Regional Soil and Water Area Coordinator consistently monitors the project. The immeasurable support of the company to the social development and management can be gauged by the presence of its officials especially RM Elmer Ragas in all the activities in the community and the eco-farm. You will find Sir Gerome Baroquillo, one of the company’s Mining engineers who is partially disabled by an illness spending time in the rehabilitation farm ( they now refer it as Ecofarm ni Sir Gerome)everyday. Somehow, Sir Gerome finds pleasure in helping the farmworkers tend the crops and ducks which also serves as his daily dose of therapy.

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Life for the farmers in these three barangays has changed, they don’t burn rice straws anymore and they gather these straws even at night, even chopping the straws so that there is a continuous supply of substrates. When there was only one shredder machine in the whole municipality, the three associations developed a schedule so that shredding of substrates will not be hampered. Children also gather cow and carabao dung in exchange for school supplies. They also produce lots of vermin tea being used in their farms. Jobs are also continuously generated by the agricultural programs of the company. In the recent cropping season, SRI technology was implemented by LIC-NICUA on mined-out farms, with vermicast applicationbalanced with 1 bag 45-0-0 and 1 bag 14-14-14/hectare, weekly spraying of vermitea, IMO and EMO, and use of microbial inoculant. Monthly tiller counts indicated that the rice plants are responding positively to our recommended rehabilitation process. Average yield was 130 cavans/hectare. With the adoption of the DA-BSWM technology, farmers are now looking forward to more bountiful harvests in the coming years and even when NICUA-LIC leaves the municipality, they will already be self-reliant and sustainable.

The three farmers’ associations were recently awarded with shredder machines and vermitea brewers by DA-BSWM through the DA-Regional Field Unit VIII. Women in these communities don’t have to stay late in the evenings just to chop substrates for the African Night Crawlers.

With the establishment of a Trichoderma Laboratory for the production of the Compost Fungus Activator in support to the succeeding production farms under the BSWM’s Expanded Modified Rapid Composting Technology, there is no doubt that rice sufficiency could be attained by LGU MacArthur.

Nowadays, I am singing a new song, a different conclusion is brewing because farmers will live happily ever after, and it can be said that there will always be life after mining provided that the mining company complies with its obligations for responsible mining to the host community!

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