Corporate Bulletins

Farmer’s illness leads to organic farming advocacy -- and a new enterprise

Posted on February 01, 2016

Marines Takingan never imagined that an unfortunate incident in his life would provide him the opportunity for a better future. Instead of losing hope when he fell ill due to prolonged exposure to chemical pesticide and fertilizers after years of conventional farming, Marines found the courage to turn his life around and has now become the “face” of organic farming to other food growers like himself.

Special Awardee for Community leadership Marines Takingan (2nd from left) receives his award from Philippine Daily Inquirer Chair Marixi Rufino-Prieto (center) and BSP Monetary Board Member Alfredo C. Antonio (leftmost). He is joined by ECLOF’s account officer Fely Bogawit (2nd from right); Vice Chair Minnie Anne Calub (3rd from right) and Executive Director Rosemarie Castro.
In recognition of his efforts and dedication in improving the practice of organic farming, Marines was awarded the 2015 Citi Microentrepreneurship Award (CMA) for Community Leadership.

Born out of a partnership of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc., the CMA is a nationwide search for the most outstanding micro business owners. Funded by Citi Foundation, it started in 2002 as part of the celebration for Citi’s 100th year in the Philippines. The CMA has since recognized more than 100 winners across the country.

Marines came from a clan of vegetable farmers in La Trinidad, Benguet. With the seasonal business passing through generations of his family, he in turn passed it on to his children. Like many of his fellow farmers in the area, the Takingans relied heavily on the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to grow the vegetables he would sell.

In 1985, he and his wife Elvie expanded their business by entering the cut-flowers industry. All was going well until Marines suffered from a lung condition which required him to undergo an operation in 2006. “Pagka-opera ko po ay tumigil din ako sa pagnenegosyo. Naapektuhan po talaga ang kabuhayan namin at nabaon kami sa utang (When I had surgery I had to stop working on the farm. This really affected our business and we ended up heavily in debt),” he intimates.

It was a turning point in his life. He realized that he needed to embrace new methods that would not be detrimental to his health. Shortly after recovering, he attended a seminar on organic farming. In 2013, he applied all that he learned into growing organic vegetables in a 1,500 square meter lot adjacent to their family home. He also returned to growing and selling cut-flowers.

Today, Marines employs various techniques such as the use of greenhouses to make the farm less susceptible to weather conditions. Meanwhile, intercropping, or growing one kind of plant in the spaces between plants of a different kind, makes it possible for him to offer different kinds of vegetables all year round.

ECLOF, the Ecumenical Church Foundation, Inc. has been extending assistance to Marines since 2005. His latest loan now amounts to Php95,000. Earnings from the organic vegetable average Php20,000 net a month, while income from cut-flowers average P50,000 net a month.

Tibay ng loob, pamilya at suporta po galing sa microfinance ang kinuhanan ko ng lakas at determinasyon na bumangon ulit at magsikap. (Having faith and the support of my family and of my microfinance partners gives me the strength to do the work that I do.)” he said.

With his hard work and determination, Marines was able to build an extension to improve their greenhouses. He also purchased a motorcycle, a hand tractor, and a house in Central Baguio that he will soon rent out. Above all, he was able to put his four children through school. The older ones have earned a college degree, but have chosen to help their father on farming.

Now that he is reaping the fruits of his labor, Marines is focusing on teaching others what he has learned about the business. He is one of the founding members of ALTOPA or Ambiong La Trinidad Organic Practitioners Association and a member of La Organica, an association for the distribution of organic vegetables organized by the local government. To give back to the community, Marines offers his farm as a venue for teaching about organic farming.

Marines recognizes that his role is not only to be an advocate of organic farming, but also to show people that you can rise above whatever misfortune you encounter in life.