DCFRN success story
Content: Linda Bolinao, the daughter of a Filipino farmer and wife of a farm broadcaster, has a small family. She has worked in her country and abroad. She saved her money and bought four hectares (9.9 acres) of farming land. With the help of family, neighbours, women in her community, and her own initiative and resolve, she has become a successful farmer. Linda grows field, garden, orchard, and nursery crops, and keeps poultry and livestock. One of Linda’s secrets of success is the complete set of farm records she keeps.
Special note: This item includes full details of two simple, no-cost techniques that could be presented as individual items. For your convenience, they are identified by A and B in the left margin with headings as follows:
A. A no-cost high-fertility garden bed
B. A useful set of farm records
How Linda became a farmer
Let me tell you about Erlinda Perez Bolinao. She grew up in the country as a member of a farming family, got a good education, travelled and worked outside her own country, worked for a religious mission, and held a responsible accounting position with her own local municipal government.
Linda Bolinao used the money she earned to buy four hectares (9.9 acres) of farming land. On it, with the help of some neighbours for the heavy work, she grows cash crops; they share the profits from these crops.
Linda also employs up to ten local women to help with weeding. Her husband has a full-time job in town, but he and their three young children and other family members help with many of the farming operations. They also look after the home garden lot, an additional 1/10th of a hectare (1/4 of an acre).
Now let me tell you about Linda’s farm and garden enterprises. She uses some modern technology. She also adopts practical, indigenous ways which are economical and safe, as well as methods used by small-scale farmers all over the world. Linda grows field crops and vegetables and has an orchard of fruit and nut trees, a nursery of fruit and forest trees, and a herb garden. She keeps chickens and goats and three cattle, including two water buffalo. She grows all the feed as well for the poultry and livestock.
Linda saves the expenses of buying plant food by making her own organic fertilizer in two ways. She makes compost and uses earthworms. The castings, or you might call them manure, from the worms, make wonderful fertilizer that costs her nothing.
A: A No-cost high-fertility garden bed
I’ll tell you the way Linda Bolinao has prepared seven high-production, intensive gardening plots (or beds) on which enough produce is grown to provide a good family income. You might want to try making one or more of these beds for yourself.
The beds are 1 metre (3 feet) wide and 5 metres (15 feet) long. Linda uses a combination of the French double-digging technique and a Chinese method of composting.
Step 1. Dig all the topsoil out of the plot, making a shallow pit the full size of the 1 by 5 metres (3 by 15 feet) bed. Store the topsoil in piles beside the bed.
Step 2. Use a strong fork or shovel to loosen the subsoil in the bottom of the entire shallow pit, but don’t move the soil or turn it over.
Step 3. Form a low wall 15 to 20 centimetres (6 to 8 inches) high all around the edges of the pit. It can be made of banana logs or trunks placed end to end, or of hollow building blocks, or any other suitable materials.
Step 4. This pit plot now becomes a temporary garbage/compost pit. For as long a time as it takes to fill the pit (it could be several weeks), Linda spreads evenly in it, rice straw, dried water hyacinth, garden and kitchen wastes, animal and poultry manure, and ashes.
Step 5. When the pit is full, moisten all of the topsoil stored beside the plot and spread it evenly over the plot. Linda takes all the worms she has been using to produce worm castings, and she moves them onto the plot in the evening. The worms go to work improving the fertility of this high-production, intensive gardening plot.
You may be interested to know that when Linda isn’t making another one of these special gardening plots, she’s still making compost in a permanent pit that has a cement floor. She uses the worms to improve the compost.
Linda has over 100 chickens that roam free over her land, helping to fertilize it. She keeps them away from her earthworms by surrounding the soil they’re in with chicken wire or thorns.
A few moments ago, I mentioned Linda’s nursery of fruit and forest trees. This has proved to be a good source of income for her. Seeds of forest trees that she planted were gathered for her by her children and others in the community. In the five months since starting this enterprise, she has raised 10,000 seedling forest trees. Some of them were raised under contract and she has already sold 4,000 of them to a government agency and to neighbours. Her figures show that after deducting the cost of the things she had to buy to grow the trees, her income from them was over 7,000 Philippine pesos (about 280 U.S. dollars). And how is Linda able to keep track of figures like that?
B: A useful set of farm records
Linda Bolinao keeps an accurate set of farm records. She writes down the cost of everything she buys for her farming business, as well as the money she receives for everything she sells. There’s a separate notebook for each one of her farming enterprises. To save the cost of buying special books for this, she makes them herself out of unused pages from her children’s school notebooks.
Here are the kind of things she writes in these separate record books. In the cropping enterprise book, for example, she lists the kinds of crops, and the dates of cultivating, planting, weeding, harvesting, and marketing. Details of the application of fertilizer and methods used for pest control are also included, and, of course, the amounts of seed planted and all the crop yields. Similar figures are recorded in Linda’s livestock record book, as well as the names of the animals, dates of birth, or of purchase, breeding dates, and so on. Also, the amounts of feed and cost of medicines required. In this book as well, there are complete records on the poultry Linda keeps.
But record-keeping takes time. So how useful is it to her? By looking carefully at the records of each of her farming activities, Linda is able to decide which ones earn the most income for the amount of work and costs involved. Looking at figures on her onion crop, for example, she saw that from two kilograms (4 1/2 lbs) of onion seed, she produced 4,500 kilograms (about five tonnes) of onions. That’s a good yield. But when she saw how much the labour cost for weeding the onions together with other production costs, and how much money she sold the onions for, she decided not to grow onions again. Next season, she’ll try growing a different crop to find out if it will be more profitable. Without good records, Linda wouldn’t have known whether or not to keep on growing onions.
Linda cuts costs on pest control
There’s another way that Linda keeps her costs as low as she can. While some farmers in her area rely entirely on expensive chemical pesticides for controlling insects, she finds that other methods save her money. She catches garden insects at night with a light trap. She reduces insect damage by growing different crops together; she kills aphids with a low-cost spray that she makes with soap, water, and fuel oil, and she’s experimenting with leaves from the neem tree and hot chili peppers.
There are many problems that nearly every farmer faces. There are droughts, high winds, typhoons, and hurricanes, insect pests, and plant and animal diseases, the high cost of things you have to buy, and low prices for things you have to sell. Linda Bolinao has problems like these just like every other farmer, but in spite of them she’s become a model farmer in her own community. She’s an inspiration to her neighbours and to other women in the area. And along with all this, together with her husband, she’s raising daughters, aged 12 and 8, and a son, aged 13, and doing her part as a leader in her community as well.
1. This item is another in our series of farming success stories intended not only to serve all farmers, but also to:
* recognize the contribution of women,
* enhance their ability to contribute more fully, and
* encourage and assist them to achieve their potential.
We welcome success stories of other rural women for future packages. We would emphasize that a great deal of detail is necessary for the preparation of such a story. In this case, Bert Bolinao sent six-single spaced typewritten pages of detailed information about Linda Bolinao and her farming operations. Please supply even the most minute details.
2. In addition to the two different, simple, no-cost farming techniques included in this item and described under
A: A no-cost high fertility garden bed, and
B: A useful set of farm records,
there are also references made to topics that are fully covered in other DCFRN items. Information in them could well be presented with this item.
Making your own compost – Package 15, Item 9 or Package 2, Item 4
More vegetables from your garden – Package 3, Item 9
Chickens reduce insects in fruit – Package 4, Item 9/B
Planting trees (Part 2-Growing your own seedling trees), Package 9, Item 3.
Good farm records: a key to higher profits, (Part 1 – Getting started) – Package 11, Item 1, or Packages 15, Item 11, (Part 2 – A diary) – Package 11, Item 2, (Part 3 – Records help in cropping decisions), Package 12, Item 1
Farm credit guidelines for small-scale farmers, Package 19 (this package), Item 7
A light trap for insect pests – Package 11, Item 4
Grow many different crops and crop varieties, Package 18, Item 5
Prevent insect damage to crops – Package 19, Item 2, or Package 10, Item 9
Aphid control at little cost, (Part 1- A homemade insecticide for aphids), Package 11, Item 6, (Part 2 – Applying your homemade insecticide), Package 11, Item 7
Neem trees provide safe, no-cost control of many insects, (Part 1 – Introduction) – Package 16, Item 4, (Part 2 – Neem seed spray protects crops), Package 16, Item 5, (Part 3 – Make neem leaf spray at any time), Package 16, Item 6
Use chili peppers to control pests – Package 18, Item 8.
3. We try never to offend your rural people by promoting ideas and practices that oppose their cultural values. You are well aware of these customs and practices. Please keep them in mind when preparing to use DCFRN materials.
All information in this item was sent to us by one of the 36 Charter (founding) members of the Network, DCFRN participant Bert Bolinao, in the Philippines.