|Intergrated Agricultural Development|
If a university has to make its mark in a community, it should not only content itself to lead in the edu-cational field after it has proven its capability in that field through the years. It must seek to widen its sphere of influence through innovative ideas that will benefit the people in the community that it serves.
Northwestern University is one educational institution that has not stopped seeking avenues to enhance the quality of life of its employees. It has expanded its services and adopted simple and down-to-earth strategies not only to maintain the institution’s viability but also to benefit employees and other stakeholders within its area of responsibility.
Always aware of the global economic developments that affect the lives of its constituents, the University management has to take measures to cushion the impact of present-day economic realities. It has introduced a scheme that is nature based and innovative in approach- an integrated farming idea backed by academic scientific knowledge.
Although Integrated Farming has long been introduced in public agricultural schools, the idea is something new to private schools alienated from government funded institutions.
Northwestern shifts its gears to an environment friendly and innovative leadership that marshals its resources to support communities through livelihood projects that will help improve standard of living.
The Integrated Farming concept was borne out of the recognition that farming can reinforce hopes for economic growth that could sustain educational institutions in marginalized areas. Provincial institutions do not cater to the elite but serve the underprivileged masses. Thus, to be functional for programs and development in such an arrangement, the university has to introduce and orient the clientele’s mind to their immediate environment, to their social and cultural arena and recognize that living with nature gives life and molds their way of thinking. That surviving, nurturing and developing the environment should be impressed upon them in preparation for a highly competitive global market.
To put it simply, the Integrated Farming Project (IFP), anchored on the four basic functions of universities (research, extension, instruction and production) is meant to address agricultural needs in the community. It is an effective means to make the university’s presence felt in the area. It seeks to help small farmers to improve their agricultural yield.
The project proves that Northwestern University does not merely exist as a higher institution of learning, but as a bulwark of dynamic processes, a venue for scientific endeavors, and an opportunity to reach out to the nearby communities.
The university, known for its pioneering spirit, is never wanting in ideas to tap its rich human resources so that when it acquired farm lots in Brgy. Payas in nearby San Nicolas town and in Brgy Nalbo in Laoag, a few hundred meters from the campus, it tasked a select group of the academic sector to explore and improve the site in a traditional yet innovative way. Both barangays are rich with Mother Nature’s blessings- rich soil and lush vegetation
An Integrated Farming Project would thus become the core of the university’s innovative venture using the resources already available at the 1.5 hectare farm lot in Brgy. Nalbo such as livestock and poultry houses and several fruit bearing trees were also planted in the area.
Research and Extension Center
As the university continues to focus the IFP project, boosting its viability, the project easily become the center of research and extension of the university.
At present, a series of studies on the appropriate use of feed sources, zero waste management, organic farming technologies, multi-cropping, food production and processing and livestock feed formulation are being conducted at the site.
For its waste management and energy production, the task force installed a biogas digester, a unit that showcases the utilization of available resources in the area.
And to show how enterprising resources the IFP offers, the task force set up a windmill, the first of its kind in Laoag City, to provide source of energy and water for the project area.
While the Nalbo site is utilized for multi-cropping and the like, the Payas area has been developed for the production of agro-forestry crops. The existing fruit bearing trees such as mangoes and tamarind are beefed up with seedlings of different varieties from the University of the Philippines in Los Baños. The seedlings planted are the popular Sinta variety of papaya and the lakatan Davao which are expected to produce fruits in seven months to one and a half years after planting. Rambutan and lanzones seedlingsfrom Laguna are also grown along the water shed area.
Also propagated in the area are giant bamboo cuttings taken from the mountains of Real, Quezon. Other bamboo species such as bayog and kawayan tinik which are common in Ilocos Norte, are also planted for the off-season bamboo shoot production.
To boost its research undertakings, the university introduced the use of indigenous microorganisms. Taken at Herbana Farm in Burol, Calamba, Laguna, the beneficial microorganisms are cultured and used for study to suppress foul odor produced by fresh urine and feces from the piglets.
The university also implemented the unique “container gardening”. This type of planting uses plastic container filled with fertile soil from the forest area and planted with tomato, petchay, eggplant and sili. The university also encourage the community folks traditional charcoal making laced with some innovations to help them earn additional income.
Small business venture: One great experience
The idea of Integrated Farming endorses hands-on learning where it brings actual farm settings and activities to the academic community. A Farmers’ Day is launched every Friday in which produce from the Integrated Farming are sold to the community at least ten percent less than current market prices. The products include petchay, pole sitaw, eggplant, okra, pork, tilapia, processed food such as longganisa and bagnet, and charcoal. The activities encourage the people who manage the farm to seriously engage themselves in the venture and share in the profit. The profit sharing scheme enables the farmer-stakeholders to appreciate the results of industry and innovation in a concrete way.
Bright prospects, aggressive moves
The Integrated Farm is recognized as a unique tool for learning. It allows the University to adopt innovative strategies and projects to sharpen and enhance the Research and Extension Programs of the University.
Currently, the farm in Payas is being developed into an Eco-Tourism Area where people could relax and delight in the splendor of nature. Physical improvements have been undertaken such as the construction of the Baguio fashioned conference room, a staff house, and green houses. A tree house and a camp hut were also initially constructed. It is also in Payas where the university is planning to put up a butterfly farm- the first of its kind in Ilocos Norte. There are other developmental plans presently being carried out in order that it could also cater to other ventures as it is perceived to be a good camping site, hiking ground and venue for seminar and workshops in the future. The facilities are said to have diverse features since they are perfectly designed to complement academic instruction, applied research and the preservation and propagation of exotic and rare plant and animal species.
Driven by this promising venture, the Integrated Farming Project will surely fulfill its goal by providing school-based livelihood projects, developing new methods to increase and improve production, and generate much needed income to enhance the quality of life of the people it serves.