Monday, May 25, 2009

Silica mining in Brgy Laguit Padilla, Bugallon, Pangasinan

I was informed by our caretaker that the mining company of Mr. Versoza, Northern Mining I think, is planning to resume their silica quarring and mining activity in the barangay soon. Two weekends ago, a representative from their company, along with the barangay officials, called for a meeting the owners and/or caretakers of private lands where their bulldozers and heavy trucks will pass by.

I texted Brgy. Captain Palma last May 20, about 9am, to ask what is the update of such plan since the company of Mr. Versoza has not talked to the owners of the farm, Atty. Millora. Kapitan Palma texted back saying that they have not given their endorsement yet, the permit will require MOA by the barangay and approval by the municipal council. I thanked Kapitan Palma for such update, and informed him that I will blog this activity since I have a number of friends here in the country and abroad, who are engaged in farming and environmental activities, and they read my blog.

Kapitan Palma replied back and assured me that before they will give their endorsement, there should be proper consultation and permission by the affected parties (especially private farms), that no one will complain later.

Bringing whatever adverse results to the land and the communities to local media can also be one option. The local radio and tv network in Dagupan City are willing to cover such expose when they are properly informed.

One of the conditionalities for granting mining permit is that the mining company will later cover the mined site with soil and plant trees there. I think this is a very loose condition. Tree planting is very easy, it requires only half day or one day activity, including picture taking and picnic. But the newly planted tree seedlings can die the next week if not properly monitored, weeded and irrigated, and replacement planting is done for those seedlings that died.

I doubt that the mining permit will require "tree growing" and not just "tree planting". The former is the more appropriate activity; otherwise, all those hundreds or thousands of tree seedlings that were planted can all die within a few weeks or months after the planting activity. Vines and grasses alone can choke and deprive the newly planted seedlings of space, sunlight and soil minerals.

Commercial piggery

Commercial piggery, at least the medium-sized one as pictured here, produce really big animals, on average twice the size of the native pigs of same age. Feeding for the commercial variety like landrace is quite intensive. After about 120 days, the animals attain at least 80 or 90 kilos, and they are sold. The price per kilo live weight is higher if the pigs are 80 kilos or heavier, compared to those that are lighter.

A swine farmer preferably needs to have his own rice milling facility in order to cut feed cost. Because if he will buy the rice bran to mix with feed concentrate (assuming he does this and not buy packed feeds), the price is high, from P6 per kilo and higher, depending on the season. Rice harvest season, the price is low.

One feedback I have heard about commercial piggery is that the animals are very delicate and have little resistance when diseases strike them. A case is in the province of Pangasinan. Swine flu -- the flu affecting the pigs, and not the disease that affects humans -- has killed many pigs in the province. People have also stopped buying pork, so the swine farmers are losing money.

Organic and native pigs grow slow but they have strong resistance against diseases. They are also cheap to maintain as they eat practically all sorts of vegetables and fruits. And they fetch a higher price per kilo compared to the commercial pig varieties. But I haven't seen or heard much of swine farmers using the native varieties for commercial operation. Could be the longer time for the pigs to grow big, hence longer waiting/harvest period.

Bananas, camote tops for organic pigs

I visited our farm more than a week ago. Our caretaker has planted more bananas around the new hut where our backyard organic piggery is situated. These pigs eat various types of raw vegetables and fruits. They eat banana fruits, banana leaves, sweet potato ("camote") fruit and leaves, rice bran, etc.

Our caretaker, also our wedding godfather, Ninong Endring, is very industrious. With the early onset of the rainy season that started middle of April last month, he plants at least a dozen new banana saplings every week, depending on how frequent the rains are. He also expanded the sweet potato field. He also plants other vegetables -- eggplant, stringbeans, chili, etc.

Here, our pigs eat camote tops. They like this vegetable especially when freshly harvested.

We already started our organic poultry. I forgot to take a picture of the chickens' new house. It has cogon roof, the fence is the native bamboo variety "bulo", and used fish nets above so they won't escape flying out. We feed them fine corn, rice bran, some vegetables, and they also find some crawling insects on the ground.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A year without summer

About two centuries ago, during the "Dalton Minimum", there were nearly 30 years of global cooling, world temperature dropped by around 2 Celsius from their normal levels. And there was one year of almost full year of snow in the temperate zone, and lots of rains in the tropics. That was called "a year without summer". There was massive crop failure, resulting in mass hunger in a number of countries. Crops and vegetables cannot withstand prolonged cold season, they wilt, they die.

This year in the Philippines and many other countries, there is an obvious change in climate. Before it was "global warming" literature all around. This does not look consistent with current weather development. Summer months are March to May. But it was often cloudy with occassional rains in many parts of the country from March to April. The almost daily rains phenomenon started especially in mid-April up to this week, the 1st week of May. Many people, including me, bring an umbrella almost daily because the rains can come anytime. It can be sunny in the morning and suddenly turn cloudy by noon or afternoon, or evening.

The 5th typhoon of the year, locally named "Emong" has already entered the country's area of responsibility today. Tomorrow it is forcast to make landfall in Pangasinan, a province north of Manila. This will be among the few typhoons that come from the South China Sea and exiting towards the Pacific Ocean. Normally it's the reverse. And having 5 typhoons in early May is too many, considering that regular rainy season starts in June, and the peak of typhoon season is August-September. Also, average number of typhoons that visit the Philippines is 20 per year. What would this mean, we will have 25 or more typhoons this year? That should be too much.

Some climate scientiss who are skeptical of the dominant "global warming" prediction by the IPCC and other scientists, environmental NGOs, etc. are predicting that the planet is approaching the "Dalton Minimum" this year and the coming years. Up to the next 30 years.

The current weather pattern is bad for tourism and farmers for dry crops. Tomatoes, water melon, peanuts, corn, other summer crops suffer low output this year because of the early onset of the rains. But current weather is good news for rice farmers. They can plant early and harvest early.

Of course communities have to grapple with prolonged rainy season and its sometimes undesirable results -- flash floods, landslides.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Farm lands, California

April 29, 2009

I took the Amtrak train from Sacramento to Emeryville, SF. I sat on the upper deck, so the view is better and wider. Thus, I was able to see a number of northern California’s farm lands and rural areas, something that I won’t see clearly if I am riding a car.

Like most farms in rich countries, the farms there are wide and flat, I did not see a farm on rolling hills, except pasture land for cows. One will not also see a person walking or working on the farm without any tractor or machinery. Unlike in most farms in the Philippines and other poorer countries where manual labor is predominant.

The irrigation canals are also wide, so big volume of water can be transported to several farms. There is an open space between the gully of the canal and the planted areas, at least 2 meters I guess. I think this is a government regulation to keep this area open. Also an allowance for tractors and farm machineries to make a U-turn.

From a distance, near Suisun-Fairfield station, I saw a wind farm, several dozens of wind mills for energy generation.