Saturday, February 27, 2010

Part 2: Green Revolution - "Small is Beautiful."

Abe V Rotor

Yes, Small business is beautiful.

There must be something wrong somewhere. But while we diagnose our country’s ills, we should make references to our own successes, and even come to a point of looking on models within our reach and capability to imitate. There are “unsung heroes” in practically all fields from business, agriculture, manufacturing to folk medicine and leadership. Perhaps for us who belong to the older generation, it is good to feel whenever we recall old times when life was better – and better lived.

Let me cite particular areas of biotechnology in which small entrepreneurs play a vital role and which they have proven themselves successful in one way or the other. The first group involves the production of alcoholic drinks and vinegar through fermentation. These products are

 Basi (sugarcane)
 Lambanog (coconut)
 Tuba (coconut)
 Layaw (nipa)
 Bahalina (coconut and tangal)
 Fruit wine (kasoy, bignay, pineapple, etc.)
 Vinegar (nipa, sugarcane, coconut, various fruits)

With readily available raw materials and simple tools used, brewing is a practical industry. More so, with the simplicity of fermentation itself which is the conversion of sugar into ethanol through fermentation with yeast. The brewed product is either consumed immediately or aged. Aging improves quality and lengthens the shelf life of the product. These home breweries are reminiscent of European vintages. It is said that the best wine in the world is not found in bars and wine shops, but in home cellars of Europe. It is true.

There, wine making is an art, and a personalized enterprise, with each cellar having a distinctive quality trademark. Bordeaux in France for example, is famous for brand, while the Scotch Whiskey remains a top grade liquor made from grains. Similarly we have basi in Ilocos amd lambanog in Southern Tagalog. So with Apple cider compared to our own Sukang Iloko, or Sukang Paombong.

The second group of village biotechnology products are beverages, food condiments, tobacco and betel for chewing.

 Kapeng barako (Batangas and Cavite)
 Cacao (Batangas, Mindanao)
 Vanilla (Mindanao)
 Tsaa (Batangas)
 Fruit puree (mango, guyabano, etc.,
Southern Tagalog, Mindanao)
 Bagoong and patis (Navotas, Balayan, Dagupan)
 Kesong Puti (Laguna)
 Betel (Cordillera, Laguna, Ilocos)
 Ketsup (banana, tomato)
 Rolled tobacco (Cagayan Valley, Ilocos)Toyo (Southern Tagalog, Mindanao)

Like in the first group, these products are area-specific which point out to their indigenous production and processing, so with their patronage. Rolled tobacco or pinadis, for example, has a special market for old people who are used to the product – and not to the younger generation. This is also true with betel or nganga.

On the other hand, bagoong and patis, which used to be a specialty among Ilocanos, are now marketed abroad. So with kapeng barako a local coffee which is mainly grown in the highlands of Batangas and Tagaytay. Fruit puree and fruit preserve, though relatively new, are amazingly growing fast, as people are shunning away from carbonated drinks. Because of high demand, these products became a boom to small growers, who recently are becoming mere conduits or raw products suppliers of big companies, instead of making and marketing the finished products themselves. Tea, coffee, fruit juice and chocolate, in this order, make up the world’s top beverages, thus pointing out the vast opportunities of biotechnology.

The third and largest group of village biotechnology products is in food.

 Puto or rice cake, very popular among Filipinos
 Bibingka (rice)
 Maja (corn grit)
 Burong manggang paho, mustasa)
 Burong Isda (dalag and rice)
 Hamon (manok, baboy, pato)
 Tocino, longganisa
 Itlog na pula and century egg
 Balot and Penoy
 Tokwa (bean curd)
 Taosi (fermented black bean)
 Talangka Paste
 Pickles (papaya, carrot, ampalaya, onion, cucumber, etc.)
 Toge (mungo sprout)
 Cakes (banana, cassava)
 Ripening of fruits (madre de cacao)

Food processing constitutes the bulk of village biotechnology in developing countries, on both domestic and commercial scales. Like in the other groups, these undertakings are seldom organized as formal establishments, but rather fall under the category of informal economics.

“The biggest piracy that is taking place today is not at sea and on the rich. It is stealing people’s resources – from herbal medicine to indigenous technology – stolen by rich countries and big corporations. Biopiracy and technopiracy constitute the greatest violation to human rights and social justice in that the people are not only deprived of their means of livelihood; they are forced to become dependent on those who robbed them.”

Informal or “underground” economy is the lifeblood of rural communities. They are the seat of tradition, rituals, barter and other informal transactions. They link the farm and the kitchen and the local market. They are versions of agro-processing and agribusiness on the scale of proprietorship and family business. They strengthen family and community ties.

It is for this reason that the NACIDA – National Cottage Industry Development Authority – was organized. And truly, it brought economic prosperity to thousands of entrepreneurs and families in the fifties to sixties.

South Korea for one in the late sixties, saw our PRRM and NACIDA models and improved on them with their SAEMAUL UNDONG development program which ultimately brought tremendous progress in its war-torn countryside. In Tanzania, one can glimpse some similarities of our program with LAEDZA BATANI (Wake up, it’s time to get moving) rural development program. The Philippines stood as an international model, recognized by the WB and ADB, for our countryside development program – cottage industries, farmers’ associations, electric cooperatives, rice and corn production program, which made us agricultural exporters. So with our biotechnology in farm waste utilization through composting with the use of Trichoderma inoculation, and in natural rice farming by growing Azolla in lieu of urea and ammonium nitrate. Another area of biotechnology is in the retting of maguey fiber, which is a work of decomposing bacteria.

Today there are many opportunities of biotechnology that can be tapped and packaged for small and medium size businesses and organized groups of entrepreneurs and farmers. These opportunities also pose a big challenge to the academe and to enterprising researchers in government and private institutions.

Important organisms for biotechnology

• Spirulina (blue-green alga or Eubacterium) - high protein, elixir.
• Chlorella (green alga) – vegetable, oxygen generator
• Pleurotus and Volvariella (fungi, mushroom) – anti-cancer food.
• Azolla-Anabaena (eubacterium with fern)– natural fertilizer
• Porphyra, red seaweed, high-value food (“food of the gods”)
• Hormophysa (brown alga) – antibiotics
• Eucheuma (red alga) – source of carageenan, food conditioner
• Gracillaria (brown alga) – source of agar, alginate
• Sargassum (brown alga) – fertilizer and fodder
• Saccharomyces (fungus, yeast) – fermentation
• Aspergillus (fungus) – medicine, fermentation
• Penicillium (fungus) – antibiotics
• Caulerpa (green alga) – salad
• Leuconostoc (bacterium) – nata de coco, fermentation of vegetables
• Acetobacter (bacterium) – acetic acid manufacture
• Rhizobium (bacterium) – Nitrogen fixer for soil fertility
• Nostoc (BGA or Eubacterium) – bio-fertilizer
• Ganoderma (tree fungus) – food supplement, reducer
• Halobacterium and Halococcus (bacteria)- bagoong and patis making
• Lactobacillus (bacterium) lactic fermentation, yogurt making
• Candida (yeast) – source of lysine, vitamins, lipids and inveratse
• Torulopsis (yeast) – leavening of puto and banana cake
• Trichoderma (fungus) – innoculant to accelerate composting time.

Before I go proceed allow me to present a background of biotechnology in relation with the history of agriculture.


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