Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dying Pond

Nymphaea lilies crowd a receding pond, detail of mural,
AVR 2010
Courtesy of Atty and Dr Doria

Abe V Rotor

"Death be not proud," this dreaded fate defied;
In death beauty rises at its side,
As on a dying pond, a swamp in its place
Grows, dying in peace and grace.

And the watery grave dries into grassland
Where roam the hoofs and paws in band;
And the winged sweep the air, retreating
On the trees nearby, and advancing.

One by one trees come when the wind blows,
They ride on furs, beaks and claws;
A woodland soon rises from the trees' breath
And hides the pond, the grass and death.

The Edge of the Forest, AVR 2011

Garden Verses on Angels' Hills

Top, San Lorenzo Ruiz; the Annunciation, Angels' Hill, Tagaytay
Dr Abe V Rotor

1. Yellow bells:
what chime,
what song,
what music,
what message
come forth
from you
in the morning
of your full bloom?
Shhh... listen.

2. I seek not the Tree of Knowledge, oh God,
To whose fruits man had fallen;
Neither would I ask for another Flood,
To put him back to Eden.

3. Red, red, oh, the bleeding drops of red,
Erythryna, Erythrina,
Stain my palms and feet and my side
And I shall never doubt Him again,
Nevermore, nevermore!

4. Bromeliad, trees would be bare without you;
You hang on their limbs, and blossom, too;
Deep in your bosom some little ponds lie,
Oasis to fish, frog and dragonfly.

5. Lantana, odorous yet amorous
in many mysterious ways,
leaving scent in the misty air,
trails for some beautiful wings,
a kaleidoscope of sun rays.

6. Mimicry's the name of the game,
all in survival's name;
defense and offense,
conceit and deceit -
cloaked in beauty
and Nature’s sense.

7. We love to play the flower game,
"Loves me, loves me not." It's also sane
If I ask, "What do other creatures gain?"
Ask the butterflies, the bees and fly crane.

8. When my days are over,
let me lie down to sleep
on sweet breeze and earth
in the shade of trees
I planted in my youth;
and if I had not done enough,
make, make my kind live
to carry on the torch,
while my dust falls
to where new life begins –
even only an atom that I shall be;
let me be with you,
dear Mother Earth.

The Edge of the Forest, AVR 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We can grow wheat in the Philippines (again).

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio

738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Bread baked from locally grown wheat is at par with that of US wheat in all aspects from leavening to taste and nutrition.

Wheat grain somewhat resembles the shape and form of coffee bean. Whole wheat contains high protein, nearly twice that of rice. Wheat flower resembles that of most grains, including rice, barley and rye.

Threshing wheat by hand, similar to rice. Threshing is much easier, and wheat stalk is kinder to the hand. The hay has higher nutrient value than rice, and is easier for animals to digest.
Author's son Marlo, then 5 years old, takes pride in displaying a freshly harvested wheat from a farmer's field.

A wheat field in early flowering stage in San Vicente, Ilocos Sur

Closeup of standing crop under different levels of fertilizer application.

Everytime we eat pandesal, a unique and distinctly Filipino kind of bun, we take one step pro-Western. Economicswise, that is. Let me explain.

Pandesal as poor man's food is fallacy

The mother material - whole wheat grain - is imported from the United States by big companies which grouped themselves into the Philippine Association of Flour Millers, Inc. PAFMI mills the grain into flour and sell it to local bakers. The bran, the by-product of milling called pollard is an important ingredient of poultry and animal feeds. To augment this, the group also imports feed wheat.

Actually PAFMI and PAFMI (Philippine Association of Feed Millers) are one. They produced wheat flour for bakery products, mainly pandesal (70 per cent of all bakery products). They formulate feeds from pollard and from feed wheat and dominate the local feed industry. They produce poultry, meat and meat products through their local contractors called integrators. And they directly import hotdog, hamburger, dairy products, and the like.

Here is a scenario for the pandesal consumer. Wheat comes from the prairies of North American covering the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and a dozen more States, adjolining Canada. A state may be bigger than the Philippines in land area. The American farmer who cultivates hundreds, if not thousands, of acres using airplane and railway systems, plants his wheat either before winter (the germinated seed remains dormant or overwinters), or in the spring. Thus, when we import, we specify winter or spring wheat.

Generally spring hard wheat is preferred for pandesal, although it is more costly. We import the premium wheat, the best in the world. Just to make pandesal! The soft type of wheat (varieties with less of the leavening substance called gluten), is made into cakes, pastries and crackers. There is also the durum wheat or pasta, which is made into macaroni or spaghetti, also by the PAFMI members. They make those ready-in-two minutes and instant noodles, pancit canton, mami, soups, etc.

Now, where is my pandesal? Either it is shrinking or taking new shapes, or both. There are various versions of pandesal, with different product presentation and prices. That is why pandesal can not be standardized, and much more, socialized. How could it be a poor man’s breakfast? Where is the control button?

In the seventies wheat importation was in the hands of the National Grains Authority. It was decreed under PD 4 by the president, then President Ferdinand Marcos.

PAFMI and PAFMIL members received their allocations from NGA to mill and sell the products. The revenues were used to build warehouses and other post harvest facilities. NGA generated its own corporate funds, mainly from wheat importation, which was used to subsidize the small rice and corn farmers, and in carrying out the country's food self-sufficiency program. We soon became self-suffiency in rice and corn, and eventually the Philippines became a net rice exporter starting in 1975 and continued on to the early eighties. This was the golden era of the grain industry in the country.

The scenario has changed since the transfer of wheat importation into the hands of the private sector, principally PAFMI and PAFMIL. (Only rice was kept exclusively under direct government importation and control.) The wheat grain goes to the giant bins and mill complexes of the PAFMI/L members concentrated in Metro Manila, others in Cebu and Mindanao. It is safe to estimate that the total value of wheat and corn imported annually is between $10 to $20 billion, increasing at least 5 percent each year. One can imagine the staggering figure if we include feed wheat and pollard, fish meal and soyabean meal which are also important feed ingredients.
.......................................................................................... Let's take pork and beans as an example for analysis. At one time, white bean was tried in Mindanao. It did not grow true to type, because it is a temperate crop. So we continued to import the white bean, one hundred percent.

Tropical countries, like the Philippines, import white bean which is a temperate crop. The tin can is imported, made from iron ore the subject country earlier exported. Likewise the paper label and packaging materials are imported, made from pulp wood and minerals also exported by the subject country. In short we export the raw materials and import the finished products.

How about the tiny pork? It is produced locally but the corn used as feed came from Thailand. Comparatively it is cheaper to import corn than to cultivate it here. The tin can and label are also imported.
........................................................................................... Analogously, it is cheaper to import rice than to grow it here. No wonder the government imported on the average one million metric tons of rice yearly under the three previous administrations - and is likely that the present is going to do the same. And to think that the sources are Vietnam, a war-torn country, and Thailand which used to send its scientists and students to study rice production in UP and IRRI at Los Baños.

Now where is the pandesal? At one time before the EDSA Revolution, our farmers had started planting local wheat varieties developed by the Institute of Plant Breeding at UPLB. The variety Trigo 2 was for cakes and pastries, while Trigo 1 was for pandesal. Farmer cooperators in the Ilocos region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and also in the Visayas and Mindanao planted wheat on their ricefield as second crop under a packaged program initiated by DA, NFA, PCARRD and UPLB and other state universities.

But all these ended up after the Edsa Revolution.

Yes, we can grow wheat successfully in the Philippines. A further proof is that during the Spanish period, farmers in Cagayan down to Batangas were growing a wheat known as Cagayan Wheat. The local wheat was even shipped through the Galleon Trade. Cagayan wheat was mentioned in an autobiography of a Frenchmen, de Gironierre, “Half a Century in the Philippines.”

Wheat production and consumption scenarios

As wheat farmer he gets a good average yield, as high as 3.11MT per hectare, higher than world’s average - comparatively profitable with other cash crops after rice. He uses the same farm (second crop after the rice season), same tools and equipment like irrigation, same techniques like fertilization, and post harvest processes. With the government support he is assured of both market and price of his produce. He produces also wheat bran and hay for his livestock, which are better than those of rice. With these he can raise poultry and livestock.

To the average consumer, locally grown wheat can be made into arroz caldo, poridge, wheat cakes - other than the conventional pandesal, pandebara, pandelemon padecoco, cakes and pastries. Now he can eat more than the average per capita level (10.3 to 12 kg per year), because local wheat becomes more affordable, especially so that wheat comes in various preparations, including rice-wheat mix.

In this case he gets more protein - as high as 12 percent for whole wheat, 8 to 9 percent for regular flour. Rice has barely half protein level. He gets 75 percent starch, so with rice. But he gets gluten, the substance that makes wheat, and only wheat, naturally leavening. He gets also high crude fiber, oil, minerals and vitamins.

Wheat adapts to our fertile soil and under our beautiful sky with the loving, faithful toiling hands of our farmers. Wheat can be part of our dining table, of our children’s baon, of our farm animals feed, of our fiesta’s merriment, and not only in hamburger and pandesal. We can call pandesal under a bona fide Pilipino name.~

Triticale - a cross between wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) - was successfully grown on the Benguet in the seventies.

As a rule, triticale combines the high yield potential and good grain quality of wheat with the disease and environmental tolerance (including soil conditions) of rye. It is grown mostly for forage or fodder although some triticale-based foods can be purchased at health food stores or are to be found in some breakfast cereals, bread and other food products such as cookies, pasta, and pizza dough. The protein content is higher than that of wheat although the glutenin fraction is less. The grain has also been stated to have higher levels of lysine than wheat. As a feed grain, triticale is already well established and of high economic importance. (Internet)

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Wall of Bounty

Abe V Rotor

All's green over the living stone;
In summer sleeps, grows in the spring;
And Ceres and Bacchus would beacon
Madrigals dancing and singing.

Only once like this does live a fool -
Who cares the other side of the wall?
For if life be happy, so with the soul;
Drink and let the grapes fall.

Let light seep through the wall and window
To kiss the fruit, the brew and wine,
To pour out earth's bounty to flow
And touch the green thumb divine.~

The Edge of the Forest, 2011 AVR

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How Bacteria Become More Resistant to Antibiotics

Cell being attacked by bacteria. Painting in acrylic, AVR 2003

Abe V Rotor

When Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotics in the early 19th century, the world rejoiced at this wonder drug that was to become the most effective cure against bacterial diseases, from skin infection to tuberculosis.

Antibiotics refers to any material that destroys or inhibits the growth of pathogens. It may be derived from fungi such as Pennicillin notatum, (the mold Fleming accidentally found), or natural substances present in plants such as allicin and aliin in garlic (Allium sativum). Today, antibiotics are available through many brands, ending in “mycin” (like streptomycin and erythromycin).
Antibiotics brought hope to patients suffering from once incurable diseases such as venereal diseases, small pox and leprosy. During World War II, antibiotics saved countless lives.
When antibiotics was first used as chemotherapy following successful experiments against infectious diseases, the problem of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria was never considered seriously. The fact is that bacteria, like other organisms, have the ability to develop resistance against certain substances, especially if these are repeatedly used. This same principle explains the buildup of insect immunity to insecticide. If we overuse this substance, next time we spray mosquitoes or cockroaches, we may need a more potent pesticide to do the job.

Biological Specialization

Imagine a population of bacteria crowding themselves inside of an injured tissue. Ideally, the application of an antibiotic will wipe out the entire population. But this is not always the case. Sometimes there are survivors. These survivors pass on their acquired resistance to their progeny. To eradicate the survivors and their progeny, you need to apply a higher dosage of antibiotics, or shift to a more potent kind. As this is repeated continuously, the bacteria continues to gain renewed resistance.

Thus we hear about doctors prescribing higher dosages for our recuperation, or extending the treatment time period. In many occasions, doctors prescribe different and, purposely more potent antibiotics. Today we speak of “second generation” antibiotics that eliminate bacteria resistant to antibiotics of the “first generation” (penicillin) group.

Self- Medication Creates Resistant Bacteria

The emergence of resistant microbes is exacerbated by human self-medication, since many antibiotics products are available over the counter. With any symptom of infection, whether viral or bacterial, we immediately confront it with antibiotics without getting a prescription. This is wrong. In the first place, antibiotics is not effective against viruses, only against bacteria. Therefore, influenza cannot be treated with antibiotics; it is the secondary bacteria infection that the doctor targets when administering antibiotics. There is a prescribed dosage and period of treatment based on laboratory tests. The condition of the patient must also be factored in the cure as he may be prone to bacterial infection which attacks the respiratory system, causing pneumonia. There are also side effects of antibiotics that may impair organs such as the kidney and liver. All these are considered by doctor when prescribing antibiotics.

Mass media is partly to blame for the misuse of antibiotics. Advertisements show patients helpless when they are not attended to immediately with antibiotics. A person with a scratch reaches for antibiotics. Over zealousness for sanitation in the office, home, hospitals, often times includes many kinds of germ-killing compounds. Antibiotics becomes a part of our every life. Overheard were some men allegedly taking antibiotics capsules before entering a red light district. It is as if the prefix, anti, gives an assurance of protection.

Mechanics of Resistance Acquisition

Bacteria’s rapidly increasing incidence of drug resistance to antibiotics is now recognized worldwide as a serious threat to the treatment of life-threatening infections. Such resistance will result into genetic changes where the selection process is made through the use of anti-microbial drugs. The initial appearance of a resistant bacterium in a susceptible population is often caused by mutation in a single bacterial gene. The frequency of such initial mutation may be low, occurring at a rate of one mutation in a population of several millions. However, other bacteria can become antibiotic-resistant at a much higher level of frequency merely by acquiring a gene from an already resistant bacterium. The resistant genes can be passed on from one individual bacterium to another by transformation (genetic modification of a bacterium by incorporating freed DNA from another ruptured bacterial cell), conjugation (fusion or union of two bacterial cells) and transduction (transfer of genes from one microorganism to another by viral agent).

Here are the three phases of development of resistant bacteria.

(A) Mutation of a single gene in one member
of a population of millions of bacteria.

(B) A bacterium can acquire the mutant gene.

(C) The gene for resistance can be transmitted
or passed on from one organism to another
by transformation, conjugation or transduction.

Resistant Bacteria in Gastrointestinal Tract of Meat Eaters

In her doctoral dissertation at the University of Santo Tomas, Vicky Conception Mergal discovered that drug-resistant strains of Enterobacter and Escherichia coli bacteria found in human gastrointestinal tracts are indirectly related to ingestion of meats conditioned to antibiotics. In her study, Dr. Mergal divided her respondents into two categories. One group consisted of vegetarians and the other group of regular meat eaters. For the first group, the incidence of drug-resistant bacteria is very low. But in the second group, the meat eaters, she found the presence of drug-resistant Enterobacter and E. coli to be unacceptably high.

Overuse of Antibiotics on Poultry and Livestock

As a general procedure, poultry, hogs and livestock are consistently given high rations of antibiotics as feed additives. This is to safeguard the animals from possible pestilence or outbreak of diseases. Without it, whole ranches could be wiped out by foot-and-mouth disease, or rows of poultry farms felled by corriza, or pens of high breed pigs decimated by scouring. The animals do not actually need antibiotics, but to protect their huge investments, businessmen introduce this medication nevertheless. In reality, animals have their own defense mechanism of natural immunity.

When people consume commercially raised meats, they, too, develop a resistance to antibiotics. To kill the resistant strains in our bodies, higher dosages or more potencies of antibiotics will be needed.

Residual Antibiotics in Bad to Our Health

Remember, when you consume pork, beef, chicken, eggs or milk from animals treated with mega doses of antibiotics, you become a repository of antibiotic residues you do not need. When you do get sick, more medication will be needed to get you well. The presence of antibiotics inside us invariably takes over the functions of our immune systems. In the event that the supply of antibiotic residues stops, we become predisposed to infection and related kinds of diseases because there is nothing to suppress the resistant bacteria in our bodies.

Nature has its own way of dealing with man’s folly. In this instance, it is the emergence of resistant organisms that threatens man himself.

x x x

Living with Nature in Our Times, AVR 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Part 1: Filipinos take pride in their ancestral culture

Dr Abe V Rotor

Filipinos wearing Badjao costume

First of all, the Philippines even in olden times had a culture our race proudly enjoyed and shared with our neighbors. Perhaps there were as many influences the Philippines had on neighboring lands as they had on us.

In the course of history the Philippines became a center of confluence – from culture to science, agriculture to industry, government to nationhood - which we enjoy today. This makes our country one of the most loved countries in the world, and the doyen among Asians. Our country is perhaps the model of cultural and biological diversity, the key to today’s trend in globalization.

The Filipino culture in the past was valued and developed even before the colonizers. The rich culture of Philippine forefathers is evident in their social classes, home, manner of dressing, body accessories, education, music and dance, science, arts and literature, even their way to courtship and marriage, burial and mourning. Filipino forefathers valued education. The early Filipinos in the past had their own beliefs and ways of burying the dead, mourning and getting married.

Early Filipinos were hospitable. This was shown in situations like receiving guests and strangers. They offered the visitors food an entertainment. They were also conscious of cleanliness. They took a bath daily in the river. They cleaned their teeth with fruits. They used perfumes for their bodies. They put "gugo" in their hair. Even their houses were kept clean and orderly.

Early Filipinos were trustworthy and honest. They paid their debts on time. Likewise, they kept their promises.

The Philippines in contemporary society – a mélange of influences

Many countries shared with us many beautiful things about their culture as the world became more and more accessible by communication and transportation. All corners of the world today have been brought together into a global village, and the Philippines has tremendous impact in this social transformation. This time it is not only a one-way direction of change or a relationship designed in favor of one in expense of the other. Here in this present global trend is a homogenization of all aspects of life.

The Philippines can be felt and seen – admired and awed - in the many expressions of everyday life in all parts of the world. And in the US, India, Middle East, Europe, and Asia, where once upon a time gave us imprints of their culture. For which we can only say, there is only one universal culture that binds humanity. ~


Part 2 - Significant Influences of Foreign Countries on the Philippines

Binibining Carla Henry - a typical mestiza (a melange of races and cultures)

Dr Abe V Rotor

Don’t you know that …

• about 30 percent of the Tagalog words are derived from Sanskrit, India’s ancient language?

• the early Filipinos learned to use porcelain ware, umbrellas, manufacture of gunpowder, and certain mining methods from the Chinese?

• the wearing of white dresses and the use of a white background in mourning and burial ceremonies is another Chinese influence?

• Philippine cuisine found in noodle dishes such as bihon, miki, mami, lomi, sotanghon, miswa, and panic - is of Chinese origin?

• the use of brass, bronze, copper and tin in the decorative arts and metal work of the early Filipinos is an Indian influence?

• the sarong (skirt) and the putong (turban) worn by the early Filipinos (Pinoy) and the embroidered shawls still worn by today’s Muslim Filipino women are a Indian influence?

• the sarimanok design in Maranaw decorative art has an Arabic origin, that many stories in Maranaw and Tausug literature are derived from Arabian tales?

• Balituk, the tale of the Ifugao legendary hero, is similar to Arjuna’s exploits in the Mahabharata, the great Hindu epic? So with the Agusan legend of a man named Agnio, resembles the story of Ahalya in the Ramayana, another great Hindu epic?

• the marks one sees on the face of the newly risen moon are said to have been made by the teeth of the dragon that bites it every time it can, and the Hindu god that causes eclipses by biting the moon or the sun is Rahu?

• the Bicolanos which uses a variety of spices are like the folks in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, the people in the Bicol region who use chili and coconut milk for a lot of their delicacies?

• women had minor roles in the society but were respected by men, is a influence of Spain on Filipina women?

• the Spanish culture was more enjoyed and welcomed by the Filipino-Spanish families and the wealthy Filipino families – the principalia and Ilustrado, rather than the masses?

• despite the oppressive control of the Spaniards, native Filipino Culture progressed and developed in legends, epics, folktales, riddles, country songs, among them "Darangan" of the Maranaos, “Hudhud at Alim" of the Ifugaos, "Biag-ni-Lam-ang" of the Ilocanos, and "Ibalon" of the Bicolanos?

• the Japanese caused tremendous fear, hardships and suffering among the Filipinos, which only embolden them to fight for their lost their freedom?

• American influences can still be seen in the country's system of education, literature, art, architecture, science, industry, home, food, clothes, religion, pastimes, music and dances?

• new technologies were introduced by the Americans to the country that helped the Philippines' industries and agriculture?

• the Americans influenced the Filipinos in terms of the way they eat, to love the American culture and most of all, to prioritize American products. The Americans also introduced fast food to the Philippines?

Philippine Almanac (Internet)
A Short History of the Filipino People – By Teodoro Agoncillo

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hydrangea - Nature's indicator of soil reaction

Dr Abe V Rotor

Blue Hydrangea means soil is acidic.

Alkaline soil produces red Hydrangea flower. Neutral
soil produces a blend of red and blue colors.

"Tell me the plant, and I'll tell you the soil it grows on." So goes the saying.

But it takes a sixth sense (practical), and an eight sense (naturalism) as well.

The Hydrangia is a classical example for the layman. To the agriculturist, the plant is the expression of the soil, from diversity to nutrient deficiency. Lack of iron (Fe) causes chlorotic shoots, low nitrogen means poor growth, lack of phosphorus poor yield.

Now hear this. There are plants that reveal the presence of mineral deposits such as gold, copper, manganese - and oil! ~

Seven Keys to Happiness

"Never lose the essence of childhood." AVR

Abe V Rotor

A book of the same title by Dan J Black tells us that it is not difficult to attain happiness in every life.

1. Know and appreciate yourself
and the world.

2. Maintain good physical and
spiritual health.

3. Cultivate a good sense of humor.

4. Be a friend.

5. Be creative: always have a goal.

6. Maintain a wholesome relationship
with the opposite sex.

7. Get to know and trust your Heavenly
Father as a close, personal friend.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Part 1 - Sampaguita Farming is Profitable

Abe V Rotor

It was a long walk and we knew we were getting near our destination: the air was filled with the singular fragrance of an immaculate white flower, pride of the Filipinos as their national flower - sampaguita, scientifically known as Jasminium sambac.

The source of the fragrance sprawled before us – a track garden very much like a hillside tea farm in China or in Sri Lanka. Sampaguita and tea have a common growth pattern. They are bushy shrubs, trimmed waist high for convenience in harvesting, and deep green even in summer forming a continuous hedge. It also reminds me of vineyards in Europe and California where grapes are laid and trimmed on the contour of the land.

Sampaguita Farming

Each garden is the size of a typical rice paddy, a tenth of a hectare or one mu in China. This is equivalent to 1000 square meters or one-tenth of a hectare. Small as it may if compared with other farms, sampaguita is a high value crop. It requires initial high investment and the gestation period is around two years before commercial production begins. Production technology is rather new and the industry itself from farming to garland making is labor intensive. But the profit derived may be several times over that of an ordinary field crop. For a size of one to two mus, a family can comfortably live on the farm’s produce, and this is appropriate for small landholdings and fairly large families. The farm that our group visited was 1500 square meters. It is just ideal for the family that manages it.“It must be a profitable business,” I said unapologetically. The lady gardener smiled and looked down in a gesture of humility while doing some mental computation. The lady is an OFW turned entrepreneur. She is Brigida S. Batac, a former teacher who went to Saudi, then returned some years later. Today she heads the family farm.

Sampaguita is sold by the tabo, the size of motor oil can. One tabo sells for P50 on the average. The harvest from the Batac farm ranges from 50 to 100 tabo a day. This means the value of a day’s harvest is from P2,500 to P5,000. Assuming that harvesting is done daily, the monthly gross sale is from P75,000 to P150,000. When made into garlands the value is increased twice, so that the value of one tabo of sampaguita, now in garlands, is now P100 on the average. One tabo makes a hundred garlands, with four flowers each. A simple garland sells at P1.

Per computation of Miss Batac, the net profit after deducting direct production cost is 50 percent of the gross sale. One can do his own pen pushing to come up with how much the family earns, and how much more for larger and diversified farms.

Sampaguita Garlands

We proceeded to the garland making area, the porch of the Batac residence. We met Brigida’s sister, Cristina, 27, who demonstrated the technique of garland making. Here the business cycle proceeds to cover manufacturing and agribusiness, which result to an increase in the value of the product, hence the term, value added. One can picture the case of the rice farmer and the trader. The latter undertakes the postharvest requirements and processes – drying, milling, storing and transporting – and virtually rakes the profit after the farmer has sold his palay.

The lesson we were witnessing is that production, processing and marketing must be integrated all under one roof. Imagine a farmer and the members of his family having control on these three aspects of business. Definitely the value added advantage does not go into the hands of the trader or middleman but to his own coffers, which he can put into savings and even investment, or plow it back into the enterprise. Subsequently the business becomes self-reliant which is the very essence of its viability and stability.

Marketing Scheme

The main markets of sampaguita garlands are Solis in Quiapo, Balintawak, and Malolos. These centers, like Divisoria, serve as bagsakan (unloading and wholesale zone). From here the sampaguita garlands are retailed on sidewalks, around churches and restaurants where parties are usually held. It is the sampaguita a little girl offers, gently tapping your car’s window after stepping on the brake at some busy intersection in the city. It is the sampaguita we wear on graduation day, when we speak on stage, when we offer prayers to Santo Nino, the Virgin Mary or a patron saint. It is the sampaguita we simply hang in our sala or bedroom – its sight and fragrance exuding a feeling of freshness and peace.

I am sure many will agree with me that the sampaguita has made lasting impressions in our lives. One of these moments is recorded in this verse I wrote sometime ago.

“A trophy, that I would rather miss,
in exchange for a sampaguita lei
from a Miss who gives it with a kiss,
and that’s all I need to make my day.”

The sampaguita flowers are shy under the noon sun but the scenario is a respite as if we were among the blooming hedges of some Italian and French gardens. While I re-created this scenario, my lady companions from St. Paul College QC tried their hands in sewing sampaguita buds with abaca string ultimately forming the familiar leis and garlands. It is not an easy job. It takes a lot of skills, and one must work fast to be able to catch up with the freshness and aroma of the flowers – and to meet the market schedule. Both sisters, Brigida and Cristina, showed how patient teachers they were, and soon enough the group began to form a production line of sort, a prototype of an assembly line for mass production.

Tapping the Potentials of an Enterprise

We all saw the bright prospects of expanding the industry. As an entrepreneur, I sat down with the family and my colleagues and initially discussed the following aspects of the industry:

1. The economics of farm size. There is an economic size for every crop and kind of farm. There is need to make a feasibility study. Consult those who have larger farms.

2. Improvement of production technology in order to attain higher and uniform production volume, while cutting down production cost is primordial in any business. Work towards sustainable productivity.

3. Integration of the business with pendant flowers production inasmuch as champaca (Michella alba), ilang-ilang (Cananga odorata), and camia are the pendant flowers in demand.

4. Introduction of cut flowers production, which includes roses, gladiolus, daisies and even orchids is key to diversification. Planners call this horizontal integration. Blossoms of Heliconia (lobster’s claw and bird of paradise) have recently become popular in flower arrangement. From the results of pilot testing, select those that are adaptable and profitable.

5. Elimination of dangerous pesticides. Replace them with botanical pesticides such as pyrethrum and rotenone. These are biodegradable. Greenhouse cultivation is too sophisticated and expensive for an average farm. But there are makeshift plastic greenhouses, Japanese and Chinese models. Chemical pesticides, particularly chlorinated hydrocarbon and phosphatic compounds which act as systemic poison are hazardous not only to the gardener but also to the seller, buyer and recipient who unknowingly get the poison by inhalation and skin contact.

6. There is need to expand research into the many uses of sampaguita. There are a number of uses of sampaguita as alternative or folk medicine. In Malaysia women soak the flowers in water to be used in washing their faces. In China the flowers are used in giving aroma to tea. The flowers are applied as poultice to the breast of women to reduce the secretion of milk. Crushed flowers are also used as lactifuge.A paste compounded with the roots of Acacia is applied to relieve headache. The leaves are used as poultice for wound and skin ailments. There are other reported uses of the plant in pharmacology.

7. The production of Sampaguita perfume is another challenge, particularly if this is brought to the level of a cottage industry. I have tried Jasmin scented car fresheners and room deodorizers. I prefer it over lemon or strawberry scent.

Natural Versus Artificial Flowers

We discovered that the same family is engaged in making plastic flower out of plastic straw. Yes, plastic straw in all kinds of colors, including transparent ones. Bundles come from eateries and as rejects of plastic makers. What a paradox to have two opposing products – natural and artificial flowers!

Well, this shows that people have different taste, often contrasting tastes. Ms. Ruth Batac, 54, the mother of Brigida and Cristina, showed us her art. We examine it with awe and surprise. We thought only city dwellers have the art and liking for plastic crafts. “Where is your market?” Like the sampaguita garlands the plastic flowers and bouquets are sold in Manila.

I took a picture of Lola Batac and her grandchildren at work, then took a close-up of the finished product. A set of plastic bouquet sells from P100 to P300 depending upon the size, style and craftsmanship. The artist in me was challenged. I had underestimated the natural talents particularly in those who have had no chance to be discovered.

Continued, Part 2

Part 2 - Farming kangkong on floating gardens

Abe V Rotor

rom the garden of fragrance - sampaguita - we walked to another farm. The produce here is not a surprise for no sinigang can be as tasty without this vegetable. In fact it is the most popular vegetable in the Philippines, that it is often dubbed as gulay ng masa (people’s vegetable), scientifically known as Ipomea aquatica. It is because kangkong is cheap, and is available everywhere and anytime of the year. It is here in Barangay San Jose in San Luis, Pampanga that our group witnessed kangkong being cultivated just like any vegetable or field crop.

Mang Ben Miranda took us at the edge of a stream. He rowed a flat bottom boat to a kangkong pen and showed us how the shoots grow outward from the “floating gardens” similar to the Aztec method of growing vegetables on Texcoco Lake in Mexoco, or the Burmese method of raising vegetables on mud mound or plot with the farmer rowing a dugout canoe to attend to the plants. Another version of this unique agriculture is the Sorjan farming in Pakistan and India. The farm is made of intervals of plots and canals.

The thick mass of kangkong, two to three meters across, is tied to poles to keep it steady in the flowing stream and keep the floating vines intact. By rowing the boat, the harvester picks the shoots at standard length, which he later bundles into thigh size. This is later repacked into 5 to 6 shoots per bundle, the one we buy in the market. A bundle cost P5.

The key to productivity of kangkong is the fresh, unpolluted water of the stream. Contrary to general belief, kangkong is not just a wild plant growing in canals and swamps, even if some people call it swamp cabbage. The truth is that there are several varieties of kangkong and the commercial ones are really cultivated the same way as other field crops are raised. The upland variety is short and lean, and is preferred for adobong kangkong, or fried kangkong - or simply blanched for table salad, adding tomato, onion and a dash of salt. Some cooks take the short cut by using seasoning instead.

Food and Mineral Value of Kangkong

What do we get from kangkong as vegetable? According to Maranon in the Philippine Journal of Science, young shoots of kangkong, are rich in minerals, mainly Phosphorus, Calcium, and Iron. The significant food value consists mainly of 3.64 percent carbohydrates, and 4.25 percent protein. Crude fiber however, cannot sufficiently supply our body’s fiber requirement since it does not even reach one percent.

One objection in eating kangkong is its danger that it may carry toxic metals. One experiment conducted by Myrna Ramos in her masteral thesis at the University of Santo Tomas showed that lead is absorbed by the plant and is deposited in its stems and leaves. Others suspect that even mercury, a more toxic metal is likewise absorbed by the plant and is passed on to humans when taken in as food. But seeing how kangkong is farmed at San Jose allayed our fears. The water is apparently free from pollution and there is no contamination of any kind. It is a rule of thumb that we should know the source of the kangkong we eat – or any vegetable for that matter.

Enterprise and Cooperative

The profitability of an enterprise is one thing, but its collective success as to be able to create an impact to the community is another.

What I am saying is that, it is true that there are successful entrepreneurs such as these examples I have just discussed. But there is need to organize small enterprises such as a cooperative to be able to compete in the market on one hand, and to be able to set plans and programs on long term objectives, on the other. Economics of scale dictates that big ones can easily swallow up unorganized small businesses. And this is the reason why and how a multinational business can dominate the market and subsequently force small ones to fold up. I brought up the idea of organizing a cooperative with the barangay council led by Mr. Reynaldo de Jesus.

“We had a multipurpose Cooperative before,” the chairman confessed, “ but it did not succeed.” Since then no one thought of reviving it or putting up another. I said, “Why don’t you get in touch with the Cooperative Development Authority?” I pointed out the new thrusts in cooperatives development and the support both government and private sector are extending. I cited successful ones here and abroad, such as the multipurpose cooperative of Nagpandayan, Guimba N.E. that was able to generate an asset of more than P100 million in after ten years of continuous operation. Its membership grew from 30 to 300 during the same period. Tagudin Credit Cooperative in Ilocos Sur is another success story. So with Lukban Cooperative in Bay, Laguna. Just to illustrate the bigness of a cooperative as compared to a corporation, Swiss Air, one of the biggest airlines in the world, is a cooperative.

Small is Beautiful

I have no bias against big business. But I learned from experience how difficult it is to manage a big one. I have also learned many things from Schumacher’s book, “Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered,” which pointed out that progress has a limit, and that bigness alone is not a guarantee of dominance and stability. We know of stories on how giant corporations met their doom – the dinosaur syndrome. The latest is the US-based giant corporation, ENRON, which toppled like a domino. Small enterprises on the other hand, are more resilient in weathering socio-economic storms, which explains the book’s title. This award-winning book won the author the title, “Hero for the Planet Earth,” given by by Time. Small businesses are more environment friendly and both economists and ecologists agree with Schumacher’s philosophy.

Manila Market and the Concept of a Greenbelt

In our discussion with the family we pointed to the advantages of being near a big market. With Metro Manila’s population of more than eight million, neighboring provinces, which include Pampanga are very lucky indeed. They form a “green belt” of the metropolis. Aren’t the zones CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela) and CALABAR (Cavite, Laguna. Batangas, and Rizal) based on the concept of providing a peripheral source of goods and services for the thickly populated metropolis? We all know that the stimulus created by a good market cannot be compared with any other formula in enhancing the profitability of trade and commerce.

Thus in our interview, orchard products, principally mango, we were told comprise a major “export” of the barangay to Manila. Another is rice. Imagine a huge surplus coming from 900 hectares which are planted twice a year with the aid of an efficient irrigation system sustained by the massive Pampanga River. Rice harvest which averages 70 bags to a hectare is high as compared to our national average which is just above 40 bags. And vegetables after rice is a boom in the barangay.

The last thought that came to my mind was to wish that the success of these model enterprises can be translated into better health and nutrition, education and employment. It reminds me of the question I raised in a symposium on people’s economics. What justification can a state give for having a good GNP and bad HDI, too?


Let me put it this way. Yes, the Gross National Product can be raised as much as say 10 percent, which is a very high estimate to Philippine standard. (Our projection is only 3 percent this year, as compared to Vietnam’s 7 percent.) But what equally matters is that increasing or having a desirable GNP should be accompanied by a desirable Human Development Index. HDI is measured in terms of education, health, employment, literacy and the like, of the people, including mortality and malnutrition of infants and children. Thus I asked myself, if there are successful enterprises, if the returns of agriculture and industry are high, how come there are so many people seeking medical assistance.

I said goodbye to Brigida and Mang Ben the sampaguita and kangkong entrepreneurs, so with the other entrepreneurs, and community leaders and folk. I wish them that their efforts should serve as catalyst for progress and development of a community - something that can decipher a good relationship between GNP and HDI in the microcosm of a barangay.

On our way back to Manila, my thoughts traced the flow of goods and services coming from the barangay to the yawning huge Manila market. Barangay San Jose, so with many similar villages, is indeed a gold mine – but a gold mine yet to be tapped.

x x x

Banana leaves make the best food wrapper – practical, multipurpose, aromatic and environment-friendly.

Abe V Rotor

Imagine if there were no banana leaves to make these favorite delicacies: suman, tupig, bucayo, bibingka, patupat, puto, tinubong, biko-biko, and the like. So with a long list of recipes like paksiw na isda, lechon, and rice cooked with banana leaves lining. Banana leaves have natural wax coating which aid in keeping the taste and aroma of food, while protecting it from harmful microbes.

In the elementary, we used banana leaves as floor polish. The wax coating makes wooden floors as shiny as any commercial floor wax sans the smell of turpentine or kerosene. Banana leaves when wilted under fire exude a pleasant smell. When ironing clothes use banana leaves on the iron tray. It makes ironing cleaner and smoother, and it imparts a pleasant, clean smell to clothes and fabric.

This is how to prepare banana leaf wrapper.
1. Select the wild seeded variety (botolan or balayang Ilk.) and the tall saba variety. Other varieties may also be used.
2. Get the newly mature leaves. Leave the lower half of the leaf to allow the plant to recover. Regulate the harvesting of young leaves as this will decrease the productivity of the plant.
3. Wilt the gathered leaves by singeing the leaves over fire or live charcoal until the surface turns limp and oily. Avoid smoky flame as this will discolor the leaves and impart a smoky smell (napanu-os).
4. Wipe both sides of the leaves with clean soft cloth until they are glossy and clean.
5. Cut wilted leaves with desired size, shape and design. Arrange to enhance presentation and native ambiance.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Part 2 - How can you reduce pesticides in your food?

Abe V Rotor

Pear, still life

What should we do with vegetables under the second category – those that are raised with chemical spraying as a prescribed horticultural practice? Here are some tips of getting the least effect of the pesticide used.

1. Avoid the organophospates. Get advice from the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, or from your agriculturist. Organophosphates are the most poisonous of all pesticides. Examples are Parathion, Azinphos, Bromophos, Demethon, Diazinon, EPN, DDVP, TEEP, Thiomethon. There are 70 organophosphates packed and marketed under different brand names in the FPA list. Read the label carefully and check for the kind of active ingredient.

2. Carbamates have lower lethal dosage and are therefore comparatively less toxic to human and animals. Examples are Aldicarb, Benomyl, Carbaryl, Carbufuran, Carboxin, Methomyl, Cartap, Thiobencarb. FPA listed more than 20 carbamates, which carry different brand names in the market.

3. Intermediate in toxicity between the two groups (organophosphates and carbamates) are the organochlorines or chlorinated hydrocarbons such as Endusulfan. Pertane, Heptachlor, BHC Toxaphene. Because the residual toxicity does not only stay long but persists in the organism it is carried through the food chain. Many of these organochlorines are banned. This is particularly true with DDT and Chlordane. Under FPA regulation the presence of these in the market is considered illegal.

4. Herbicides belong to two groups: chlorophenoxy compounds and nitro and chlorophenols. One big disadvantage of herbicides is their destructive effects to living things and the environment. But when it comes to toxicity, gram for gram, rodenticides or rat poisons are the most dangerous. Keep them away from humans and animals. Dispose used baits and containers properly, particularly the acute rodenticides (e.g. zinc phosphide and sodium cyanide). Note: these are highly regulated by FPA.

5. Remember, spraying with chemicals is an ultimate recourse in pest control. Pest control must be integrated with good farming. That is why the government is pursuing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Successful IPM models in other countries have drastically reduced the use of chemical pesticides. Follow the threshold level formula which means, spray your field only when the pest has reached the destructive phase. Do not spray because of mere presence of the pest.

6. Choose botanical pesticides, such as nicotine, rotenone, neem and pyrethrum because they are biodegradable and very much less expensive. In fact they can be formulated on the farm. Ask your agriculturist how to use them.

Here are additional tips to both growers and consumers:

1. Do not harvest newly sprayed crops even if the market is good. Through laboratory analysis, samples of pechay (Brassica chinensis) coming from four Metro Manila markets are positive to contain residues of the highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. One is positive in 15 pechay for methyl parathion (0.1 mg/kg), and one is positive in 15 for endosulfan (.01 mg/kg).

2. Washing may help reduce the poisonous residue, but systemic poisons remain in the body of the plant. Avoid eating vegetables, which are heavily protected with pesticide.

3. There are laboratories that determine pesticides residues. These are: Pesticide Analytical Laboratory of the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Pesticide Residue Laboratory of UPLB, Food Development Center of the National Food Authority, the Department of Science and Technology, Siliman University, and the Philippine Atomic Research Center. If you are in doubt with your favorite vegetables, consult any of these centers, or have your vegetables analyzed.

4. Better yet, plant your own vegetables and practice organic gardening. Spend time outdoor with your plants. Enjoy true freshness of vegetables. One thing you are sure of, they are pesticide-free.

But if you do not have time and space to raise vegetables, it is good to have the list of pesticide-free vegetables always ready on hand. They are not only health-friendly, but environment-friendly as well. ~

Living with Nature, AVR

To prevent glass from breaking, first put a spoon before pouring hot liquid

Abe V Rotor

Sudden heat may cause glass to break. To cushion this effect, the metal spoon absorbs heat faster than glass. In fact it attains higher temperature than glass or porcelain (china) does.

This principle is also applied when cooking meat. Meat becomes tender in a shorter time by putting spoon or fork in the cooking pot. Metal absorbs more heat that elevates the temperature of boiling water, which normally remains at 100 degrees centigrade (Celsius).

Living wih Folk Wisdom<, UST-AVR

How do we know a table egg is fresh?

Abe V Rotor

Immerse egg in water. If it lies on its side (horizontal) it is fresh. An old egg has larger air space at its rear end so that its tendency is to tilt vertically. An egg that floats is spoiled. Another method is candling, that is to “look through the egg” against bright light – or a lighted candle in the dark, for which the term was derived. A trained eye can tell the stage of incubation of an egg – or if the egg is unfertile (bugok). ~

Have you ever wondered how birds travel hundreds of kilometers in air without stopping?

Migratory birds in V formation, Scientific American

Abe V Rotor

Study a flock of geese in flight arranged in V-formation. The stronger ones take the lead while the others follow behind. Now and then there is shifting in role to give those in the lead to take respite before it will be their turn gain. This arrangement follows the laws of physics to overcome air resistance and make flying easier. It is designed for a dozen birds or so, that typically make a flock. That is why during mass migration you will notice a number of flocks independently cruising the sky in Vs and keeping in safe distance from each another - indeed a marvel in air navigation, a built-in instinct developed through thousands of years of evolution.

There is a movie, Fly Away Home, based on a true story. It is about a girl guiding a flock of geese with a portable aeroplane all the way from Canada to their sanctuary in the US, simulating the natural migration of birds. ~

Plant Extract Pesticides

Neem tree

Abe V Rotor

A. Makabuhay and Neem tree extracts are effective in control cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)
This is the finding of Tenorio RW, Nudo L, Roxas R and AC Uichanco from the UST Faculty of Pharmacy, based on the claims of old folks.

Makabuhay (Tinospora rhumphii) is a liana that grows in the wild. Previous experiments proved that its extract is effective in controlling common rice insect pest and the golden kuhol. Could it be effective in controlling the tough and elusive cockroach?

The same question was raised on Neem (Aziderachta asiatica), known as insecticide tree that was introduced into the country from India in the sixties. According to the researchers, extracts of both plants proved effective as direct spray on cockroach. Comparative effectiveness showed that the diluted extract of makabuhay gave a higher mortality that the pure extract, indicating the synergistic effect of water solvent, but only for makabuhay. Neem extract at low level dilution is more effective than that of makabuhay at the same level. While synthetic chemical sprays are more effective than these herbal extracts, the advantage of the latter is their being safe to humans and the environment and does not leave toxic residues.

B. Poison from the Seed of Botong (Barringtona asiatica) is used on rats.
If botong (Barringtona asiatica) is effective as fish poison, could it be effective as rat poison just as well? The researchers found it to be effective, but the problem to lure the rodents to eating the bait is a problem. This is because of the shy nature of rats and their oliphagous characteristic that is they eat a wide range of food under natural field condition. When starved rats may consume any available food and this may include poison baits. The advantage of using plant poison is its safe nature to humans and the environment. Presently used compounds include arsenicals, anticoagulants under the brand names Dethmor, Racumin, Dora, and the deadly “1081” a zinc phosphide compound which is now banned in the market. (Perez R, Dela Cruz K, Rivera M and J Santos, UST 2002)

C. Fish poison from the Seed of Botong (Barringtona asiatica)
This is the rational of the experiment: Is there a safer compound than synthetic pesticides to clean up fishponds in order to eliminate fish predators at seeding time? It is a known practice among fishpond owners to use Malathion, Endrin, and other chlorinated hydrocarbon, as well as phosphate compounds to eliminate fish such as tilapia, dalag, and Poecillia after harvesting a fishpond. These remaining fish pose danger as predator of bangus fries raised in the next season. The researchers found out that the extract of botong seeds (Barringtona asiatica) is an effective substitute. Like other plant extract, it is environment friendly and leaves non-toxic residue to the incoming fries and fingerlings. (Dequina MJ, Castro JC, Limtin R and J Patawaran, UST 2002)

More and more medicinal plants are discovered - a continuing list.

Narra (Pterocarpus indica) has herbal uses such as source of antibiotics.
Papait (Mollogo sp) has antidiabetic properties. It is popular as salad among Ilocanos.

Abe V Rotor

Mutha – Cyperus rotundus (barsanga Ilk)– a grass-like annual plants belonging to Family Cyperaceae, whose rhizomes survive the dry months to resume growth the following season. According to Salamat Dok (ABS TV program) the rhizome is dried and made into tea, a cure for stomach disorder, fresh rhizome is crushed and applied on wound.

Sampa-sampalokan (Phyllantus niruri), a tamarind-like bush, is an effective cure of kidney trouble and in keeping HIV virus dormant. (Salamat Dok, March 19, 2006)

Oregano (Coleus amboinicus) is effective for sore throat and as expectorant. Simply crush the leaves, fresh or blanched, mix with fruit juice or sugar and warm water.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules labillardiere) or bagras yields oil that smells like Vicks. To prepare a tooth drop, get some 30 fresh leaves that are mature, air dry and grind. Add ethyl alcohol one-fourth the level of the ground leaves in a glass container. The extract is now ready for use as tooth drop and can be kept for months. When someone in the family complains of toothache all you do is to apply a drop on the aching tooth or dip it in cotton and apply on the affected area.
1. for the treatment of skin diseases
2. it relieves stomachache, applied externally (tapal)
3. leaf extract essence in soap
4. fruit made into candy

Angel’s trumpet (Datura sp) is reportedly being used by some people as a poor substitute of marijuana. The while petals are dried and smoke like marijuana or mixed with tobacco.

Sleep paralysis - wiggle your toes, move your fingers – don’t give up!

Abe V Rotor

People who have experienced sleep paralysis mistake it as bangongot. It is because of its very nature as a near death experience and it is indeed very scary. I have experienced it myself in a number of times at least in two ways. The most common is when you are dreaming, say of running but you can’t run, box someone but you can’t raise your arm. Imagine you are being chased by a wild animal and you are glued in your place! There’s one thing you can do: panic and talk incoherently or shout. You wake up tired, panting, perspiring, trying to decipher whether the experience is true or just a dream. It is so vivid that when you are back to your senses you can relate perhaps the whole story.

The other kind of sleep paralysis is more frightening. It is one that may or may not be preceded by a dream. On waking up, you can’t move. You feel totally paralyzed with perhaps only your brain is functioning. Panic seizes you, as you attempt to move but cannot. Frantically you try to move any part of your body. In my experience the first to respond are the fingers and toes, then the limbs, and as blood begins to circulate perked by adrenaline, you find yourself finally “back to the living.”

Sleep paralysis is nature’s way of protecting us during our unconscious moments. Otherwise we become another Hercules who killed his wife and children in his sleep. This safeguard is not absolutely foul proof though. Take the case of sleepwalking and some cases of violence that occur during sleeping. Well, whatever way there is to assuage you, sleep paralysis really scares you to death. Just don’t give up.

Tips to prevent or minimize pollen allergy.

. Pollen Allergy is often the cause of sneezing fit and asthmatic symptoms.
It is true. It is called allergy rhinitis There are people who are highly sensitive to pollen grains. And their allergy is specific to certain plants, and at certain seasons these plants are in bloom. Plants belonging to Family Poaceae or Graminae which include rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, talahib, cogon, and the like generally bloom in the last quarter beginning October when dry season the habagat season is about to end and dry season starts.

Abe V Rotor

Here are things to do.
• Keep away from flowers and flowering plants
• Stay home to prevent exposure to pollen
• Avoid touching eyes and skin to prevent spread of allergy.
• Don’t bring in flowers and plants inside the house.
• Use mask and proper clothing.

There is a pollen calendar developed by the late Dr. Lolita Bulalacao of the National Museum, a pioneer in palynology (the study of pollen grains) in the Philippines. The calendar warns us people who are susceptible to allergy to keep away from pollen coming from certain flowering plants in season and from specific areas that may cause allergy. The symptoms of allergy rhynitis are generally relieved by antihistamine, which comes in different preparations and brands, as tablet or ointment.

Red chicken meat, anyone?

Abe V Rotor

Chicken meat is always known as white meat. But some people like it red.

This is what old folks do it. Hold the head of the chicken with one hand, and the otherhand at the base of the neck. With one quick twist detach the skull from the first vertebral bone (atlas). The chicken is instantly killed without struggle.

The blood is not drained - unlike in conventional dressing – which explains the red meat of the chicken.

Living with Folk Wisdom, UST-AVR

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is there such a thing as non-cash farming technology?

Abe V Rotor

“It is technology farmers do not have to pay cash for a non- cash input.”

This definition by Dr. H. T. Chang of the World Bank actually refers to good basic farm practices which is small farmers can carry out themselves- first, to save on production cost; and second, to improve production efficiency.

Non- cash technology, however, should not be regarded as alternative to cash input per se, but can be a substitute to some costly items. What is significant in the concept is that good farm practices can maximize the value of cash input.

The best examples are found right in all fundamental steps of good farming. Good seeds generally produce more yields under any condition. These means farmers must practice seed selection, and plant only certified seeds. Grains produced from poor seeds are not only few; they produce low milling recovery due to admixtures of different grain shape, size and maturity.

The labor-intensive characteristic of typical farms in Asia ideally provides for greater attention to enhance proper farm management. After all, the progressive farmer is one who prepares is land more thoroughly, manages his nursery better, water his field more cleanly and has better water control, mainly through his effort and those of his large family.

Non-cash technology extends further from mere saving on direct expenses. It is also based on innovative approaches. A rice-garlic combination has these components; the garlic crop “rides” on the remaining soil moisture and on the tillage of early rice crop; and rice straw is used to mulch garlic in order to reduce water loss and weed population.

Other popular examples of non-cash inputs are:

1. Use early maturing varieties to allow a second or third cropping.
2. Make use of solar energy in drying palay, corn and other farm products.
3. Follow precise timing of land preparation to turn up weeds to dry up. Plow them under to be decomposed to save on herbicide and laborious weeding
4. Prepare rows parallel to East-West direction to allow more solar exposure to enhance growth and yield.
5. Practice green manuring in place of or supplement to, commercial fertilizers.
6. Recycle farm residues like corn stovers, rice straw and peanut hay for livestock, and farm wastes for organic fertilizer.
7. Practice intercropping to reduce the spread and occurrence of pests and diseases, and to maximize the utilization of an input like fertilizer..

The revival of non-cash technology is generally recognized as a Third World innovation. It may lack the glamour and sophistication of modern agriculture, but it holds the key in solving many problems of small farms.

Part 3: Development Communication - Teaching and Learning

Dr. Abe V. Rotor
Afro-Asian Institute, Tel-Aviv, Israel
(From the Lectures of Dr. Chanoch Jacobsen, Professors Shimon Zuckerman, Shulamit Elfassy, Michel Isaak, and Gershon Tabor)

“They will tell us we can’t change human nature. That is one of the oldest excuses in the world of doing nothing – and it isn’t true.”
JB Priestley

Teaching is the art of changing people’s behavior by facilitating the learning process for them.
Learning is the process whereby new behavior patterns are acquired.

All the manifold ways in which a person can behave come from one of two possible sources: either they are inherited or they are learnt

Inherited behavior patterns are more or less fixed and almost impossible to change. On the other hand, anything that has been learnt can, in principle, be modified by further learning. It is difficult, of course, to uproot long-standing habits, but even those can be changed, provided they are correctly analyzed and appropriately handled.

By far the greatest part of our behavior consists of activities which we have learnt during our lives. In principle, most human activities can be modified by additional learning.

Knowledge is any information that a person has perceived through one of his five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. It will be appropriate, therefore, to try and explain the learning of knowledge with the help of the principles of perception.

Skills are actions or activities that a person is able to perform rapidly and smoothly. There are motor skills (activities we carry out with our limbs), and mental skills, which are performed with the brain (e.g., solving mathematical problems). Acquisition of skills requires repetition of the activity, thus the use of learning principles - the dynamics of repetitive behavior, namely reinforcement theory.

Attitude is a person’s habitual patterns of thinking about his social environment. Attitudes are complex structures of the mind, made up of knowledge, beliefs, emotions and evaluations. Being habitual, they predispose people to make ready-made generalized responses to their social environment in many different circumstances. Attitudes are formed and changed with cognitive balance theory.

The Perception of Knowledge.
We perceive our environment selectively. We filter out certain things which we hear, see, smell, touch and taste.
Selective perception enables the organism to conserve its cognitive resources, taking note only of those stimuli that are interesting in themselves or are important to its well-being.

The human brain regulates the selective perception of environmental stimuli according to their relevance to the person’s needs, his expectations and his previous experience. In other words, we tend to perceive those things to which our senses are attuned.
To be effectively learnt, knowledge must be relevant to the learner.

The human brain not only perceives selectively, it also remembers selectively what it has perceived. Some things etch themselves on the mind, while others are quickly forgotten.
We tend to remember those items of knowledge, which we feel are relevant and important to ourselves.
When teaching link items to one another than to present them disconnectedly. Systematically ordered items make for better learning than haphazardly presented knowledge.
The successful communicator/teacher takes pains to explain things thoroughly, giving adequate reasons, rather than throwing knowledge at the learner as if to say “take it from me.”

Reinforcement of Skills
Based on principles of learning is that of reward of punishment (positive and negative reinforcement.) Common sense and ancient folk-wisdom would suggest the same thing: it is nothing else than the well-known idea of the carrot and the stick.

The extrinsic reinforcement may be either positive (e.g., praise encouragement, payment, etc.) or negative (e.g., scolding if he doesn’t practice, withholding of reward, etc.), but without either of these it is unlikely that a person will continue the activity long enough to acquire the skill. Note, however, that once the skill has been acquired it is frequently self-reinforcing, since normally a person will enjoy doing something he can do really well (self-actualization).

Positive reinforcement is more efficient than negative reinforcement, because it does not have to be given every time the behavior is emitted. In fact, irregular and intermittent schedules of positive reinforcement are even more efficient in maintaining the activity than regular and continuous rewards. It is as if the organism went on “hoping” - as it were (up to a certain limit, of course) than the next activity will be rewarded, and therefore keeps it up. Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, must be continuous and consistent to be effective.

The Cognitive Balance of Attitudes
The important point about habits is that we rarely think about them at all. From a psychological point of view, therefore, they function to conserve mental effort. As we can do these things by habit we do not have to think about them and our mind is left free to deal with those matters that do need the investment of mental effort.

Attitudes are generalizations, and like all generalizations they are frequently not very accurate, and sometimes they can be quite unrealistic. But they do save us the trouble of carefully considering each and every event or idea that comes our way.
They also provide us with ready-made responses for a host of different social situations with which we may be confronted.

If our attitudes are to give us this kind of psychological support, they must be consistent with one another as well as with our personal experience. This is what we mean by cognitive balance. We feel uncomfortable when we are faced with facts which obviously contradict our attitudes, and we take considerable trouble to prevent this from happening.

Sometimes we attempt to change the facts by adjusting our behavior to our attitudes and thus restore cognitive balance. At other times we adjust our attitudes to bring them in line with our experience.

Generally, we take the line of least resistance. We tend to do what seem easiest in order to maintain our cognitive balance.

Learning attitudes and changing attitudes depends on the real-life situations. Being habits upon which we are accustomed to depend, we do not change our attitudes easily.
But we do change them when we feel we must, when we are faced with the realities of our personal experience.
The communicator and extension worker who wants to change other people’s attitudes should know that his powers in this area are severely restricted.

We communicators and educators can provide learning experience, but we can not change the attitudes directly.

Only life itself can do that.

Dr. A.V. Rotor
Afro-Asian Institute
Tel-Aviv, Israel