‘We grow our rice organic,’ says the lady soft not to wake up her baby. ‘We use organic fertilizer.’ My curiosity grows, since we are talking about a small village with a small amount of rice paddies. Welcome on my epic bus trip to Banaue, the famous rice terraces in Philippines.
She does not go to Banaue, she will get of somewhere on the road, disappearing in the night with her baby and husband. They are young, and joyful, and certainly hard workers as well, when I hear how they grow the rice.
‘We just planted our paddies,’ she mentioned proudly. This is the time of the year of planting, putting new seeds in the soil to grow. Most of the rice paddies here nowadays are still brown, filled with water, or empty waiting for the new rice to grow within its dikes.
Some rice grows twice a year, but the paddies of the lady don’t. ‘We choose to have only one harvest a year,’ she says, ‘it is better for the soil. We could do it twice, but that would exhaust the earth in the long term.’
I know she is right, our industrial agricultural production asks to much of the earth, leaving the soil exhausted, and ‘forcing’ farmers to look for fertilizers. Most of them unfortunately are chemical ones, and it would take me too far in this blog to dive into the story of fertilizers, industrial agriculture and the Big Chemical Companies providing these products.
‘We use organic fertilizer’ she says. Which was the sentence where my sleeping brain – note almost another 24hours awake – woke up at once. They try to work fast. ‘Organic fertilizer, tell me the secret,’ they shout in my head. Ears wide open, all eyes on her. ‘We just leave the death plants on the field, so the earth can regenerate them,’ she says. Of course, that is the way how it should be. That is the simple genius way of organic fertilizer and how nature made it.
It remembers me of the Medieval agriculture system in my country. Simplified, but genius: their land was divided in three parts. One to grow one type of wheat, one to grow another type of wheat, and one to be left in peace and recover, which changed year after year, to prevent dependency on one kind of wheat and to give the soil once a year the time to recover.
Closer in time and distance, I remember how I as a child helped a farmer in the neighbourhood, and even the vegetable garden of the family. We did not used chemical fertilizers at all. After harvesting and leaving the land for a while in peace, we would ditch all the rotten plants and waste of the harvest on the terrains. Leaving it there, giving the soil back what we had taken, except for the fruits and vegetables.
Slow production, sustainable production?
It is simple and genius, but fact, as the lady commented, this technique requires more time, and lowers the production capacity of the land. Moreover, since our capitalistic system functions with the adagio of the more production the better, this technique is wiped out. However, I wonder if in the long term, this technique would not deliver the better production first of all, and secondly, there is so much wasted food a year, maybe it is not necessary to increase the food production to unlimited heights, but do produce, consume and divide it more efficiently.