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A total of 560 farmers graduated from the School On-the-Air (SOA) for Organic Vegetable Production on Thursday at Culianan Covered Court in Zamboanga City.

The SOA spearheaded by the Agricultural Training Institute IX (ATI-9) in partnership with the Department of Agriculture IX and the Office of the City Agriculturist started in May 2018. The SOA participants came from the six agricultural districts in the city, namely Tumaga, Ayala, Culianan, Manicahan, Curuan and Vitali. The farmer-students enrolled at their respective Field offices and were required to listen to a 30-minute radio program every Sunday over DXRZ-RMN from May – August 2018. Each farmer-student submits their pre-test and exam to their respective field offices.

During the culmination program, some farmer-students spoke about their experiences about the on-air lectures and face to face demonstrations conducted on field. All emphasized that the training have made them more conscious of the health benefits they will get from planting organic vegetables, thus, they have committed to make use of the knowledge imparted to them into their farming strategy.

Ms Trinidad Angeles, 63 yrs old, from barangay Quinipit shared that the on-air schooling is a “total package” for them. “As farmers, it has trained us the proper organic farming from handling of seedlings all throughout the harvesting of the vegetables without using chemical pesticides which are root cause of many diseases that is rampant nowadays.” She said.

The batch Valedictorian Ms Remie Ann Eugenio, 39 years old from barangay Culianan voiced out that she is grateful to DA, ATI and City Agriculture for the learning opportunity. She personally waits for another on-air schooling and training on livestock. “We hope for another SOA on poultry raising and also swine production because we really need that here in our place.”

Ms Merida Garcia, SOA coordinator from the City Agriculture office said that the farmer graduates have to develop their own vegetable garden utilizing the lessons learned on-air. Garcia mentioned that the DA through its Organic Agriculture Program provided 600 bags of organic fertilizers to all farmer-students. She also said that the City Agriculture Office also distributed assorted vegetable seeds (5kg Pechay, 4kg Radish, 2kg Mustard, 5kg String beans, 4kg Okra, 1kg Sponge Gourd and 1½kg Red Squash) to each agricultural district.

ATI training specialist and organic agriculture focal person Mr Elias Nayal also expressed gratitude for the cooperation and interest shown by the graduates to learn organic farming. Nayal presented the graduates to ATI Center Director Reynaldo Beduya. Mr Beduya confirmed all 560 farmers as graduates of the School On-the-Air for Organic Vegetable Program.

Ms Carmencita Sanchez, the OIC-Office of the City Agriculture gave a message promoting organic farming and encouraged parents to be extra creative in preparing vegetables to serve their children.

DA Agricultural Program Coordinator for Zamboanga City Mr Arnulfo Estrada also acknowledged the enthusiasm of the graduates in finishing the program and presented the updates of the current rice situation in Zamboanga Peninsula and the actions taken by Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol.# (Lovely Espinosa/DA9)