Hello veggies, goodbye abaca!

high value organic vegetable production
Officials from DAR and East-West Seed Philippines harvest organically grown pechay at the farm of Jose Dautil (right) in Barangay Hinabay, Inopacan, Leyte. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)
April 19, 2016

TACLOBAN CITY – When we reached Barangay Hinabay, we were led to a vegetable farm of Jose Dautil, 54, that was ready for harvest. We picked some kilos of sweet pepper, and pechay, and paid him the corresponding price. Then we moved to Barangay Cabulisan to see more vegetables in other farms. These adjacent villages nestled on top of a mountain in Inopacan, Leyte are now known for organic vegetables.

Farmers here are now seriously pursuing high value organic vegetable production after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) subjected last year the members of two agrarian reform beneficiary organizations (ARBOs) to a five-month training on high value crops production using the natural farming system.

Being covered by the second phase of the Agrarian Reform Communities Project (ARCP-II), DAR tapped the East-West Seed Philippines for the conduct of the said training under the Agricultural Enterprise Development to the Hinabay Upland Farmers Association (HUFA) and the Cabulisan Multi-Purpose Upland Farmers Association (CAMUFA).

When asked what they like about organic vegetable production, Marissa Bisnar, 38, an agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) said the products are sold at a higher price than those grown the traditional way. Even if they are a little bit expensive, more consumers prefer to buy organic vegetables, she added.

From her last harvest, Marissa shared that she earned P8,350 from her four plots of sweet pepper, four plots of tomato and ampalaya, which became additional income for her family.

Cristita Abenoja, a merchant from Barangay Cabulisan who buys the farmers’ harvests and sell them at the town’s market disclosed that her products are easily sold out because consumers opt for organic vegetables.

Organic farming now becomes the trade mark of these two barangays. When buyers learn that the vegetables come from the said barangays, they already know that it’s organic, Abenoja said. Further, “my customers increased,” she added, because the information had spread to nearby towns like Hindang, Bato and Baybay City.

For that, these farmers living on top of the mountain, 18 kilometers away from the town proper are thankful they were taught organic farming.

Abaca used to be the major crop of the farmers here. But because of the bunchy top disease, farmers ceased planting abaca, and shifted to vegetable production in 2004. Last year, with the joint effort of DAR and East-West Seed Philippines, the natural farming system was introduced and changed the lifestyle of the farmers here.

With this method the farmers no longer sniff chemicals when spraying pesticides, according to CAMAFU president Edelito Merrano Sr., 51. Likewise, they can save more because they no longer buy fertilizers and pesticides, he added.

Instead, they use the vermicast their association is producing. Vermi-culture and vermi-composting have been introduced to them by DAR in 2015 as alternative sources of livelihood.

CAMUFA was among the 100 ARB organizations provided with a shredder and 30 kilos of African night crawlers last year.

At the moment CAMUFA is also selling vermicast at P350 per sack of 50 kilos. While African night crawlers are being sold by the association at P500 per kilo.

Greenpeace launches #IAmHampasLupa to spotlight role of youth in addressing food, nutrition and agriculture issues

October 10, 2015

BAGUIO CITY – Greenpeace Philippines, in partnership with local organizations, challenged the voting youth to pledge to transform the country’s food and agriculture.

Through the use of social media, and capitalizing on the ‘selfie’ phenomenon, Greenpeace launched #IAmHampasLupa at the Baguio Cathedral, to solicit photo pledges from all over the Philippines as a way to elevate food, nutrition and agriculture as key issues that should be tackled in the upcoming national elections.

The group believes in this digital age, people should be mindful of what is important and vital, especially when it comes to our intrinsic relationship with food and agriculture.

“Food is life and most of us take for granted how we get our daily nourishment to sustain us and enable us to do our day-to-day business. We seldom associate the food we eat with the farmers who do backbreaking work to produce them,” said Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Greenpeace, Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner. “In fact, buying and consuming local produce makes us stakeholders in our local agriculture. But how involved are we in the discussion of food and agriculture, even food security?”

Greenpeace said the country suffers from a double burden of malnutrition, with one in every five (20%) Filipino children under 5 years of age under weight, and one in every three (31%) Filipino adults aged 20 and above overweight or obese. Undernutrition exists because of unequal access and distribution of food. Overnutrition is prevalent because of increasing physical inactivity and poor diets, particularly the low intakes of fruits, vegetables, rootcrops and tubers and the increasing intake of sweet and oily food. This is further re-enforced by our agriculture’s focus on rice, irrigation and specific food commodities. Forty percent of the Department of Agriculture’s budget goes to rice and irrigation programs.

The group believes that the Philippines cannot continue on this path and that reforms in our food and agriculture system are needed in order to address nutrition issues. “We need a comprehensive, holistic, responsive food policy that addresses today’s challenges of climate change, nutrition security, disaster response and environmental protection. We need an ecological transformation in our food and agriculture in order to respond to the growing needs and concerns,” added Llorin.

It starts by changing our perception of farming and acknowledging the vital role that farmers play in our everyday lives. Philippine society has looked down on farming as menial and dirty, hence oftentimes, hampaslupa is used to describe our farmers as pitiful and not fit to be role models. Farmers are looked down as farming is considered a poor man’s trade that no one should choose as there is no future in it.

Greenpeace believes that as consumers, we participate in farming and re-affirm the value and role of farmers. Collectively and individually we are hampaslupa, which literally means ‘hit the land’ or ‘till the land’ as farmers do. We contribute to ‘tilling the soil’ with the food choices we make. Each of us therefore, especially the youth, which comprise 40% of the 52 million registered voters, have the power to shape the future of food and farming. They can define what the next President should address.

“If we want good, affordable, nutritious food – we need to connect, converse, support our local farmers to enable them to provide these food. But it starts with altering our perception and acknowledging our connections to Filipino farmers,” said Rogel Marsan of the Cordillera Organic Producers Association.

The battle against breast cancer continues

By RONALD DELOS REYES, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
October 3, 2013

By simply being a woman makes all women at risk of contracting breast cancer.

However, those who have had early menstruation (before age 12), those who went through late menopausal (after age 55), and women who did not have children or who had their first child after the age of 30 have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

This is attributed to longer lifetime exposure to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Just what is breast cancer?

It is a type of cancer that originates from a breast tissue. Lack of childbearing, sex, high fat diet, tobacco use, alcohol intake, obesity, and heredity are the other risk factors of the disease.

Breast cancer is the most researched type of all cancers. Published in various research papers, methods of early detection, prevention, and treatments have already been laid down by medical professionals. However, the incidence rate of the life threatening disease is still increasing over the years.

Globally, for every eight women, one develops breast cancer before the age of 75. In Third World countries such as the Philippines, in every three women diagnosed with breast cancer, one dies within the same period. In fact, breast cancer is number one in incidence and mortality rate in developing countries.

In Cebu, breast cancer is the leading cancer-related deaths among Cebuano women. Based on the population-based Cancer Registry of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC), women ages 50 to 54 are the ones most likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

In 2003-2007, there were 657 recorded deaths out of 1,349 breast cancer cases. Of the newly-diagnosed cases in Metro Cebu, 70 percent were found in the later stages of the disease.

While women cannot do anything on their lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone, they can help reduce the risk through breastfeeding.

When mothers breastfeed their newborn, there is a suspension of the production of the hormones. A year of breastfeeding is best recommended, not just for the welfare of the newborn but also for the mother.

Cancer is always associated with despair and death. For women afflicted with cancer of the breast, death is just around the corner. The fear is the reason why it takes a lot of time for them to see a doctor and undergo treatments.

Financial constraints also prevent women from responding to symptoms as soon as possible. Another reason is lack of information. The more information about cancer she knows, the higher is the likelihood for a woman to act swiftly.

Less than 30 percent of all types of cancers, including breast cancer, have “common” early detection. It is important to note what stage a person’s cancer already is primarily determines the patient’s survival, if not cure.

Breast cancer screening means is important because it detects cancer even before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. When abnormal tissue or cancer cells are found at an early stage, it is easier to treat the disease.

The three periodic screenings to employ are monthly breast self-examination (BSE), annual clinical breast examination (CBE), and annual mammography.

Beginning in their 20s, women must check their breast through BSE. This examination enables women to check their breasts and armpit area for possible lumps and changes or abnormalities in shape or size.

BSE should be performed five to 10 days after the monthly menstruation period. For women who no longer have monthly periods, they can do the examination any time of the month.

If during BSE you notice swelling of the breast, nipple discharge (not breast milk), nipple pulling inward, and unusual pain in the breasts area, see a doctor immediately. These might be early symptoms of breast cancer.

When women reach 40, they should start an annual CBE done by a trained and healthcare professional. The advantage of talking to your doctor is he can advise possible tests or interventions if malignancies are detected.

Another way to screen for breast cancer is to have an annual mammography for women ages 40 years old and above, especially those with large breasts. A mammogram is a low dose X-ray of the breast used to detect abnormalities, even when they may be too small yet for you or your doctor to feel or see.

If after three consecutive years of mammography the doctor detects no cancer development, it is advisable not to undergo mammography the following year.

These examinations should be done periodically even if a woman is not suspected with breast cancer. More lives will be saved if women will take advantage of the screenings.

Through the years, researchers and medical practitioners have developed life saving treatment advances for breast cancer. Treatment is the other determinant of survival in every type of cancer.

Aside from hormonal therapy, there are three conventional ways to treat cancer. These are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. These treatments are evidence-based and scientifically proven medicine.

Once a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, it is time to determine how to treat it. The three conventional ways to treat cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for breast cancer. The choice of which type of surgery is based on a number of factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the type of tumor, and the person's overall health.

Depending on the staging and type of the tumor, a lumpectomy (removal of the lump only) may be all that is necessary or removal of larger amounts of breast tissue may be necessary.

Lumpectomy is utilized by many patients for breast-conservation cancer surgery. Another surgery is mastectomy where the entire breast with cancer, including the skin, areola, and nipple are removed.

Mastectomy usually takes two to three hours of operation.

Mastectomy doesn’t eliminate the risk of breast cancer. It just reduces the risk of not contracting the disease by 90 percent.

If a patient wants to have a breast reconstruction (surgery to rebuild a breast’s shape after a mastectomy) it may be made with the patient’s own (non-breast) tissue.

On the other hand, chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells, or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy can be taken orally or, more commonly, by means of intravenous injection.

The treatment gets rid any cancer cells that may be left after the surgery. Chemotherapy has an average of six cycles in a span of six months. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Chemotherapy can be a frightening prospect for anyone. It has many side effects because it targets multiple areas of the body simultaneously. Unpleasant effects include vomiting, nausea, hair loss, fatigue, and mouth sores, among others.

Lastly, the third common conventional treatment for cancer is radiation therapy. It uses high-energy x-rays, or other types of radiation, to kill cancer cells, to keep them from growing.

Radiation therapy damages the cancer cells, but this method can also damage or kill the healthy cells inside the body. The death of healthy cells can lead to side effects such as hair loss and thinning of skin tissue.

Conventional treatments are made available for patients to increase their survival rate and/or their quality of life. If patients do not undergo any treatment, cancer would cause complications inside the body.

Based on available records, most patients do not die of breast cancer; they die due to complications, such as cardiac arrest. Breast cancer can affect other areas of the body; this is called “metastatic” breast cancer. If there is metastasis, other parts of the body have already developed breast cancer cells.

A woman should not rely on the fact that the family does not have a history of the disease. Even at an early stage, she should observe her breast for early malignancies. One never knows when these damaging cells would develop.

In a study entitled, Mortality among offspring of women diagnosed with cancer: A population-based cohort study, a group of researchers composed of Helena M. Verkooijen, Joella X. Ang, Jenny Liu, Kamila Czene, Agus Salim, and Mikael Hartman evaluated the mortality risks in offspring of mothers with history of cancer in relation to timing of birth and cancer site.

From the Swedish Multi-Generation Register and the Cancer Register, the researchers identified 174,893 children whose mothers had been diagnosed with cancer between 1958 and 2001.

The study revealed that offspring of mothers diagnosed with cancer had no increased mortality risk. Increased mortality risks were found in offspring of mothers with tobacco-related cancers (head and neck, thoracic and cervical), in children born around the time of their mother’s diagnosis, and in children born after their mother’s hematopoietic cancer diagnosis.

However, exposure to (the effects of) diagnostic investigations, radiation therapy, and systemic treatment before and around the time of birth may have adverse effects on the child.

It is also important to note that before undergoing the mentioned treatments, patients must first discuss their treatment options with their doctors, especially if they are pregnant.

In its 10th year now, the Moonwalk, an advocacy campaign of RAFI-EJACC held every October, will again gather thousands of people for an awareness campaign on breast cancer. It is a time to call all women to act now.

EJACC also advocates exercise, a well-balanced diet, and healthy lifestyle to be the secondary prevention methods one should do.

Since its inception 25 years ago, EJACC has already served more than 50,000 people in Cebu province. Its services include cancer education, cancer screenings, diagnostics, and primary treatment, psycho-social support, linkaging and network, and the Cebu population-based cancer registry.

Though breast cancer can bring a woman’s life to a standstill, there is ray of hope for them to fight it. While there is no primary prevention available for breast cancer, the best way to do is early screening and detection with corresponding treatment at an early age.

Cancer and Sin Tax Law

By Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
February 28, 2013

CEBU CITY – Cancer still ranks third in the list of leading causes of death in the Philippines in 2010. Two of the top causes of cancer deaths in the country are lung cancer and liver cancer.

“Liver cancer and lung cancer are the leading cancers in Metro Cebu. Lung cancer ranks first not just in terms of incidence but also in mortality cases,” Ronald delos Reyes, program coordinator of Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC) of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), said.

During the Feb. 23 episode of “Pagtuki”, the official radio program of RAFI, delos Reyes stressed that there is an increase of lung cancer incidence among women in Metro Cebu. However, more men still contract and die because of lung cancer.

“For the past 15 years, the average lung cancer cases among women were less than a hundred. Now, it has now an average of 200 cases,” delos Reyes added.

EJACC’s Metro Cebu Population-based Cancer Registry shows that from 1998 to 2002, 826 men and 360 women were diagnosed of lung cancer, and 646 men and 270 women died of the disease.

In the year 2003 to 2007, 830 men and 457 women were diagnosed from which 626 men and 328 women died.

According to Bernadine Hayag, designated health promotion and education officer of Department of Health (DOH) 7, one of the causes of increased incidence rate among women is secondhand smoke.

“There are 70,000 chemicals found in one cigarette, 7,000 of these chemicals are carcinogens which cause cancer,” she said, disclosing that every hour, 10 Filipinos die because of smoking.

Hayag also stressed that smokers are also prone to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), aside from lung cancer.

EJACC’s Metro Cebu Population-based Cancer Registry data also reveals that from 1998 to 2002, there are 1,561 cases of liver cancer, wherein 1,350 died from the disease. EJACC’s 2003 to 2007 data shows that there are 1,267 deaths from the 1,612 liver cancer cases.

“We encourage parents to give their children a complete vaccination for hepatitis B as a primary preventive measure. Other ways to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer include healthy lifestyle, avoidance of excessive alcohol intake, sex with multiple partners, and smoking,” he said, adding that 80 percent of liver cancer cases is caused by Hepatitis B infection.

Last December, Republic Act No. 10351, otherwise known as the Sin Tax Reform 2012, mandates a significant increase in the prices of cigarettes and liquor in the country.

“As of now, we could not feel the effects of the implementation of the newly passed law. Five years from now, more Filipinos will benefit from it. We are expecting that the number of smokers and drinkers will, however, decrease,” she added.

Delos Reyes emphasized that early detection and prevention are the best solutions in order not to acquire late stage lung and liver cancers.

For Hayag, DOH is strengthening their advocacy campaign and information dissemination on the ill-effects of tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol drinking to the public.

Pagtuki is aired over DyLA every Saturday at 10-11am. The program, which is one of the Knowledge Sharing & Advocacy capabilities of RAFI, tackles timely and relevant issues on politics, governance, micro-financing, education, environment, early childhood care and development, and culture and heritage that affect the Cebuano community.

For more information about RAFI’s radio program, please contact Chrisely Hinayas at 418-7234 loc. 540, or visit www.rafi.org.ph or www.facebook.com/rafi.org.ph

Preventing iron deficiency among pregnant women and babies

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA-8)
February 25, 2013

TACLOBAN CITY – Four out of ten pregnant Filipino women are suffering from iron deficiency anemia (IDA), the result of the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), showed.

Based on the criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of IDA among pregnant women in the Philippines is of significant public health problem, said Ms. Czarina Teresita S. Martinez of the FNRI-DOST S&T media division.

According to the FNRI-DOST, the best method of combating iron deficiency in pregnancy is to promote high intakes of available iron by women of reproductive age so that she enters pregnancy with adequate iron stores.

The FNRI-DOST said that iron is present in both animal and plant origins. Liver and glanular organs are the richest sources of iron while meat, fish and poultry are the other good animal sources of iron.

Iron-rich plant foods are the legumes family, green leafy vegetables such as gamet (seaweeds), kulitis (Spineless amaranth), dahon ng malunggay (horse raddish leaves), kangkong (swamp cabbage), dahon ng gabi (taro leaves), dahon ng kinchay (Chinese Celery leaves), dahon ng saluyot (jute leaves), talbos ng kamote (sweet potato leaves), and some dried fruits like prunes.

IDA could also be avoided by consuming foods that may help in increase iron absorption and metabolism like vitamin A, Vitamin C, and riboflavin that are abundant in fruits and vegetables.

The Department of Health (DOH) is advocating the consumption of foods with the Sangkap Pinoy Seal; that include iron fortified foods. The FNRI-DOST develops fortified food products including iron fortified foods that will help increase the consumption of iron.

Ms. Martinez quoted Dr. Helen A. Guthrie, Professor of Nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University, who said that a woman who has been well-nourished prior to conception enters pregnancy with a reserve of several nutrients that can meet the needs of the growing fetus without jeopardizing her health.

During pregnancy, the body conserves iron since menstruation ceases and iron absorption increases three folds. The blood protein responsible for iron absorption likewise increases.

However, iron stores may decrease during pregnancy because iron needs also increase. On the last trimester of pregnancy, much of the available iron and maternal iron stores are taken up by the fetus to create its own iron stores for the first three to six months of life.