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Former evacuees and rebels are now happily engaged in organic farming in the outskirt barangays of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

It was gathered that former rebels of the MNLF and MILF have laid down their arms and lived peaceful lives as farmers in this municipality.

During a benchmarking tour last week of learners in the Farmers Business School of Iligan, a joint venture of the Agricultural Training Institute and MSU-IIT, participants were welcomed to the Integrated Farm of barangay Tingin-tingin.

Barangay Captain Malic Macabato told the visitors that his barangay was one of the fiercest battlefields during the war between the government and the MNLF in the 1970s and that between the government and the MILF in 2001 and 2008.

He said that the barangay was then evacuated by its Muslim and Christian inhabitants because of heavy mortar fires from the AFP.

Macabato guided the visitors to the vegetable gardens, fishponds and livestock raising pens.

Buko nuts opened for its sweet water was served to the visitors as they ate cooked camote, cassava and “biko”- cooked out of an indigenous rice variety - all harvested from the organic farms.

Macabato told the visitors that the farmers’ incomes have greatly increased due to cost savings from not buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

He said that the animal wastes were mixed with biodegradable wastes and converted into compost that serves both as soil conditioner and fertilizer.

He said that the farmers got assistance from the government in the form of cash, capability building seminars and skills training in agriculture and agribusiness.

Barangay Captain Aga Dimakuta of Tayonton, a farther barangay, informed that in his barangay they also have an organic farm that is now being visited by student tourists who want to spend the night camping in their mini-forest.

Dimakuta said that former rebels and evacuees who have returned to their place are now enjoying their newfound livelihood.

“Who would like to go around carrying a gun and engaging in sporadic fighting if he has three square meals a day?” Dimakuta said.

The proliferation of organic farming in the barangays of Kauswagan was inspired by the establishment of a Model Organic Farm in barangay Poblacion a few months after Mayor Rommel Arnado assumed office in a controversial election that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Recently, a Farmers’ Training School was established in Barangay Bagumbayan to cater to the continuing needs of the farmers.

It is also the venue for transfer of new agricultural technology found to improve the welfare and well-being of the farmers.

It was gathered that the state of Agriculture in the municipality is one of the factors that made it win the Gawad Galing Pook Award of 2014 from the Department of Interior and Local Government.

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