14 October 2021 – As a major activity under the NexCities Project, the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc (SCPW) and De La Salle Araneta University – Agrivet Sciences Institute (DLSAU-AGSI), organized a virtual training for farmers attended by 10 members of New Maria Sinukuan Upland Farmers Association (NMSUFA) from Arayat, Pampanga and 10 selected farmers from Victoria, Laguna. The event aimed to increase the awareness and appreciation of key stakeholders on wetlands, water and sanitation, agricultural ecosystems and its importance, learn about the process and technology to produce fertilizer (struvite) from domestic wastewater, and demonstrate and train the farmers on the application of struvite in vegetable farming.
The first part of the virtual training consisted of introduction to the topic via video presentations and lectures on (1) Water, Sanitation, and Wetlands by Dr. Ma. Catriona Devanadera (SCPW and University of the Philippines at Los Baños); (2) fertilizers presented by Ms. Maria Apple Eda Suplido (DLSU-AGSI) ; and, (3) fertilizer production (struvite) explained by Engr. Albert Longos (De la Salle University-Taft). The second part of the training-orientation was a demonstration on how to apply the fertilizers to certain crops like tomatoes and eggplants, among others. During the Open Forum, questions asked were mostly on the safety of using struvite as fertilizer and clarifications in the process of struvite production. After this, a baseline survey and Focus Group discussion was conducted to further explore the perception of farmers on the use of struvite as fertilizer for their crops.
The two FGD groups were facilitated by Ms. Darry Shel Estorba (Victoria Group) and Mr. Jose Carlo Quintos (Arayat Group). Results of the FGD include the willingness of both farmer groups to try the struvite fertilizer realizing its benefits for the environment, how it can potentially reduce the cost of farm production and boost farm productivity. Their main concern, though, was still the process of production assuming that they will be the ones producing the struvite. In general, perceived acceptability was due to the trust of farmers on the scientist and experts that conducted the research, as well as to the awareness they acquired during the training.
In his closing message, Dr. Michael Promentilla, Project Lead from DLSU emphasized that he is happy to interact with the farmers and that he looked forward to collaborating with them in developing and refining this technology. Ms. Amy Lecciones, Executive Director of SCPW, also shared in her closing remarks that sample struvite fertilizer will be sent to the attendees so that they can test it on their crops and thanked everyone for attending and making the event successful.
The said training is part of the Project NexCities which was recognized as Newton Prize Winner for 2019. This project was initially established by the University of Surrey in the UK and DLSU when their Newton Funded researchers came up with an innovative solution based on rigorous research to effectively convert wastewater into nutrient-rich fertilizer. It was recognized as the Newton Prize Winner for 2019 because of its potential to improve local economies by creating jobs, enhancing agricultural practices, increasing food security, and improving sanitation and the provision of clean water, among others.
The team has been working on testing the research outcomes on the ground and establishing a pilot-scale production plant at DLSAU Salikneta Farm. Sharing of the technology and experience in fertilizer recovery as well as fertilizer application stages with end-users is the next step for the team through stakeholder engagement and a participatory approach. The training was supposed to be done through a learning visit to Salikneta farm to demonstrate the actual application of this new fertilizer technology called struvite but was later on re-designed to be held online due to COVID-19 restrictions.