The 16th edition of the Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival is slated for November 15 to 19 this year in Bacolod City, alongside the 1st Terra Madre Visayas.
Both festivals will be held on the same dates and at the same venues, which will be at the Provincial Capitol grounds, North Capitol Road, Negros Residences, and the Food Terminal Market of Occidental Negros (FTMON).
Since the maiden festival in 2006, the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental have hosted this annual gathering, the longest-running organic festival in the Philippines and in Asia.
Leading this year’s activities are Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson of Negros Occidental and Governor Manuel Sagarbarria of Negros Oriental.
Gov. Sagarbarria has pledged his support to rekindle the partnership between Occidental and Oriental Negros, with the shared aspiration of making Negros an organic island, according to Dina Genzola, officer-in-charge of the Office of the Negros Occidental Provincial Agriculturist.
This year’s theme, “Regeneration for Future Generations,” will highlight the importance of eco-friendly farming practices, emphasizing the concept of sustainable regenerative farming, Genzola said.
The Organic Fair and Exhibit, a standout feature of the festival, will showcase the best of organic offerings, as visitors feast on an array of farm produce, products, and merchandise, Genzola added.
Aside from the fair, the festival will host cook fests, caravans, cultural performances, talent nights, and awards ceremonies.
A comprehensive lineup of seminars, workshops, and conventions will cover diverse topics, including sustainable regenerative farming and fishing, indigenous practices, organic agriculture, water conservation, entrepreneurship, women and youth empowerment, food and beverages, and health and wellness.
Esteemed guests from IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) ASIA, including representatives from Korea and India, are also joining the festival.
“As the spotlight shines on Negros Island, we can expect that this November will be a momentous occasion for sustainable farming, culture, and biodiversity,” Genzola emphasized.
The Province of Negros Occidental has long been celebrated as the “Organic Agriculture Capital of the Philippines.”
Its rich history is deeply intertwined with agriculture, particularly sugar production, dating back to the Spanish colonial period.
However, the sugar industry faced challenges in the 1980s, leading to a shift towards sustainable farming practices.
Negros Island’s commitment to organic farming led to the signing of memorandum of agreement between Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental in 2005. This partnership aimed to establish the island as the “Organic Food Bowl of Asia,” a mission formalized through the founding of NISARD (Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development) in the same year.
The inaugural Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival took place in 2006, followed by the formation of ONOPRA (Organik na Negros! Organic Producers and Retailers Association) a year later.
The festival was put on hold in 2020 and 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic but made a triumphant return in 2022.
The Provincial Government of Negros Occicental has always prioritized sustainable agriculture in order to achieve food security.
This is evident in the Provincial Development Agenda of Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson called ABANSE Negrense, where “A” stands for “Agricultural Competitiveness and Food Security.”
This year’s Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival will take place in tandem with Terra Madre Visayas.
The first-ever Terra Madre Visayas event is a partnership among the Slow Food Community of Negros, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Slow Food International, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Department of Tourism, and the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental.
The event aims to unite food communities, academe, youth delegates, and stakeholders to promote small-scale, traditional, and sustainable food production, according to Reena Gamboa, president of Slow Food Community of Negros Island.
Delegates from various Slow Food communities across the Visayas are slated to participate, alongside representatives from Slow Food International in Italy.
The central theme, “Visayas: Food and Culture Biodiversity,” underscores the festival’s commitment to eco-friendly farming practices and collectively envisions the future of our food systems and planet.
“The Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival and Terra Madre Visayas will serve as catalysts for change, uniting individuals and communities in the pursuit of a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future, ensuring a legacy of regeneration for generations to come,” Slow Food International Councilor for Southeast Asia Ramon “Chinchin” Uy Jr. said.*