The Isaias Sta. Rosa Alternative Farmers’ School (ISRAFS) in Legazpi, Albay is the first of its kind in the Bicol Region. It aims to develop farmer technicians based on their actual economic, socio-political and environmental conditions. They are expected to spearhead in increasing the agricultural production of farmers’ organizations and in managing cooperatives.
It uses a combination of teaching methods which Dr. Rose Anne Sambo, its School Director refers to as “scientific and appropriate”.
“The school advocates sustainable agriculture that is not dependent on chemical-based inputs. It is for organic and natural way of farming”, Dr. Sambo explains.
ISRAFS first opened its doors to 16 farmers on June 2017. They had an intensive three (3) months of training with resource persons coming from educational institutions such as University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), Sorsogon State College (SSC), Bicol University (BU) and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP); non-government organizations’ (NGOs) such as Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Pagsasaka (MASIPAG) or Farmers and Scientists for the Development of Agriculture; and government including the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Trainees are expected to practice what they learn in demonstration farms. They also have monthly learning visits to various farms in nearby places and in government agencies involved in agriculture.
“We based our curriculum on the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Agriculture curriculum of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED)”. Dr. Sambo said. “Our trainees come from the People’s Organizations (POs) based in the six provinces of Bicol. We have no age requirement. Our only requirement is that the trainee should be willing and interested to undergo our program and be part of this alternative school,” she further explained.
POs from Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate provinces sponsor the modest registration fee. In return, their trainees will get a Basic Technician’s Kit and avail of board and lodging within the school compound.
The insights and learnings of the trainees are systematically incorporated in the school curriculum. In fact, the curriculum has also been influenced by the previous trainings conducted by the POs. “Mula sa masa at para sa masa,” (From the masses and for the masses) is how Dr. Sambo describes the learning method of the school. She also stressed the legacy of Isaias Sta. Rosa as part of the school philosophy. Sta. Rosa was a peasant organizer and researcher who helped conceptualize this school.
Proud of the Pioneering School
Dr. Sambo finished her Veterinary Medicine course and Master in Animal Science from the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA). She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Animal Science from UPLB.
While there is no monetary reward in her post as School Director Dr. Sambo is proud to be part of this pioneering school for farmers which does not limit sustainable agriculture technologies to a strictly academic milieu and among favored groups. Dr. Sambo credits her strong sense of commitment to farmers’ alternative education and high regard for volunteerism to previous experiences in working with POs and the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) which opposed mining in Rapu Rapu town in Albay province. But her greatest joy is seeing the farmer trainees going back to their communities and becoming teachers themselves. #