Kabalikat sa kabuhayan: Empowering the farmers

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Sunday, May 20, 2012


ON May 11, 2012, 97 small farmers from Tigatto in Buhangin, Davao City completed a three-month training on new farming technology that will boost their productivity, sustainability and income.

They comprised the third batch of farmer-beneficiaries who have undergone training on new farming method facilitated by SM Foundation's Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan, Harbest Agribusiness, Corp., the Department of Agriculture and the City Government.

The livelihood project was launched in Davao City three years ago, at the back of SM City Davao in Ecoland, Matina.

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The new graduates, according to Arsenio Barcelona, president of Harbest Agribusiness, are now equipped with new, proper and tested agricultural technologies for short-term, high-value commercial crops production.

Through the project, Harbest Agribusiness provides the training and assist the farmers in market development. The season-long training included land preparation to sowing then harvesting.

"What they have learned from the three-month training will enhance their productivity, simplify farm management with higher yield," Barcelona, who graced the so-called Harvest Festival of the third batch of trainees.

He said they provided a step by step training where farmers are taught the proper way of growing vegetables that could produce not only more yield but quality crops.

He said the farmers were trained to grow the "pinakbet and chopseuy" varieties of vegetables namely squash, tomato, eggplant, onion, ampalaya, pechay, lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, watermelon, etc.

The farmers are also taught commercial planting, which includes giving them knowledge on management and marketing.

Barcelona said 80 percent of the fertilizers they use in the training are organic even as he said that they will also teach farmers the controlled use of pesticides.

"They are also trained how to harvest the crops," he said.

The training also provided the farmers knowledge on multi-crop farming and in identifying high-value crops that can adapt to identified farm areas where they can be planted.

"They are trained on Taiwanese technology of farming. It's a multi-crop system of farming. Kaya they are trained to plant variety of vegetables and high-value commercial crops," Barcelona said.

"In this farm lot, (referring to the 6,000 square-meter demo farm), the third batch of farmers planted at least 20 kinds of crops. The purpose is that if the supply of eggplant in the market is abundant making the price cheaper, they can easily shift to other crops," he said.

Cristy Angeles, SM Foundation vice president for livelihood, said the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan was launched five years ago as a joint undertaking of private and government agencies.

"The project aims to help marginal farmers improve and increases their productivity," she said.

Through the program, she farmer-beneficiaries undergo lectures and hands-on training using the concept of the farmers' field school, which is a group-based learning process that incorporates concepts and methods from agro- ecology, experiential education and community development.

"We have partnered with Harbest Agribusiness which provides the technology. The program was launched in Bacolod in 1997," Angeles said, adding the program has proven beneficial to farmers.

"They can adapt the program even in their backyard. The main purspose really is to improve their productivity and to sustain it," Angeles said.

For the first batch of beneficiaries, which were trained in 2009, the SM Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers Training” in Davao City, SM City allocated 5,000 square meters of land area in its property at the back of the mall to train residents in nearby areas on technologies that will improve their vegetable farming.

Some 100 farmers comprised the first batch, followed by 100 more farmers whi were trained in the second batch of training in Marilog.

"We have a total of at least 300 farmers who were already trained through the project. If we have 30 percent of them practicing the farming technology introduced to them, then we can say we have been successful," Angeles said.

But according to Barcelona, 40 percent of the first batch of trainees in Davao City are already into commercial vegetable farming and are now regular supplier to vegetable distributors in the city.

"Our objective really is to help these farmers bring these produce to the market in that way their quality of living would also improve," he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 21, 2012.

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