Saturday July 21, 2018

Domoguen: 'There is agriculture and fisheries in Cordillera highlands'

“Sometimes when you´re in a dark place, you think you´ve been buried; but actually, you’ve been planted.” -

UNKNOWN to many, Dr. Joseph JC Madamba, may he rest in peace, was a pillar of agricultural and rural development in the country, who silently rooted for the realization of an Autonomous Region for the Cordillera (ARC).

Since he is not from the Cordillera, he kept this sentiment to himself but indirectly articulated it in his work while he was with us, as deputy team leader of a Consultancy Consortium that served the CHARM Project then.

Prior to his assignment with the Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (June 1997 to June 2005), Dr. Madamba served as Director General of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), one of the oldest among 21 regional centers of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).

He is known at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños as the founding director of the Philippine Council for Agricultural and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), and as an administrator, a teacher in animal husbandry, particularly beef cattle course in the 1950s-60s, and researcher.

Madamba was quite elderly during his stint with the CHARM Project but very much active in many ways, particularly in traveling into the interior of the Cordillera highlands, doing research, writing and holding discussions with peers and farmers.

Even if he knew that I could hardly cope with his intellect and that my knowledge and expertise is way beyond comprehension in meaning, use, and relevance to his work with the CHARM Project, he always sought my presence in many, if not most of his activities.

He held office at the old Highland Agricultural Development Project (HADP) building. The HADP was the predecessor of the CHARM Project.

Dr. Madamba had his office renovated to accommodate me and my unit, the regional agricultural division (RAFID). In the conference room of our shared office, he delighted in introducing me to his peers, during meetings, as “my good friend” and then watching me blush and bow. In these meetings, I sat near him like a sounding post even if I hardly understood what he was saying, as he articulated his ideas about R&D matters for the Cordillera.

I recall how he once told me during a trip to Mount Data after we visited several farm-to-market roads (FMR) and potato storage houses built by the HADP in Atok, Buguias, and Mankayan, all in Benguet. “There is agriculture and fisheries in the Cordillera. The wisdom of this quest for autonomy in this region is for our policy makers and many of us to realize how agriculture in this region serves the nation in ways we have not yet known and appreciated,” he said, as we stood on top of a hill watching the full breadth of the plateau around us.

For too long, the focus of agriculture, fisheries and rural development in this country has always been meant for the lowland plains and coastal areas. Throughout the years, government evolved development policies and structures that viewed the highlands as "the last frontier of development" which is rather vague until now, he added.

Later, in succeeding discussions with fellow researchers he was articulating the pursuit of agricultural development in CAR in terms of agro-ecological zones. I soon learned about agro-ecological zones (AEZs) when the project was about to terminate as “geographical areas exhibiting similar climatic conditions that determine their ability to support rained agriculture. At a regional scale, AEZs are influenced by latitude, elevation, and temperature, as well as seasonality, and rainfall amounts and distribution during the growing season.”

Pursuant to the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), he promoted agricultural planning with DA-CAR in terms of AEZs in evolving the region’s Strategic Agricultural and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZ). He wanted agriculture development in the Cordillera linked and become more relevant, and responsive to the nation’s agricultural and rural development in Northern Luzon, and other economic sectors.

In several discussions, he also articulated the management of the forest and wild life, as if the people are active and responsible keepers and stewards of nature. He integrated this goal as part of our goals in commerce, education, aesthetics, need for survival, and politics, in this only expansive mountainous region of Luzon and the nation.

On specific technologies, he sought, among others, the development and promotion of appropriate sloping agricultural land technologies using fruit trees and industrial crops like bananas, coffee, citrus, mangoes, cacao, rubber, and commercial timber as both main or hedgerow crop.

When Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol was talking about introducing cacao, rubber, coffee and timber tree production as a profitable livelihood option for our farmers during his visit to Kalinga earlier this year, I can see more clearly Dr. Madamba’s vision coming into play after more than two decades.

When he talked about agricultural and rural development in the Cordillera becoming responsive to national development pursuits and concerns, he also talked about the need to strengthen the region’s capabilities and capacities to undertake its responsibilities in terms of budget and manpower resources.

The idea of an Autonomous Region in the Cordillera becoming a reality towards a progressive nation, peaceful and just coexistence in this part of the globe can only be realized as a joint legacy of the past and the current generation of Filipinos to the present and future generations.