BAGUIO

Domoguen: The pursuit of agricultural clustering and consolidation

Mountain Light

THERE are eight paradigms that Agriculture Secretary Dr. William Dar is building on to level up Philippine agriculture as a means to achieve food security with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk.

The eight paradigms are Modernization of agriculture; Industrialization of agriculture; Promotion of exports; Consolidation of small and medium-sized farms; Infrastructure development; Higher budget and investment for Philippine agriculture; Legislative support; and Roadmap development

I mention Dr. Dar's eight paradigms in this article because I want to highlight the third paradigm, "consolidation of small and medium-sized farms."

The third paradigm, to my understanding, is similar to farm-clustering, contiguous farming, block farming, trust farming, contract farming, and corporative farming. These strategies and approaches are meant to "make farming more efficient, where smallholder farmers are organized, where technology is used, where the cost of production is reduced, and farm productivity and incomes are increased."

Talking about clustering, I would say that the rice terraces farming of yore is an excellent example.

In every village of the Cordillera, our ancestors built their clustered terraces and worked the paddies in a synchronized manner during planting and harvesting.

The clustered terraces also allowed them to work together on pest and disease monitoring and; to build, monitor, and maintain the irrigation system; or to come to the aid of another member of the village who needs vital help and assistance in working the fields, accidents or when under attack by marauding tribal enemies.

Clustering in agriculture is a continuing aspiration and pursuit even now.

Barangay Pongayan, in Kapangan, Benguet is known as the town's main producer of bell pepper. Farmers in the area also produce other highland vegetables like cabbages, chayote, and tomato.

Barangay Chairman Fernando Sasa reported that there are 184 households in the village and every household has a bell pepper farmer. The produce of the farmers is being consolidated and marketed by their cooperative to Jollibee, and the local market.

Along the Mountain Trail, table potato is grown mostly in areas where the Highland Agricultural Development Project (HADP) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) introduced the crop and constructed seed storage structures. In these areas, farmers plant potatoes all at the same time, which is good for those who encourage "economies of scale." It is bad when the market buys the farmer's products way below the cost of production.

Agricultural clustering can take many characteristics by income earned and commodities enterprises, by landholdings, diversification of farm income, and small farms with off-farm income, among others. The objective is to create profit by merging farms, share benefits and burdens, share knowledge, experiences, and make inputs and supplies available and affordable to members.

In agricultural and rural development, clustering and consolidation is a good aspiration and pursuit by farmers and development workers. Its honest pursuit is a source of failures and successes, lessons learned, and good and best practices.

I have noted that clustering and land consolidation is enshrined in the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization (AFMech) Law in mechanizing Philippine agriculture. I read an FB post from a good friend that their experiences in pursuing this goal in Cagayan Valley were a failure. In rural development, "failures" are not that bad. Time and resources are invested in them. They can serve as guideposts for others to learn from. When my good friend argued that clustering or consolidation in agriculture is "wishful thinking" because of their experiences, no matter how concrete he is coming from, he missed the point, and that can be costly.


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