AT LEAST 80 more villages in Leyte province will be covered by the compact farming program of the Provincial Government that aims to alleviate extreme poverty in rural communities.

These villages are in addition to the 172 villages that have been implementing the program, which was officially dubbed as More Income in the Countryside (MIC) compact farming for high-value vegetables and fruit crops.

“We are using this economic development as primary tool in fixing problems on poverty, (and) criminality including insurgency,” said Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla on Tuesday, April 10.

Since the program’s launch, enrolled villages in the province have experienced dramatic economic development from major improvements of infrastructure and increase in food production.

The most successful is Villaconzoilo, a village seven kilometers away from the town center of Jaro, Leyte. Aside from being the most impoverished area in the province in the past, the village was also affected by insurgency.

From producing high-value vegetables with a start-up capital of P1,800 from members’ contributions, the village evolved into a top farm-tourism destination in the province.

The organization managed to raise P20 million in assets with more than P4 million cash in the bank, and cultivates a 20-hectare farmland.

The farm produces lettuce, broccoli, carrots, cauliflowers, radish, asparagus, onions and strawberries, supplying groceries and hotels in the province.

The farm is also identified by the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) as learning site and school for practical and organic agriculture.

The success of Villaconzoilo resulted in the reduction of poverty incidence, early pregnancy, and school dropout rates, Petilla said.

The governor envisioned that through this program, poverty incidence in the province will be reduced to 15 percent within five years from 23.6 percent in 2016.

Under its annual investment plan, the Provincial Government allotted P3.9 billion for agriculture development, representing 51 percent of the P7.6 billion total budget this year. (PNA)