by: Gelen Turano
Farmers of Rosario, Batangas experience the luxury of fresh air and clean environment which most urban settlers rarely enjoy. But even though they are grateful for this, they still think that life is not that beautiful for them – the lack of money makes living in this slice of paradise a bit difficult.
In Barangay Macalamcam B, farmers rely only on citrus, but mono cropping gives them very limited harvest at very long intervals. The five-year waiting period between harvests leave farmers without income.
Bienvenido dela Vega, 56, was raised by his parents through farming and now that he has his own family, he sustains their needs also through the same line of work. From his earnings of mono cropping citrus and few vegetables like okra and squash, he and his wife are able to provide for their three children’s necessities. Yet his income from farming cannot pay for their college education.
Fortunato Ramos, 60, struggled to raise his eight children by growing citrus. With his wife’s part time job as laundry woman, their combined income cannot suffice all their needs. Only three of his children were able to finish their high school. Now that all his children have their own families. Mang Fortunato and his wife are left in their home in Macalamcam B in Rosario, Batangas still growing citrus not only to have something to eat but also to be able give something to their grandchildren.
Initiative that changed their lives
In 2010, Mang Bienvenido and Fortunato were introduced to the Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) project on citrus-based farming system by the Department of Agriculture Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (DA-STIARC). Their area was selected due to the “suitability of the agro-climatic conditions and its market potential.”
Mang Bienvenido and Fortunato are only two of the 20 farmer-cooperators from Rosario, Batangas who were given pummelo seeds, various vegetable seeds like squash, eggplant and okra, and five native hens and a rooster to rear. They own at least 2,500 square meters of land; have a tiller, a draft animal, and an accessible farming area; and are members of a farmer organization or association. All of these were DA-STIARC requirements in the selection of farmer-cooperators.
The CPAR project aims to increase farm productivity and the income of farmers through management technologies introduced by DA-STIARC. One technique taught to the farmers is the prevention of “greening” disease caused by some kind of virus in the plant. The technique consists of using virus-free planting materials, strict implementation of quarantine regulations and proper management of foundation and shoot groves as source of virus-free bud woods for the production of clean and true to type budlings.
DA-STIARC evaluators and the Municipal Agriculturist monitor the farming area of each farmer-cooperator every four months. Inputs given need to be paid in cash any time farmer-cooperators are able to pay. The returned capital will then be used by the DA-STIARC for the same opportunity.
After the first cropping season in 2015, there will be a Farmers’ Field Day as the end of the monitoring and evaluation processes of the farming area. From here DA-STIARC will focus on another set of farmer-cooperators.
Better future because of CPAR
Today, Mang Bienvenido is able to gain extra income from his vegetables. Likewise Mang Fortunato can now give something to his grandchildren.
“Tinuturuan nila ako at ang aking pamilya na maging masipag, imbes na tumunganga ay mayroon kaming mapagkakaabalahan hanggang sa aming pagtanda (They teach us to be hardworking, instead of doing nothing, we have something to put our time with until we grow old)” said Mang Bienvenido.
“Hindi kami dumedepende ng aking asawa sa aking mga anak na may kanya-kanya na ring pamilya. Kaya naman sa aming pagtatanim, natutulungan na namin ang aming sarili pati na ang mga bata (We don’t depend to our children who already have their family. That’s why through farming, we are able to help ourselves and my children)” said Mang Fortunato.
Indeed with CPAR’s farming system, patience and hardwork, farmer-cooperators like Mang Bienvenido and Fortunato benefit and gain extra income which improves their lives in general.