Life of farm families in Caraga, the second poorest region in the country, is becoming much better, thanks to a four-year program funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and implemented by Winrock International.
This is the Philippine Cold Chain Project which was started in September 2013 in the two Agusan provinces, two Surigaos and Dinagat Island. Nearly 30% of the population in Caraga lives below the subsistence threshold, most of them coming from the indigenous communities, upland settlers, landless farmers and small fisherfolk.
In the last two years of the project’s implementation, life has become much better for the farm families, according to Jim Orprecio, deputy chief of party.
A three-pronged approach is being implemented to increase farm productivity and income. Where it is appropriate, vegetable and fruit production is being pursued. The project has partnered with East-West Seed Company to provide the technical expertise and improved vegetable seeds for the farmers to grow.
Jim has observed that previous to the project, vegetables had to be imported from neighboring provinces like Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental or Davao. Today, many of the residents are producing vegetables not only for their own consumption but also for sale. A Sunday market is now operational around the church where the vegetable growers sell their harvests. The farmers now produce hybrid varieties of tomato, eggplant, ampalaya and other favorites. The beauty about vegetables is that it takes only a short time before they are ready for harvest. And there are varieties that can be grown year-round.
PIGGERY – Jim is very upbeat about what the project has done in swine raising in cooperation with Pilmico, a leading livestock feed manufacturer. Pilmico is not only the source of balanced feeds, it also provides the guidance to help the farmers raise their farm animals.
Swine raising is being implemented in 260 barangays, organizing the raisers in groups so they can more conveniently avail themselves of training, inputs and credit from microfinance.
From the start, the strategy was to introduce improved breeds that will grow faster than the pigs traditionally raised in the area. This means the introduction of selected breeders which are grown in multiplier farms numbering 120 with a total of 450 superior gilts. These multiplier farms produce the piglets that are fattened by the families.
Beginners may start with three fatteners. As they gain experience and capital from their sales, they can increase their fatteners to six, then to 9. Why increments of threes? Because the housing is modular. New pens could be added to the old one that will accommodate three weanlings.
The multiplier farms can make good income. Usually, one sow will produce 18 piglets in one year. The ongoing price for piglets in Caraga is P2,500 for the first 10 kilos. Additional kilos above that, the price is P200 per kilo.
To complement the superior gilts, the project has also introduced 15 high quality boars as source of semen for artificial insemination. More than 200 a.i. technicians have been trained, according to Jim.
The result of the swine upgrading? In the past, Jim said, the traders would only pay P80 per kilo to the backyard raisers. Today, the price has leveled to the price of commercially grown hogs at P110 per kilo liveweight .
FISHERFOLK – The fisherfolks are also being given new money-making opportunities. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is providing P20,000 per beneficiary to put up a fishcage for raising bangus or tilapia. In a growing period of four months, the fish farmer can harvest 4 to 5 tons of fish, according to Jim. The expenses are paid after harvest.