Government officials, legislators and policymakers should read “Agribusiness and Rural Progress: Actions for Poverty Reduction” by Dr. Rolando T. Dy of the University of Asia and the Pacific. It was released only recently.
After reading it, the leaders hopefully would come to realize how much they have neglected the coconut industry. Coconut has long been a dollar earner for the country, yet the government has not given the support that the industry deserves.
Take these figures. Coconut occupies some 3.5 million hectares of the country’s farms and some 3 million farmers and workers are dependent on this crop. Sadly, the huge number of coconut farmers is among the poorest of the poor.
Why? One reason is a scandalously low average yield of 40 nuts per tree. With about 150 trees per hectare, the income from a two-hectare coconut farm will not be able to buy even only the food needs of an average family.
But coconut farms can be a viable source of income for the rural people if only the government could pour some of its resources to increase the income from coconut farms. There are a number of ways to do that. One possibility is to plant high-value intercrops. These could be fruit trees like coffee, cacao, lanzones and others. Vegetables can also be produced under coconut trees if there is ample penetration of sunlight. The beauty about vegetables is that they can be harvested within a short time from planting.
The coconut farmers can also raise animals under the coconut trees. Cattle, sheep and others can be pastured in the coconut plantation. Or forage crops can be grown between the coconut trees and then harvested to be supplied to the livestock in confinement.
To achieve the goal of increasing the coconut farmers’ income, the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform should conduct a continuing training for the farmers on crop and animal diversification. The agencies should allot a big portion of their budgets to serious extension activities to serve the needs of the farmers.
Of course the discourse on the ailing coconut industry is just one of the many topics of interest in Dr. Dy’s new book. The book contains 86 articles that discuss the global and ASEAN fronts, local and regional perspectives, rural development, governance and commodity focus.
According to Dr. Dy, the poverty incidence in the Philippines at 21.6 percent is the highest among ASEAN countries. Most of the poor are in the rural areas where farming and fishing are the main source of income. High rural poverty is caused by unproductive traditional agriculture and fisheries which is an offshoot of a lack of investments, weak institutions, poor governance and unfavorable policies.
You will read a lot more of the insights of Dr. Dy in the book. The book is not available in bookstores. We can tell you how to order one by texting us at 0995-848-9155 or 0947-409-700. Proceeds of the book will be used for a scholarship program In Davao where Dr. Dy comes from