Mini Clustering As A Strategy

Mini Clustering As A Strategy
Mini Clustering As A Strategy
If farmers are organized, the government can provide services that otherwise may not be extended to individual farmers, such as grant of machinery for farm mechanization.

While reading the press statement of Agrilink, particularly where it advocates the clustering of facilities along the value chain as a strategy to achieve agribusiness competitiveness, examples of mini clustering that work came to mind.

Agrilink cited the case of the tuna industry as a very good example of clustering that benefits the different players and stakeholders of the industry. Of course that is an example of big business.

What came to mind are the small cases of clustering that are doable even by small-scale players. First that came to mind was what Dr. Frisco Malabanan explained to us in an interview when hybrid rice was just starting to be popularized. Dr. Malabanan, of course, was the lead man in the rice production program during the presidency of now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Dr. Malabanan motivated the farmers in a barangay in Santo Domingo, Nueva Ecija, to plant hybrid rice as a group or cluster. The advantages? With the cluster, the government provided the farmers with technical assistance. The National Irrigation Administration fixed the irrigation system and even the road network. Later, the group was also provided with a rice dryer for free. As a group, the farmers were also able to market their harvest to buyers at a fairly good price.

SAN MANUEL CORN FARMERS – The other cluster that came to mind was the group of Juanito Rama of San Manuel, Tarlac. What Rama did was to form a small cooperative at first. Then he saw to it that the co-op was profitable through his strict but transparent leadership. Because of his successful operation, more and more farmers joined the cluster so that today 18 other cooperatives in Tarlac have joined his group.
Rama has imposed strict rules that the members have to observe. Anyone who violates the rules is immediately yanked out. But there are very few who dare violate the rules because the members receive a lot of benefits.
The co-op provides financing for production payable with the harvest. Financing is in the form of inputs. If the farmer needs money to buy his inputs, the co-op will lend him the seeds, fertilizers or pesticides needed. As a group, the farmers sell their harvests through the co-op and it is usually at a better price than the one prevailing among traders.

But Rama is strict in seeing to it that the corn sold through the co-op has the right moisture content. Quality is observed so that they can get a good price.
And what is the result of the clustering by Juanito Rama? The co-op has been able to give yearly dividends equivalent to the tune of at least 50% of the share capital of each member. What is also very important is that members are updated on the latest techniques in corn production through seminars and the like. The members are now following the zero-tillage system which is more economical and profitable than the conventional system of plowing the field for planting.

They plant Bt corn on no less than 8,000 hectares in one season and the yield could be 8 to 10 tons per hectare. Juanito Rama has shown that he can produce much more. In fact, a few months back, he was able to harvest 20.6 tons of corn grain at 13.5% moisture content per hectare. The harvesting was witnessed by the regional corn coordinator of the Department of Agriculture.

BACKYARD KANGKONG GROWERS – A few years back, we also witnessed an interesting mini clustering of backyard kangkong growers in Liloan, Cebu.

We were brought to the place by the East-West Seed Company because they wanted us to see a mini cluster that works. In that small village in Liloan, more than a dozen households are producing upland kangkong, some on just a hundred or a few hundred square meters.

The backyard growers are supplying the daily requirements of a stallholder in the Carbon market who happens to be from the place also. Every day (or night because she operates from 10 p..m. to near dawn), the stallholder buys 150 to 200 kilos from her barriomates at P15 to P20 per kilo at the time of our visit. She resells the same at P25 to P30 per kilo to her regular customers.

The villagers are happy because they can make a regular income from their backyard gardens. And that is a case of a mini mini clustering.

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