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Friday, April 24, 2020

A sweet start for Manobo potato farmers

By Rhea Abao

The sweet potato (Ipomea batatas) or locally named as “kamote,” once-touted "a poor man's crop," is now regarded as a "cash crop" for a Manobo tribe in Carmen, Surigao del Sur.

Despite the limitations that each person could make brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Mag-uumang Manobo sa Hinapoyan Association (MAMASAHI) turned the adversity into their advantage as they ventured to sweet potato farming.

The fifty-member association is a recipient of the Department of Agriculture – Caraga's Special Area for Agriculture Development (SAAD) Program. Last August 2019, they received 120,000 sweet potato cuttings which they planted in a three-hectare area.

The intervention also includes organic fertilizers, farm tools, carabao, and hand tractor with a total worth of 436,250. They underwent training on sweet potato production to ensure their readiness in managing the project.

Venancio P. Meniano, Chairman of MAMASAHI admits that the majority of the villagers are seasonal laborers, with no definite daily income to support the basic needs of their family.

"The support of the DA-Caraga SAAD Program teaches us to use the resources that we have here in our village. Starting to build a production area isn't difficult for us because we have good soil that can provide us a nutritive crop," said Meniano.

Thus, the cooperation of each member made the idle land to a productive sweet potato garden and they even manage to expand their area. 

Currently, the association has 12 hectares planted in which the three-hectare is the mother garden.

After three months of waiting, MAMASAHI began to reap their first fruits. Twice a month they are harvesting an average of 400-500 kilograms and sold at the local market at 20 - 25 per kilo. The proceeds of the group's income are set aside as their savings.

In this trying time where food is essential, the association is one of the LGU's partner producer that supplies sweet potato to the locals.

"We don't know when will this crisis ends, but we are grateful that this project will give us an additional source of income at the same time provide food for our family and our community," Chairman Meniano added.

SAAD Program aims to develop livelihood activities which the beneficiaries themselves can effectively manage, augment their incomes and provide employment in the community.

"We are starting to empower this tribe through the DA-SAAD Program interventions. We are on track to develop the entrepreneurial capabilities of the beneficiaries and improve their knowledge and appreciation that Agriculture is not just farming but also an enterprise," said Dailinda Mollanida, DA-Caraga SAAD Program Deputy Focal Person.

The sweet potato production is timely as the Plant, Plant, Plant Program was launched by Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar which sought to boost the food sufficiency level of the agriculture commodities that are essential in the country's food security, Mollanida added.

SAAD is a special program initiated and funded by the DA. The program was launched last year to address poverty particularly in rural areas that are often inaccessible, lacking infrastructure, and where the poorest of the poor reside. (DA13-RAFIS/PIA-Surigao del Sur)