(PAGASA 24-HOUR PUBLIC WEATHER FORECAST as of Monday, 19 April 2021) At 3:00 AM today, the center of the eye of Typhoon "BISING" {SURIGAE} was located based on all available data at 250 km East of Virac, Catanduanes (14.0°N, 126.5°E) with maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h near the center and gustiness of up to 240 km/h. It is moving North Northwestward at 10 km/h. Caraga Region will experience cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorm due to TY Bising. Possible flash floods or landslides during moderate to heavy rains. Light to moderate winds from Northwest to Southwest will prevail over the region with slight to moderate seas/ (0.6 to 2.5 meters).

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Farming unites former foes

By Vanessa P. Sanchez

A quest for change and the pursuit of a better and peaceful life brought together two former opposing forces.

This is how the Taguibo Coconut and Cacao Growers Association, Inc. (TCCGA) based in Butuan City came to be. With the common ground of being engaged in coconut and cacao growing, the association, aside from farmers, is composed of retired soldiers and rebel returnees who have turned to farming to alleviate their way of living.

The association was originally organized in the year 1987 as Taguibo Small Coconut Farmers Organization through the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) with coconut growers as members. However, the unstable market price of coconut which even went as low as P2.50 per kilogram of whole nut discouraged the farmers. It was further aggravated because of their experiences of difficulty as small farmers in accessing loans because of stringent requirements. Feeling that there was not enough intervention, the members soon lost interest and the association became inactive.

It was in 2014 when the Kaanib Enterprise Development Project (KEDP) of the PCA was implemented that the organization was reactivated. The project promotes coconut-based enterprise and has four components including the Coconut-Cacao Enterprise Development Project. Cacao was then gaining much interest because of its high demand in the market. This renewed the hope of the farmers and they availed of the said project.  It was at this time that the group was renamed Taguibo Coconut and Cacao Growers Association (TCCGA) and had the election of their new set of officers.

Since the intervention under the KEDP was only planting materials and fertilizers, the TCCGA with the leadership of their elected President Restituto P. Asube, sought assistance from various government agencies.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Caraga through the High-Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) was among the first to respond to help the association increase their production and improve their product quality. The association was provided with farm tools and equipment such as knapsack sprayers, plastic drums, HDE pipes, as well as two fermentation facilities, and a multi-commodity solar tunnel dryer for post-harvest activities. They were also given additional planting materials for their farm expansion. They also underwent training to enhance their knowledge and skills in cacao production and processing.

At present, the TCCGA now has 120 members and 72 of these are active cacao growers. They have a total of 131.7-hectare land area clustered in the barangays of Taguibo, Cabcabon, Sumilihon, Antongalon, Camayahan, Anticala, and Pianing, all of Butuan City. These are planted with 70,747 cacao trees of which 70% are already productive.

Currently, they have an average monthly production of 2,500 kilograms of beans during peak season which falls on the months of August-November. During the lean months, from January to June, they have an average production of 600 kilograms.

Initially, the members only sold dried beans. Later on, however, some of the members started to venture into processing. “We realized that if we do value-adding into our products, we could earn more. For example, a kilo of dried beans would sell for P120.00 per kilo only while if you process it into tablea, it would sell for P600.00 per kilo, so there is a big difference,” Asube shared.

For now, there are 11 members who are into tablea making. They are currently doing the processing individually and selling their products to local cafes, members’ stores, malls, and also at the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Negosyo Centers. The rest are still selling dried beans.

To boost their processing activities, Asube said that the association applied for a cacao processing project under the Shared Service Facilities Project under the DTI. He added that when the project is implemented, they will be consolidating their produce and about 75% of their cacao beans will already be processed by the association.

Asube said that they are overwhelmed by the support given by the government to help small farmers like them to boost their farming endeavors. “Farmer leaders are even given a chance now to participate in drafting plans and activities for the year which shows that our views are given importance. This encourages us to strive harder and work hand in hand with the government,” he said.

For now, the group has several plans to further improve their cacao farming and processing such as establishing a cacao clonal garden, creating a new processed product, and establishing a “pasalubong” center, among others. This way, they aspire to establish a niche in the market and be among the drivers of the agriculture industry in the region. (DA13-RAFIS/PIA Agusan del Norte) 

DA strengthens agri extension services through PAFES

By Aurelius P. Arais

BUTUAN CITY, Mar. 2 -- The Provincial Agriculture Office of Agusan del Norte nodded in support to the implementation of the Provincial-led Agriculture and Fishery Extension System (PAFES) of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“This is a welcome move for us since we are dealing directly with the farmers and it would hasten the delivery of services to them,” Alvin Aclan, Agusan del Norte Provincial Agriculturist said.

PAFES is one of the key strategies and initiatives to grow in agriculture in 2021 and beyond under the ONE-DA framework of Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar. This is in pursuant with DA’s agricultural modernization and agro-industrialization thrusts through mainstreaming the implementation of programs in the provinces. 

Through PAFES, the local government unit (LGU) will be at the forefront in delivering extension services to the farmers such as the conduct of technology training, provision of farm machinery, production, and infrastructure support, downstream researches, and marketing.

Rebecca Reyes Atega, Regional Technical Director for Operations, disclosed that as of now the preparation for the implementation of PAFES is on its way prior to its full implementation set in 2022. 

“As jumpstart of the implementation, Agusan del Norte has been chosen as the pilot province,” she said. 

In setting the direction, the agricultural program from the national, regional to local levels will be harmonized through the Collaborative Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Program (CAFEP) integrated into the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP).

“This is to ensure dynamic linkages among provincial, municipal or city LGU, DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, DA regional offices, and other bureaus including State Universities and Colleges, and the private sector,” Atega said. 

As preparation, Aclan revealed that they are in the process of strengthening the capacity of the Provincial Agriculture Office. 

“I already proposed to our provincial leaders to fill in the vacant positions and make way for the establishment of our engineering section for us to be able to respond to the need of our farming constituents,” he said.  

PAFES is an initiative of the DA in anticipation of the full implementation of the Mandanas Ruling which significantly boosts the financial capabilities of LGUs to implement agricultural programs and projects. 

The 2018 Supreme Court ruling, on the petitions of Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and former Bataan Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr., stated that the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) must come from two-fifths of the collections of all national taxes including collections from import duties and other levies, on top of the BIR tax revenue. (DA-Caraga/PIA Agusan del Norte)