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Thursday, 18 January 2024

Farmers embrace modern farming technologies thanks to DA’s modernization program

By Jennifer P. Gaitano

Farmers in the Caraga region are leaving traditional farming methods behind and have positively embraced technologies and interventions that make farming easier and convenient and have increased their yield and income.

Department of Agriculture regional executive director Ricardo Oñate, Jr. made this statement as he explained the agriculture department’s Rice Farm Modernization and Mechanization Program (RFMM) which has benefited thousands of farmers nationwide. 

“Modernization has changed and shaped the way farmers perceive time, transforming labor-intensive farm activities into a fast-paced, efficient process. Thanks to the experts who envisioned efficiency and productivity in farming,” said Oñate.

Kangyat Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative (KFMPC) is one of the farmer-cooperatives that have benefited from DA’s modernization and mechanization program. This cooperative is based in Agusan del Sur, comprising integrated farmers from the municipalities of La Paz, San Luis, and Talacogon in Agusan del Sur.

Julimar Curato, the current chairperson of KFMPC, stated that the organization consists of eight Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered farmers’ associations. In December 1993, a year after its establishment, it reformed into a full-fledged cooperative with an initial 275 members.

“The goal of the group is to assist rice and corn farmers and other integrated crop farmers in improving their lives through collective action, enabling small farms to achieve what larger farms can do,” Curato said.

One collective action the group has been able to enjoy since its establishment is farm mechanization and modernization through agricultural machinery and equipment interventions. The group's impressive farm performance and members’ active participation have led them to be included in the DA-Caraga Corn Program’s roster of beneficiaries.

From 2017 up to the present, the group has received a total of P9,426,740 worth of agricultural machinery and equipment. 

“Before 2017, the group members were using manual farming methods, which was a tough and challenging time for a surviving cooperative like us. From land preparation, farm input expenses, labor, and the harvest season, it would take time, effort, and money just to bring these products to the market,” Curato said.

Now, Kangyat members are enjoying the fast-paced nature of their farming life. 

“Today, one hectare of land can be plowed with a tractor in just one hour, and during harvesting, the farmer's products can be collected easily. Previously, it would take us 2-3 days,” he added.

Currently, the cooperative focuses on the production of yellow corn, delivering an estimated 18 tons of yellow corn, or the equivalent of two ten-wheeler trucks, each cropping season. DA-Caraga has also provided the cooperative with working capital that the group used to purchase products from members or non-members who sell directly to the cooperative. 

In every group, obstacles arise that challenge its standing principles; Kangyat was never an exception to this. In fact, challenges have become a staple of the cooperative’s success.

“As long as we have a strong foundation for what we stand for and we know our mission is to help our fellow farmers, all of these challenges mean nothing. As long as we encourage our fellow farmers to never give up on agriculture,” said Curato.

Kangyat FMPC believes that private-public partnerships are essential in agriculture to meet global challenges in food security. Thus, breaking away from tradition is one of the solutions to achieving this. 

With this development, more farmer-cooperatives and associations are expected to grow and expand this year and produce more agricultural products on the market.

The Rice Farm Modernization and Mechanization Program has a two-fold research for development (R4D) target. The program develops mechanization technologies for rice production and post-production operations, from land preparation, crop establishment, harvesting and threshing, drying, and milling. (JPG, PIA-Caraga with a report from DA-Caraga)