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Wednesday, 31 January 2024

Vegetable farming provides alternative income to coconut farmers in Surigao Sur town

By Nida Grace P. Barcena

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur –  Coconut farmers belonging to Sibahay Coconut Farmers Organization (SCFO) in Barangay Sibahay, Lanuza, Surigao del Sur, recently harvested vegetables from its farm.

The produce serves as their alternative source of income.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Caraga initially encouraged the members to expand their five-year dedication to coconut farming and to come up with an additional income source through intercropping, such as vegetable farming, so the members could have an alternative livelihood while waiting for coconut production.

With the initial 20 members that formed the group, the coconut farmers of Sibahay progressively ventured and established a vegetable technology demonstration farm with the aid of the Department of Agriculture – High-Value Crops Development Program (DA-HVCDP) in the region.

The members of the Sibahay Coconut Farmers Organization transformed the coconut farms into greener pastures by also planting vegetables in the areas. Vegetable farming served as another income source of the coconut farmers. Photo courtesy of DA-13.

When this proposal was turned over to them by the Municipal Agriculture Office, the members of the organization were excited and worked together to achieve the transformation of a bare plot into an eye-catching garden.

DA-HVCDP provided them with different interventions, such as seeds, fertilizers, and necessary resources for the vegetable garden to flourish. They had the opportunity to benefit from several intervention programs from the government, such as the Balik Probinsya and the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA).

Lately, the organization received vegetable seeds composed of several varieties from the PCA, and the members were trained to use organic fertilizer and implement good agricultural practices (GAP).

With the support of DA and its attached agencies, the vegetable farm became a reflection of development for the group, which paved the way to attract other agriculture players, visitors, and even the locality.

Eduardo Luspo, chairperson of SCFO, shared that people from the neighboring barangays also visit the farm to directly buy their produce. They no longer have to go to the market, and it’s a good source of food and livelihood for everyone.

“Our members during the first harvest earned P50,000 worth of vegetables. The following harvest, they were able to sustain its production with a minimum of P35,000. Our income from this vegetable farm continues to grow and improve on top of the earnings from the coconut,” Luspo said.

This vast land used to be the niche of coconut trees only that left most of its lowland areas unproductive. Today, these areas are now planted with different vegetables giving the coconut farmers another opportunity to earn. Photo courtesy of DA-13.

He also disclosed the recent network expansion facilitated by the Municipal Agriculture Office of the town, as it forged a partnership with the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, in which the SCFO will supply vegetables to the correctional facility of the town, giving the organization the opportunity to participate in the local vegetable stalls in the public market of Cantilan.

When asked whether engaging in vegetable production was worth it, Luspo smiled and answered, “It was worth it, especially when technical assistance and farm inputs were fully supported by the government.  With that, we are motivated to plant and look for opportunities to engage more in agribusiness as an additional income.”

Today, SCFO has a total of 51 coconut farmers who are tirelessly supporting the expansion of the organization.  It is now a cooperative registered with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). It has also established an affiliation with the Department of Labor and Employment for the protection of its growing members. (NGPB/PIA-Surigao del Sur, with a report from DA-13)