(The Bohol Chronicle is initiating this series of articles on how to best develop fully the potential of the agricultural sector in Bohol. As we know-most of our rural folks are engaged in some kind of agri-related activity but the growth of agriculture here has been largely overshadowed by the meteoric rise of tourism. Yet, the development of tourism and agriculture need not be mutually exclusive and can even be complimentary to each other.
We are inviting the five candidates for Governor in Bohol to share their thoughts on agri development through this series (email: email@example.com): Congressman Arthur Yap, former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco, Hercules “Boy” Castillo, Concepcion Flores and Roberto Reyes)
PART ONE OF A SERIES: By: CONGRESSMAN ARTHUR YAP ( Summarized)
The substantial majority of Bohol’s poor (21%) remains in the rural sector. Our agri developmental strategies recognize the reality that unlike Luzon or Mindanao which have wide swaths of land and water systems, Bohol has relatively smaller plots of land and limited water sources.
Agriculture, nonetheless,must be viewed as a business concern,thus, the term “Agribusiness” is popular. The two aims are to build up our agro-industrial capacity both (A) to support tourism and (b) to meet the food security needs of our people.
PRODUCTS: In terms of products, we need to concentrate on high-value food products production like organic and inorganic food stuff such as coffee, cacao,vegetables ,fruits, fish, crustaceans, juices, jams, coconut products, herbs and medicinal plants, native chicken, and basic livestock which are “efficiently and scientifically” produced to benefit the producers- like farmers and fisherfolks- by way of higher prices of their products.
To ensure farmers and fisherfolks “profitability” in their endeavors, the focus must be on the following:
(A) Lowering input costs – This can be achieved in many or combination of ways: (A) aggressive Bohol Soil Testing (b) organic input program (c) establish local plant, livestock and fishery nurseries and seeding centers (c) teaching the widespread use of Integrated Pest Management, (d) spreading the technology and science and Data-Based Agriculture and (e) diversifying farm activities. In tandem with this will be a pro-active land, forest and water resources protection program.
(B) Managing Production Costs- This can be achieved through a focused provincial farm mechanisation program to include both the processing and storage of output. The backdrop here will be efforts to aim at reasonably priced water and power supply, FMR and irrigation programs.
(C) Make Financing Available- This can come in the form of a BOHOL Guarantee Fund Pool, BOHOL Crop Insurance Program, BOHOL Provincial Counterpart Financing Scheme
(D) Assist in Market Development- Efforts will, of course, primarily deal with those basic staples for food security for the masses. But parallel efforts be made in cultivating, branding and selling of high value fruits, vegetables and crops for both local and the foreign markets. This calls for the establishment of a Bohol Centre for Medicinal Plants and a Bohol HVCC Marketing Centre.
Our farmers also need an institutionalized assistance mechanism from government from product development to packaging and pricing of especially High Value Commercial Crops Products.Likewise, the farmers and fisherfolks need to be guided into the new marketing and payment schemes anchored on the digital connectivity which is the way of the future.
WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE IN AGRI – The above proposals emanate are largely based from my decade’s worth of close collaboration with farmers and fisherfolks in my stint as Agriculture Secretary from 2004-2010 and as a three term congressman of the 3rd district of Bohol.
We drew lessons from 111 success stories (case studies) in agri-entrepreneurship which were captured in a book yours truly authored entitled “The Art of Agribusiness” which is a fine foundation for building my thoughts on the Agri-Industrial Program for Bohol.
These case studies proved that to be a success, an agricultural endeavor must be viewed as a business (profitable) and not as “some romanticised and pastoral scene from one of Amorsolo’s masterpiece paintings.” They made us understand that while Agriculture may be brutal in its demand for personal attention, it can also be financially rewarding as well.
SUMMARY: In the coming years, the following buzz words will key the Agri-Industrial development in support of Tourism and Food Security of Bohol : infrastructure development, digital connectivity, social protection for the marginalized, health, education, skills training, provincial budget and fiscal reform, BOHOL’S promotion and branding, environmental protection, energy independence, and upgrading of LGU skills and services.