Part 2 of series: By: Former Cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr.
- In many rural income-generating activities, the focus is always placed on production. This approach often ignores the fact that the problem is not on productivity but the need to provide appropriate backward/forward linkage mechanisms and other support facilities or the integral value chain;
- There is a strong tendency especially agri-fishery based initiatives to get stuck on a one-livelihood or mono-product type of income generating approach. This increases the degree of susceptibility of the farming/fishing sector to manipulation from a lot of production related factors (i.e. inputs, raw materials supply, marketing, processing) which are beyond their control;
- An “anchoring” type of strategy should be made as basis for the effort to develop agri/fishery business at the level of processing. The integration should be able to initiate at the later stage the formation of other high-value generating ancillary activities or industries.
The development strategy in agriculture and fisheries takes the preferential bias for the common people or the “FOOD FOR PEOPLE FIRST POLICY”. The provision of people’s basic needs takes precedence over all other considerations. In the case at hand, the provision of basic family food requirements at all times assumes the imperative priority through an increased production in staple crops.
Confronted with low yield, diminished arable lands and aging farming communities, the backward and dispersive agricultural production processes have contributed to unending cycle of poverty in the countrysides. The producer of food can hardly even meet three basic family meals a day. While rice, corn and fish are the main food combination, supply is insufficient to meet actual demands.
Agri-fishery development has to be considered as a separate pathway, not an ancillary or an adjunct to any other economic development agenda such as eco-tourism. It has to stand and develop primarily on its own – that Boholanos can feed Boholanos and have their own food on their own plate. A distinct agenda that has to add value to the land or seas, add yield to the grain or catch, add revenue to the farmers and fishers and secure social stability. Agri-fishery technology has to merge with agri-fishery investments. The strategy is to encourage tie-ups with advanced countries for exchange in technology, initial sources of equipment and production inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) while developing our own agri-fishery based industries and markets of finished products from surplus of local food requirements.
The following are on-going initiatives that we intend to pursue among our people:
- Rice. With high production costs, low yield and erratic weather conditions, rice production in the province is way beyond the comfortable. An experimental rice breeding initiative utilizing the “polyembryony twin rice variety” that resulted from the character and crossbreeding cultivation technique was done in a ten-hectare rice farm in Jimilian, Loboc. This particular variety was launched in 2005 to promote China’s super rice project. Test results have shown that the variety has the capacity to produce an average of 22 tons per hectare per cropping season. It is adaptable to changing environment with protein content reaching as high as 16.2% and possesses strong lodging resistance and high photosynthesis utilization ratio among other characteristics.
The Jimilian experiment has produced an average of 12 tons per hectare. This is way beyond the current production rate of around 4 tons per hectare per cropping season. The grains were distributed to farmers in Carmen, San Miguel, Sierra Bullones and Pilar with similar production outputs. Given these favorable results, the variety can easily be dispersed throughout the rice farming communities utilizing organic production inputs with appropriate farming technology.
A 23-hectare irrigated riceland has already been identified for seed production and training area.
- Corn. Second to rice as the most important crop and substitute staple food especially to people in the rural areas. Aside from food sources, corn has evolved as an industrial raw material. In past and current production activities in the province and elsewhere in the country, a plant can only produce one or two fruits. Again, a group from China has volunteered to undertake experimental planting of corn using the so called “multi spiked single stem corn variety”. The seeds came in sub varieties of white for food, yellow for industrial purposes and purple as food ingredients. In its origin in China, the plant produces up to 12 fruits each. An unused 500 hundred square meter ricefield in Busao, Maribojoc was used for the experiment. With crude technology and organic farm inputs, the experiment was able to generate 6 to 8 fruits to a plant. Some tassels have even a fruit in them.
The dispersal of seeds is on-going to some corn producing villages. It is the intention of the initiative to propagate the variety and its technology to the various communities here in the province. Production cost is less, technology is simple and already practiced and harvests are high.
- Vegetables. With rising production cost brought about by the cost in the use of synthetic inputs, deteriorating soil conditions and low prices of the produce, vegetable production has much to be desired. Requirements are being sourced from outside the province. Local production cannot meet existing demands. There is now the need to pursue production support facilities from the sourcing of production inputs to processing and marketing.
- Coconut Processing. The project is processing the purchase of an initial 50-hectare property in Tinibgan, Maribojoc. The long-term goal is the establishment of a township project in a 100 hectare area where the coco processing plant is located to include housing for residents, an agri-industrial learning and demonstration center and other needed facilities. It is in Maribojoc as a test area and because of the presence of a reconstructed alternate port. With available statistics, production of coconuts in Bohol can readily accommodate 2 other processing plants.
The project has long been organizing groups in all the 48 towns and city in preparation for the operations of the plant. The groups are to establish coco buying stations in appropriate areas. Whole nuts are bought, dehusked and sold to the plant that intends to process ten different edible and no-edible product types. The price of a nut is pegged at Php10.00 and sold to the plant at Php 14.00. Husks are to be processed by the coco groups as coir, twine and other products.
As an integral part of the strategy, an economic system is to be installed in each group. As a start an organized buying scheme initially on five basic goods (rice, sugar, oil laundry and bath soap) are to start sometime in March. The scheme allows people to save as much as 40%. On the other hand livelihood productivity initiatives are to be introduced to families of coco farmers. Organic production of poultry and livestock are to be done on lots under the coco trees. This replicates the experiences of the Maribojoc Organic Demo Farm where the returns on investments are high.Products are to meet the food requirements of local and foreign tourists who would avail of the home-stay arrangements at the communities.
- Fisheries. There are concerns and issues related to the implementation of the Fisheries Act most especially on the delineation of the municipal waters. Amendments need lobbying in both Houses of Congress. As a start, there is a need to implement the close and open season for fishing in the municipal waters. The most to be affected by this are the small fisherfolks. However, this can only be implemented effectively once alternative fishing methods are identified. One of these is the operations of fish cages from where fishers can derive income during the close season. Harvests are to be timed at the period when season at the municipal waters are banned.
Catch does not reach the shores as these are purchased at sea. The main reason here is that catch is bought by big traders at sea in cash while most of the transactions on land are on credit. There is then the need to provide these “lab-aseras” with credit facilities to pad their need of available capital.
These are snapshots of urgent tasks to be done in the new administration. I am sure there are relevant, effective programs that are currently being implemented. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. However, all other programs have to undergo an assessment to determine the impacts of these on the lives of the people especially those at the lower end of the economic ladder. Those that are most effective are to be pursued with added impetus, corrective measures are to be done to adjust some others and those wasting people’s taxes are to shelved altogether.
As it is being said, economic returns are limited or none at all because we sell what we can produce instead of producing what we can sell. In the event of surplus production, processing of marketable products comes into place. Support facilities as backward and forward linkages are necessary for the development strategy to effectively work.
One important question to ask is who will farm or fish in future Bohol? The average age of the farmer or fisher is 50 years old. We can only influence young people to go back to the land or sea to ensure a high income through an improved technology, sound environmental management and a supportive and enhancing governance mechanisms. – LEONCIO B. EVASCO, JR., Candidate for Governor