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Liza Angelica D. Barral

Malnutrition continues to be a public health issue in the Philippines affecting infants and school children. In a national survey conducted in 2008 by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), approximately 3.35 million (26.2 percent) infants and children ages 0-5 years old are underweight, while 3.57 million (27.9 percent) are underheight. Meanwhile, around 2.58 million (25.6 percent) and 33.34 million (33.1 percent) children ages 6-10 years old are underweight and underheight, respectively. The increasing prevalence continues unless the issue of malnutrition has been fully addressed.

Corn as highly nutritious staple food

Corn has always been tagged as “poor man’s rice” due to its popularity as an alternative staple food for Filipinos. Although seen as food for the less privileged, corn has high nutritional value. It is rich in protein, fat, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals including folate, iron, niacin, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Corn also contains two essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan, which provide numerous health benefits.

Lysine is important in various body functions such as production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes, bone and muscle development, tissue repair, calcium absorption, nitrogen balance and collagen formation. Tryptophan is also an essential amino acid which cannot be synthesized in the body and therefore must be part of the diet. It plays two vital functions such as in serotonin and niacin synthesis. Further, tryptophan is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin which is important for brain functions and related regulatory mechanism such as those involving appetite, sleep patterns, and mood. Since tryptophan has the ability to raise serotonin levels, it is used to treat conditions like insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Just like lysine, tryptophan is also essential for normal growth and development of infants specifically in the brain maturation as well as the neurobehavioral regulations of food intake and satiation.

Combating malnutrition through quality protein corn

Dr. Artemio M. Salazar and his team from the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB-IPB) bred and developed the QPM Var 6, also known as High Lysine and Tryptophan Corn in 2000. According to Dr. Salazar, they have acquired Quality Protein Maize (QPM) because they have found out that it improved the nutritional status and health of poor Africans.

Based on R&D initiatives, it was found out that QPM Var 6 contains 66.2 percent more lysine than the regular white corn. It also contains more tryptophan and protein content and has more dietary fiber, minerals, and anti-oxidants than rice alone.

Realizing the huge potential of QPM in addressing malnutrition among actively growing children, Dr. Salazar and his team conducted further studies to enhance the development of better quality, genetically stable, and highly nutritious corn varieties through utilization of advanced equipment and facilities. Thus, they initiated a project titled, “Enhancing Nutritional and Grain Qualities of White Corn for Food: Updates on Promotional Activities for White QPM (Quality Protein Maize),” which was funded by BAR.

The project started in July 2011 with the aim to develop white corn open-pollinated varieties (OPV) which are high yielding and to develop improved nutritional and eating qualities. Specifically, the project aims to: 1) improve the eating quality of the present high protein quality corn by monitoring the level of different starch components using near infra red spectroscopy, 2) enhance the effectiveness of selection for higher lysine and tryptophan content in the high protein quality corn breeding population using molecular markers and near infra red spectroscopy, 3) monitor the level of different endosperm components related to nutritional feature of flint corn as food grain, and 4) develop inbred lines with improved nutritional quality using molecular markers technology.

Promoting quality protein corn

In an effort to promote the nutritional benefits of rice-corn blend as well as to identify the beneficiaries’ level of acceptance, the UPLB-IPB, in collaboration with the UPLB-College of Human Ecology (CHE), conducted a series of feeding programs in public schools. Among them were: Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon City and Bernardo N. (BN) Calara Elementary School in Los Baños, Laguna.

Feeding Program in BN Calara Elementary School started from 26 November 2012 to 18 March 2013. Participants were composed of 140 students, both male and female who are classified as malnourished. The students were divided into 2 groups: Group 1 (70 students) who were fed with rice and viand during lunch time; and Group 2 (70 students) who were fed with rice IPB Var 6 corn, 50:50 and viand during lunch time from Monday to Friday. Before the actual feeding program and two weeks thereafter, weight, height and Mean under Arm Circumference (MUAC) were measured. Meals were also measured and served in terms of its content and calorie value. The activity was supervised with the help of B.S. Nutrition graduates from UPLB. According to Dr. Salazar, students’ academic performances and active participations were also checked and monitored by the school teachers.

Significant findings of the feeding program included higher weight gains in children fed with rice composites compared with rice alone. Further, higher weight increases were more significant among younger children specifically from Kindergarten to Grade 4.

The group fed with pure rice-corn blend gained an average of 1.82 kilograms compared to the 1.49 kilograms of the group fed with pure rice only. Also, rice-corn blend/rice composite with 50:50 ratio is indeed acceptable by the children. To date, this activity has been continually supported not only by barangay officials but also by Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). BN Calara Elementary School has been continuously conducting the feeding program and is managed by the PTA President. According to Mrs. Lita C. Cortez, PTA president, the students who joined the feeding program have increased their weight. “Meron ngang iba, nag-overweight pa,” Mrs. Cortez testified. Another relevant feedback was the consistent initiative and cooperation among PTA members wherein mothers with healthy child are also actively helping during the feeding program. Also, the PTA president said that they are going to distribute the remaining packs of IPB Var 6 corn varieties to students on their Recognition Day.

Due to this popular and successful promotional activity, Dr. Art and the rest of his team are planning to extend the coverage of the feeding program. “We are planning to implement the feeding program in Los Baños, Laguna or even nationwide,” he said. ###

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References:
1. 7th National Nutrition Survey: 2008, Anthropometric Survey Component, Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI)
2. Barroga-Jamias, Serlie, True Grit from Corn Grits: Food of the Champions Pacman Promotes Protein-Rich Corn as Rice Supplement, Horizon, Vol. 2 No. 1, January-March 2014, p 12-15
3. Salazar, Artemio A., Update on Promotional Activities for White QPM, Presentation at Hillcreek Garden, Barangay Sikat, Alfonso, Cavite, 20 Nov 2013
4. What are the Benefits of L Tryptophan? By Lucy D’Berry, Demand Media, retrieved from www.healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-l-tryptophan-6668.html

Daryl Lou A. Battad

Over the years, new agricultural interventions have been developed and introduced to farmers to boost production. Providing them options and capacitating their potentials, farmers will adopt a technology that will not only boost their production but importantly, increase their income.

This is the basic premise of the Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR), one of the banner programs of BAR. CPAR targets a suitable package of technology in a specific community to harness the potentials of farmers and fishers while improving and sustaining their way of living.

For the past years, since it was first implemented, CPAR has been making a profound mark in uplifting the socio-economic condition of many CPAR farmer-cooperators across the country. Two of these projects are being implemented in Cebu focusing on the development of corn-based and vegetable-based farming systems.

Before CPAR was introduced in the sites, farmers were engaged into the traditional way of farming which meant very little to no knowledge on proper soil and water conservation, integrated nutrient management, and other related technologies on corn- and vegetable-based farming systems. Most of the farmers concentrated on simply “cultivating food for family consumption.” After CPAR, their stories have changed.

Knowledge is truly power

For CPAR farmer Danilo Zamora of Brgy. Linut-od in Argao, appropriate knowledge on total farm management enabled him to be more productive in the farm. Before CPAR, he admitted that he lacks knowledge on vegetable farming which limited his production and income.

Trainings are part of implementing any CPAR project. They serve as an empowering tool to equip farmers with the right information ranging from soil and water conservation and farm planning, integrated nutrient management, animal health care and management, technologies on farming systems, to postharvest technologies, data gathering and farm record keeping. Danilo valued these new learnings that he immediately put them to use in his farm during the next cropping season. “Marami akong nalaman sa pagtatanim ng kahit anong gulay. Natutunan ko rin kung paano ang tamang paglalagay ng abono sa gulay,” [I learned a lot in growing any kind of vegetable. I also learned how to apply the right fertilizer in the vegetable] he shared.

In 2013, he harvested 1,150 kilos earning him a net income of Php 32,000 for squash alone. He also plants carrots, cauliflower, stringbeans, and tomatoes to which he gets a fair share of profit. Every week, he transports his produce to a local market in Cebu.

The farmer-trainer

Mansueta Villegas, a native of Brgy. Balao in Barili, considers herself a trainer to other farmers who are interested in adopting the technologies that were introduced through CPAR. She eagerly shared her knowledge to other farmers. “Maganda na malaman din ng iba kung paano kami umasenso. Kaya ako, dahil alam ko na ang mga teknolohiya na itinuro sa amin sa CPAR, hindi ko hahayaan na hindi ko ibahagi ito sa mga kabarangay ko,” [It’s good that the others will know how our lives improved. Since I know the technologies that were taught to us in CPAR, I share these to my fellow farmers] she said.

Bell pepper is so far her ‘champion commodity.’ With 1,200 plants in one-fourth hectare area, she harvested 650 kilos which she sold at Php 70 per kilo. This gave her a profit of Php 45,500 in one commodity alone. She also manages to plant corn and squash to maximize the full potential of her farm. For her, CPAR has truly helped in relieving poverty in the community level. For this, she wanted to be part of spreading the good news to other farmers.

From hundreds to thousands

When we talk of a champion farmer, we look into many aspects that make him/her one. In the case of CPAR, it is generally weighted on the effectivity of the technology that boosts the productivity of the farmer cooperator. Julie Lapingcao is just one of the many who can attest to this.

A “regular corn farmer” as she used to call herself, Julie earns a meager income of Php 200.00 from her corn harvest. “Nagtatanim ako ng mais para may pangkain lang kami. Yung konting sobra, binebenta ko sa mga kapitbahay ko dito, kumikita naman ako ng mga pa-isa-isa o dalawang daang piso. Yun naman gagamitin ko para may pambili kami ng iba pang pagkain namin,” [I plant corn mainly for food. The surplus, I sell to my neighbors from which I earn a hundred or two hundred pesos. I used this to buy our food] she said.

But the technologies she learned from CPAR had made a drastic change in her life. “Sa CPAR, ang laki ng pagkakaiba ng kita ko, naming mag-asawa. Isipin mo, mula sa dalawang-daang piso, kumita ako ng higit tatlumpung-libong piso sa mais pa lang yon ha,” [In CPAR, there was a big difference in our profit. From 200 pesos, I earned more than 30,000 pesos in corn alone] she added. This was her harvest data for 2013.

She never looked at corn the same way. In less than a hectare of planting area, she harvests around 17 bags (1 bag = 35-40 kilos average), and sells them at Php 50 per kilo. She also earns profit from planting other commodities including peanut and bitter gourd.

From kapitbahay fair to the Carbon Market

Benedicto Cameros, a resident of Brgy. Butong, Argao, is one of the farmer-cooperators who is keen on practicing organic farming. With the learnings he acquired through the trainings that were provided to them, he opted to practice healthy farming. “Importante na malusog tayo, kaya gusto ko na talagang mapagpatuloy itong organic [farming] na itinuro ng CPAR. Sa ngayon, natutunan ko na kung paano ang gumamit at magpalaki ng mga pananim gamit ang organic seeds at fertilizer,” [It is important that we are healthy, that is why I want to really continue organic farming that was taught in CPAR. Right now, I learned how to grow crops using organic seeds and fertilizer] he said. Among the vegetables he plants are cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, and hot pepper.

On average, he harvests four times per year, and his produce is marketed in the biggest public market in Cebu, the Carbon Market. “Sa isang taon, kumikita ako ng Php 50,000 simula nang maipakilala sa amin ang CPAR,” he shared. This is more than a 100 percent increase in his Php 20,000 income prior to CPAR intervention.

CPAR is holistic in nature. It targets the totality of the ‘farm life’— from the farmers’ family, community, technology, to the production and market—which is why it becomes successful. It creates rippling effect that benefits the majority of the farmers. ###

Rita T. dela Cruz

In today’s fast-changing time, wherein knowledge is vast and information can be accessed anytime, anywhere, it’s easy to discount the importance of indigenous knowledge and practices. The risk that much of our indigenous knowledge maybe lost along with its valuable knowledge on living sustainably is becoming more evident.

One indigenous practice that survived through time is the lapat system of the Maeng Tribe in Tubo, Abra. Lapat, which literally means “to prohibit” or “to regulate”, is a century-old system of regulating the use of natural resources and its biodiversity. The lapat system has three underlying principles: 1) stewardship, 2) communal ownership and collective responsibility, and 3) sustainability. The system is being reinforced by the Dap-ay, a system of governance of the Maeng tribe responsible for managing and directing the socio-economic, cultural, political, and spiritual life of the people of the community. They are mainly consisted of elders.

Harmonizing the old and the new practices

In a place as distant and remote as Tubo, Abra that is bound by their instinctive desire to conserve and protect their natural resource, introducing a technology that is far from their usual practice of farming and fishing, seemed a far-fetch idea. That was likely the case when a Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) was introduced in the area. CPAR is a location-specific research cum extension activity that aims to improve productivity and profitability of farmer beneficiaries by applying effective total farm productivity within the context of a sustainable production and farming system approach. It is a flagship program of the Bureau of Agricultural Research and is being implemented nationwide both for the agriculture and fisheries sectors.

Led by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region (BFAR-CAR), the “CPAR on Tilapia Production in Fishponds” was implemented in the two municipalities of Tubo, Abra, namely: Tubtuba and Dilong. For this CPAR project, 70 fish farmers were chosen as project cooperators.

“Initially, we introduced the concept of CPAR in Tubo, Abra with the aim of improving their existing culture of tilapia following a semi-intensive culture system. We would like to introduce an intervention that will not contradict their indigenous practice, which in this case, it’s the lapat system,” explained Lois June B. Fermin, research manager of BFAR-CAR and CPAR project leader. She added that, since CPAR is a research activity, the project aimed to: institutionalize participatory approaches in the conduct of research and extension; and encourage and enhance the development of an enterprise and agribusiness venture through tilapia production in the area.

Applying lapat sytem and CPAR in tilapia production

In Tubo, Abra, aquaculture is a promising industry.

Given the difficulty of buying fishes, due to distance and land barriers surrounding the community, people are learning to culture commercially-demanded fishes like tilapia. They grow tilapia both as sources of food and livelihood, making aquaculture an important sector in the municipality. “They market tilapia in the adjacent communities and traded in the Poblacion as the central market area for Tubo,” said Fermin.

As part of the environmental practice of the lapat system, fish farmers in Tubo, Abra grow tilapia through the raceway system. The raceway system is implemented in the riverbanks. It divides a portion of the river where commercial tilapia can be raised but not fed with commercial feeds, only with the available natural food. The fisherfolk pile stones to divide the river into terraces as barriers to avoid the escape of the fishes. This type of operation is designated to individuals, household, or group of farm fishers to stock fish in the raceway with usually feeding on existing food in the environment such that of bagiw or lumot and phytoplantons.

As part of sustainable fishing, the lapat system prohibits and discourages using destructive fishing gears, chemical spraying near water bodies, catching young fish species, and close season or no fishing on specific period of time. This kind of system enables the continuous reproduction of fish species, addresses resource degradation, and enhances the adaptive capacity of the ecosystem.

Part of the intervention of the CPAR project is the introduction of the fish pond culture technology. “The fingerlings are stocked in the Lapat in the river. These are harvested before the rainy season into the fish pond until they reach their marketable size,” explained Fermin.

Through the project, BFAR provided a micro-hatchery in Tubtuba which became the source of tilapia fingerlings for the CPAR sites in Tubtuba and Dilong, Tubo, Abra.

Mang Carlos, a lapat-CPAR practitioner

One fish farmer that adopted the merging of the Lapat system and the CPAR intervention is Mr. Carlos Paliwag, 63, a fisher-cooperator in Brgy. Tubtuba, Tubo. He is a member of the Tubtuba Farmers Association which, to date has 70 members, 15 of which are CPAR cooperators.

Mang Carlos has been a farmer ever since he got married and owns a land approximately less than a hectare. He is into integrated farming system growing rice, vegetables and tilapia. “I learned about the CPAR project when I was still a barangay captain. At that time, fishing is just an additional source of my income,” he said.

“When I learned about the technology introduced in CPAR, my production grew. Not only did it provide additional income, but it also became my family’s source of food. I don’t need to buy from the market as I can get the fish from my own pond,” he further explained.

As a CPAR cooperator of the project, Mang Carlos was provided 1,000 tilapia fingerlings and eight sacks of feeds for his pond. They were also trained by BFAR on tilapia pond culture to ensure a good harvest. “As for me, I stacked the fingerlings in the Lapat for four months and then transferred them in the pond for eight months before I harvest them,” Mang Carlos said.

As part of the Lapat principle, Mang Carlos practices the indigenous way of harvesting tilapia using Taboko (casting net) and Lumtep (submersion).

Given the demand for commercial fish species like tilapia, Mang Carlos markets his harvested tilapia within the communiy and neighboring barangay. “I market 50 percent of my harvest and we consume the remaining half,” he said.

When asked to share his profit, he reported that from the 1,000 tilapia fingerlings, he was able to harvest 100 kilograms. A kilo of tilapia (3-5 pieces) costs Php 150.00. This earned him Php 15,000.00 for his initial harvest.

The repayment scheme is being handled by the association wherein all farmer-cooperators are required to repay the inputs given to them to the community. This scheme is being implemented in every CPAR project to sustain the project. Mang Carlos gave 250 fingerlings to other members of the association as a start-up.

Mang Paulo, responding positively to change

Another CPAR cooperator who chose to be open to new ideas and opted to respond positively to change is Paulo Pacdiw, 54, a fisher-cooperator in Dilong, Tubo. He owns around 500 sq.m. of land occupying his five tilapia ponds.

“Unlike farmers in Tubtuba, farmers in Dilong were less receptive to CPAR. Only very few responded to be a cooperator of the project. Mr. Pacdiw was one of the first four cooperators that adopted the technology,” said Fermin during a site visit in the area.

Mang Paulo is a member of the Dilong Farmers Association which consists of 25 members, four of which are CPAR farmer-cooperators. As a project cooperator, he received 2,000 tilapia fingerlings and five sacks of feeds.

He reported that from the initial 1,000 fingerlings, he was able to harvest 20 kilos for the first season, which he sold at Php 150.00 a kilo. This gave him a Php 7,500.00 profit for his initial harvest alone. He explained that he harvests his tilapia on a staggard or installment basis and usually if there are orders from buyers.

“Eighty percent of my harvests is marketed, the remaining 20 percent served as our food,” Mang Paulo explained.

When asked what are the changes when he became a CPAR cooperator he said that, “For one, my source of income increased that I was able to pay for the studies of our children. This also provided me extra money to expand my pond and buy additional gears and equipment,” he added.

Another positive turnout was that, Mang Paulo served as a model fisher for his fellow fisherfolk in the community. He mentioned that his fellow fisherfolk saw the benefits of applying the technology introduced in CPAR, and so after awhile, they got interested as well.

Now, from the initial four CPAR cooperators, they became 14 with the additional 10 farmers who got encouraged by Mang Paulo. ###

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For more information about this CPAR project, please contact:
Lois June B. Fermin
Research Manager
BFAR-CAR
Telephone no. (074) 445-8499
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.