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Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca

Sulu is an agricultural province, with its people living mainly on farming and fishing as source of livelihood. Among its major crops include abaca, cassava, coconuts, lanzones, and oranges as well as exotic fruits like durian and mangosteen. The province has the largest cultivated area for cassava of roughly 17,000 hectares in the region. Farmers and villagers are into cassava production being one of their food staples. This indicates that the crop is widely-grown among various crops on alluvial, sloping, and foothill areas. Some farmers intercrop cassava with coconut or with upland rice and corn. Although the province is predominantly engaged in agricultural activities, cassava production is still low and has not been fully maximized due to various physical, technical, and socio-cultural factors including the growing population and the demand for food.

Strings of hope for the Tausug

To address the issue of cassava low production, a project titled, “Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) for Cassava-based Farming System in the Province of Jolo, Sulu” was introduced following strings of interventions that would help the farmers improve their production and income.

The project was implemented by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Reseach Center (ARMMIARC) in collaboration with the local government unit of Jolo. Leading this iniative was Rossana T. Pinduma, superintendent of the Research Outreach Station (ROS) based in Jolo, Sulu.

The objectives of the project was to: 1) increase farmers’ income through farming activities, 2) generate baseline information on the status of selected agriculture resources of the province, 3) improve production efficiency and increase income per cropping season, and 4) empower farmer skills on improved technologies through trainings and capacity development. Barangays in the municipality of Indanan, namely: Tagbak, Bwansa, and Adjid as recommeded sites for the cassava-based farming system. Five farmer-cooperators (FC) for each barangay or a total of 15 FCs were selected as beneficiaries. They were provided with cassava planting materials, assorted vegetable seeds (ampalaya, eggplant, pole sitao, pechay, sayote), cattle, 9 heads of chicken, and 1 rooster. They were also underwent trainings to equip 30 January – March 2014 BAR R&D DIGEST them in implementing the program. Each component demonstrated appropriate technologies that would boost production and income of the family. Each FC established a farm showcasing the appropriate farming interventions and technologies. Their farms also served as models for other farmers who are not into CPAR yet.

Hope shimmers on Mang Haymin

One of the identified and selected farmer-cooperators was Haymin Dansalan of Brgy. Adjid, Indanan. Haymin, 56, is married to Shermajal with whom he has four children. A devout Muslim and a passionate farmer, the Dansalan family cultivates 1.5 hectares farm land devoted mainly to cassava and vegetables.

In 2009, Haymin learned that DA-BAR, in coordination with DA-ARMMIARC and LGU of ARMM, was conducting a Participatory Rural Appraisal(PRA) and series of seminars on cassava and vegetable production and cattle and poultry raising. Eager of this development and thinking of the opportunities to improve his livelihood and to support the needs of her growing family, he attended the seminar. This paid off as he is now reaping the benefits from the learnings he is now applying in his farm.

Haymin was one of the selected FC together with the other 14 cooperators participants from the three barangays. He was provided with cassava stalk, cassava machine grater, vegetable seeds, cattle, and nine heads of chicken. He planted one hectare of cassava and planted the remaining area with vegetables.

“Ang cassava grater de makina, ito ay pinag-aralan namin,” as narrated when asked how the program helped him. After being involved in the project for more than a year, he gained the momentum of growing vegetables and raising livestock. And this boosted the Dansalan earnings. “Malaki po ang kita sa cassava at sa gulayan”. Haymin was refering to his 3,000 hills of eggplant which provided a net income of roughly Php60,000. While waiting for the cash crops, he was harvesting cassava, which provided them additional income and served as their food staple other than rice. “In the absence of the machine, we can only obtain one full sack of cassava in three hour’s time. With the machine, the hours consumed in grating was reduced to six minutes only to get a full sack of cassava. And this helped us in our farming concerns. Time saved was spent with the family,” Haymin explained. He also added that another source of their income came from raising cattle and poultry. “Prior to the CPAR project, we only have three cattles in the barangay, to date, our inventory reached 10 cattles. Five were provided to us,” he narrated.

“Through CPAR we were able to send our children to school and address other school related necessities. We were also able to purchase decent furnitures and appliances. And to tap it all, we can now save and deposit money for our cooperative. We are very grateful to DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and to the Bureau of Agricultural Research under the leadership of Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar. CPAR is a blessing not only to Muslims, but also to Christians alike. Salamat sa CPAR,” Haymin confessed.

Impact to community

The CPAR project did not only help one farmer, it rippled in the community. With increased production, eventually their income source also improved. The positive results encouraged more farmer cooperators and adopters to sustain the project up to the present.

With the interventions introduced to FC, there was an increase in farm income. Cooperators were able to send their children to school, improve their homes, purchase kitchen utensils, bed sheets, and clothes, and deposit savings in their cooperative. One farmer was able to purchase secondhand motorcycle. Through the project, the farmers were taught unity, hardwork and how to become self sufficient. After two years of implementation, the project was replicated in Brgys. Tubod in Talipao and Kiput in Pata. ###

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