A women-led farmers’ association residing in Barangay Bigong, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur is now reaping the fruits of their labor from soybean R&D interventions introduced to them by the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office 9 (DA-RFO 9) and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).
Established in 1998, the Kahugpungan sa Mga Mag Uuma/Mamumuong Kababayen-An (KASAMMAKA) Inc., or the “Organization of Women Farmers and Workers,” was formed and created to meet the basic needs of women, empower them, and establish livelihoods through organic farming, among others. These advocacies were initially carried out and promoted by roughly 200 original members following its creation. To date, the same principles are still being pursued by about 2,000 KASAMMAKA members.
Throughout their farming history, these women farmers are producing organically-grown rice, corn, vegetables, fruits, and other root crops; and are into raising livestock and poultry animals in their area. To the people of Barangay Bigong, everyday living is a challenge to reckon with. Their harvests dictate the quality of living and the amount of personal gains.
Unknown to them, their efforts as individuals, as an association, and as organic farming advocates were not left unnoticed by the DA-RFO 9 and BAR with the implementation of the project titled, “Building a Sustainable Soybean Industry in the Philippines.” BAR funded and supported the endeavor which has a component involving the development of commercial organic soybean in the region whose objectives are: to promote organic soybean as an important legume in Region 9; to demonstrate organic soybean production technology; to make available organic seeds of recommended soybean varieties; and to improve the skills and capabilities of farmers in organic soya product, processing, and utilization. In addition, it has four implementation mechanics, namely: 1) technology demonstration trials; 2) seed and commercial production; 3) product development, processing, utilization and promotion; and 4) enterprise/market development.
In the promotion of soybean production and processing in the region, the KASAMMAKA was tapped as one of the organizations with farmer-cooperators engaged to produce, process, and market soybean products. Through the Zamboanga Peninsula Integrated Agricultural Research Center (ZAMPIARC) of DA-RFO 9, the association was provided with 200 kilos of organic soybean seeds which were planted in their four-hectare farming area. The projected average production of soybean achieved in Tigbao, Zamboanga Del Sur is 550 kilograms per hectare.
Prior to their engagement in the project, KASAMMAKA members attended training programs on soybean production and processing sponsored by ZAMPIARC. Since then, the association has become actively involved in farming organically-grown soybeans.
Through the funding support of BAR and the assistance of the region in terms of training and seed support, the association was able to produce and process soymilk, soycoffee, and soya meat balls. With their farming experience and entrepreneurial ability, the group is now selling soycoffee at P200.00 per kilo, and soymilk at P50.00 per liter, while the soya meat balls (fishball size) are being sold at P2.00 per piece.
To reciprocate the government’s assistance, which is part of the agreement between the DA-RFO 9 and BAR, the association returned the 200 kilos of seeds given to them. This will then be re-distributed to the next identified farmer-cooperators in the province.
The group, which is now tagged as small-scale farmer entrepreneurs, plans to improve their products in terms of labeling and packaging, and aims to penetrate larger markets in the province.
KASAMMAKA is one of the frontrunners of the government’s campaign for sustainable agriculture in Zamboanga del Sur. Ms. Porferia Carpina, one of the founders of the organization and spokesperson of the group, admitted that the interventions of the DA-RFO 9 and BAR provided them with the livelihood flexibility in producing and marketing soybean products. To them, engaging in the soybean farming business has given them a sense of pride and fulfillment. ### (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca, DA-BAR)
Putting a twist to the conventional flavors of ice cream, the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office 5 (DA-RFO 5) through the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC) developed rimasflavored ice cream as part of their research and development (R&D) activities on rimas. The team proudly shared that 20 kilos of rimas ice cream were shipped to Hongkong for acceptability trials and to look for possible distributors. This was made possible through Global Mana, a company that focuses on food, energy, and water and once sponsored a breadfruit conference in Hawaii.
Rimas ice cream was first showcased and presented to the public during the 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held at SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City in 2013. Organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the said event showcased generated technologies of various R&D institutions in the country. The rimas ice cream bagged an award as one of the innovative products during the said event because of its novelty, uniqueness, and market potential.
Interested to know more about rimas, Mr. Joshua Niel Echague of Global Mana came across to one of BAR’s published articles on rimas ice cream on the internet. Checking on the contact details, Mr. Echague contacted DA-BIARC and the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division which then endorsed the concern to the project team led by Ms. Luz Marcelino, research manager of DA-BIARC.
Growing abundantly in the Bicol region, rimas or breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants, with a single tree producing up to 200 fruits per season. Recognizing its potential, BIARC embarked on a project titled, “Rimas Biodiversity Research, Conservation, and Propagation in the Bicol Region,” which was funded by BAR. Aimed at determining the biodiversity of rimas in the region, the project also intends to increase the awareness of the Bicolanos on rimas as an affordable and alternative source of essential nutrients.
“It is abundant in carbohydrates, and therefore can be a main source of energy. The fiber present in rimas is found to help the digestive system of our body,assisting in the digestion of food and helping reduce cholesterol levels,” Ms. Marcelino shared.
With abundant harvest and with the conventional notion of preparation of just boiling and being served as snacks, the harvests were left rotting. Value-adding activities were then developed by the team.
The Regional Food Laboratory of DA-BIARC is continuously undertaking researches on product development given the succulent endosperm present in the fruit. To date, 15 recipes were developed. These include rimas pastillas, rimas cheese cupcakes, rimas chips, rimas caramel, ginataang rimas, rimas fries, , rimas kimchi, torones de rimas, rimas cookies, rimas pork dumplings, rimas rice balls, rimas custard cake, rimas spring roll, rimas muffin, and rimas ice cream. Comprising 80 percent of rimas meat, ice cream now comes in three variants: rimas with sweet potato, rimas with cheese and chocolate, and rimas with langka. Other crops abundant in the region like siling labuyo, taro, and pili nut are also added in the mixture.
The processed 10 kilograms of rimas fruit will be packaged in one kg of ice cream that can be sold at Php 150. “If we could just meet the demand, we could process as much as 50 kilos thrice a week,” Ms. Marcelino said. These would also be parallel to the objective of helping farmers increase their income as sources of raw materials come from farmers in Tigaon, Camarines Sur and in Sorsogon.
Rimas ice cream gained high acceptance in terms of taste, aroma, texture, and appearance based on the product acceptability survey conducted. These can also be offered to cafes and restaurants given the increasing demand to innovative offerings.
“Rimas ice cream has a high potential because of its distinct flavor and we are using organically-grown ingredients,” Ms. Marcelino added.
The team acknowledges the BAR’s support to the development of products utilizing locallyavailable crops. “With this undertaking supported by BAR, we were able to see the economic importance of this crop, which could also be in response to the goals of the DA of making food available and affordable; and increasing the income of farmers.Also, to be able to mainstream Gender and Development, we also give importance to empowering women’s role in farming and processing,” Ms. Marcelino said.
The local government of the six provinces in the region assisted the project in identifying farmers and rimas sites. There isalso the support from Sorsogon Dairy Farm who became the source of raw materials, and the Yulaik Food Company who helps in facilitating feedback surveys for product improvement.
Through propagation techniques (tissue culture and grafting), the project was able to maintain 100 plants inside the laboratory and 50 potted plants from tissue-culture technique and150 grafted rimas.
To date, BAR is supporting five projects on rimas covering benchmarking studies and researches on pest management, propagation techniques, and nursery establishment implemented by some DA agencies and state universities and colleges.
“We hope that there would be a consolidated effort on rimas. Also, I encourage fellow researchers to continue finding ways on how to utilize indigenous crops in our localities and collaborate with other research centers or networks for sharing of information, expertise, and future collaboration,” Ms. Marcelino concluded. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)
Over the years, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) has supported research and development (R&D) initiatives that generated technologies and initiated interventions, benefitting the lives of the country’s farmers and fisherfolk. Farms, especially in the rural areas, continue to reap the fruits of increased production and improved productivity through these technology-based interventions.
To disseminate information on these technologies to its stakeholders, particularly of what has been done in R&D during the last decade, DA-BAR and its partners came up with “A Decade of Success: A Compendium of Agriculture and Fisheries R&D Projects Supported by the Bureau of Agricultural Research from 2005-2014.” The compendium serves as a 10-year portfolio featuring DA-BAR-supported projects implemented by its partners from the DA-Regional Field Offices (RFOs), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Offices, and state universities and colleges (SUCs) towards improving the agri-fishery sector.
The compendium is composed of 17 volumes of published material - of which 16 volumes highlight researches accomplished by the regions, while the remaining volume features the researches done by the bureau’s partner SUCs. The books summarize a decade of R&D efforts with concise information including project summaries, technology description and application, as well as the intended beneficiaries.
The consolidation and packaging of information to produce the compendium was funded under DA-BAR’s Scientific Publication Grant (SPG) that aims to support initiatives on technology promotion and dissemination through print media with grants for the preparation and printing of research-based publications.
According to BAR Director, Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, “As the material allows for quick reference and easier information retrieval, we are likewise providing ready-to-access information on technologies generated in R&D that will cater to the technology needs of the farmers, fisherfolk, research institutions, policy makers, entrepreneurs, academe, organizations, and other interest groups.”
On 27 October 2016, DA-BAR, in the presence of DA Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan and representatives from different DA regional offices and SUCs, formally launched the compendium during the closing ceremonies of the 28th National Research Symposium held at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management Convention Hall in Quezon City. ### (Ephraim John J. Gestupa)
Following the directive of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to intensify initiatives on adlay, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) called for a special meeting and planning among members of the National Adlay Technical Working Group and focal persons from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Offices (DA-RFOs), Central Mindanao University, and BAR held on 15-17 February 2017.
With guidance from the Adlay TWG members, the Adlay R&D Program’s direction was reviewed and revisited to ensure that activities are aligned to the DA’s current thrusts – with emphasis on harnessing the potentials of adlay for health and wellness, and more importantly, as an alternative food staple commodity that can help in contributing to the country’s bid of achieving food security.
Focal persons across the regions presented their respective project proposals which included plans of adlay-related R&D activities for 2017-2018. Among those presented were: intensifying seed production in expansion areas, verification trials of adlay varieties intercropped under different crop-based farming systems (coconut, rubber, legumes, cashew, etc.), further improvement of developed packages of technologies and value-added products, refinement of developed postharvest equipment and facilities, strengthening promotional activities, conduct of market research, establishment of adlay processing centers in major producing areas, and exploring the possibility of rehabilitation in mine-abandoned areas through the introduction of adlay intercropped with other crops.
Coming from the same family where wheat, rice, and corn belong to, adlay is a tall grain-bearing tropical plant which was found to be adapting well in some regions, particularly in high elevation areas such as the hillsides of Nueva Vizcaya, in Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao, and in some other parts of the country. It has also been found out that adlay is accepted as an alternative staple food by Indigenous Peoples (IPs) such as the Subanen tribe in Zamboanga del Sur. Chemical composition analysis conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in 2012 revealed higher protein content in cooked adlay grits (3.7 g) as compared to well-milled, boiled rice (2.1 g).
Under the Adlay R&D Program which pushes for the development, utilization, and promotion of adlay as an alternative crop to our food staples, various product development efforts have been undertaken to further promote its utilization. These include Pinoy Gourmix developed by DA-RFO 2, breakfast cereals and wine by DA-RFO 10, champorado by DA-RFO 4A, crackers by DA-RFO 12, and coffee by DA-RFO 5 and 9, among many others.
As of February 2017, BAR has supported 51 adlay-related projects being implemented by DA-RFOs, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, and selected state universities and colleges. ### (Anne Camille B. Brion, DA-BAR)
Gadmer “Mer” Layson was one of the successful soybean agri-entrepreneurs supported by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) who received “The Outstanding Farmers of The Philippines (TOFARM) 2016 Special Citation Award” under the agri-entrepreneur category. The awarding ceremony was held at Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City on 15 November 2016.
Launched by the Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCIP) and Universal Harvester, Inc., TOFARM is a search and award program anchored on promoting farming in the youth sector of all classes. It gives recognition to the resiliency, ingenuity, and the strength of hardworking Filipino farmers.
A former reporter of Pilipino Star Ngayon of the Star Group of Publication, Mer is now the hardworking owner of KKK Enterprises named after his three children: Kyla, Kyle, and Kevin. A soybean producer and processor for four years now, Mer first heard about the National Soybean Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) through a radio announcement regarding a three-day seminar on soybean production and processing.
The DA, through the High Value Crops Development Program and BAR, with all the partner agencies, have intensified the implementation of the Soybean Program in the Philippines which aimed to further promote the production, processing, utilization, and marketing of soybean in the country towards building a competitive soybean industry.
Under the project, “Pilot Testing of Integrated Soybean Production-Processing Technologies towards Accelerating the Development of the Local Soybean Industry in the Philippines,” being implemented by PhilMech through the coordination of BAR, various machineries that aid in improving soybean postharvest and processing systems were identified. One of the beneficiaries of the project was the Golden Beans and Grains Producers Cooperative which Mer is a member of. The coop received seeds for planting and Mer was among those who obtained viable seeds from his harvest being used for processing.
These interventions allowed the group to process and produce more; not only responding to the growing demand for soymilk but also enabling Mer to help others become soybean product retailers. As KKK Enterprises grew, Mer was able to produce soybean coffee, and very recently, soya ice candy.
Mer was able to employ eight people in his processing area and three farmers in his production site. Aside from this, his initiatives to disseminate the advantages of producing and processing soybean inspired more than thirty retailers.
Now earning about ₱50,000 a month from soybean processing, Mer aspires to be an inspiration to others—helping them earn more with the development of more soybean products. Through trainings and seminars, apart from the interviews he has done with a number of radio stations, Mer aims to reach out to everyone including farmers, housewives, and youth and encourage them to venture into soybean processing or retailing. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino and Mara Shyn M. Valdeabella, DA-BAR)
* Photos courtesy of JP Yap of Manila Bulletin