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Group of women farmers in Zamboanga del Sur benefits from Soybean R&D

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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.

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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)