Over 800 OFWs attend seminar on mushroom production in Hongkong

Mushroom productionOver 800 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), most of them working for more than 10 years in Hongkong, attended a two-day seminar on mushroom production on 24-25 June 2017 at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Hongkong. The seminar was organized by POLO, Consulate General of the Philippines, and Overseas Workers Welfare Authority (OWWA), in partnership with the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Bureau of Agricultural Research.

Atty. Jalilo dela Torre, Labor Attaché to Hongkong, mentioned that, they organized the seminar to help the OFWs find alternative sources of income from agriculture that can easily go into business after their employment. They specifically identified mushroom production as one of the agri-ventures because it does not require big space of agricultural land, it will need simple technology and small capital that will generate additional income for aging OFWs and their families. The seminar also was in line with President Duterte’s vision of encouraging OFWs to return and be reunited with their families and participate in the development process of nation building.

Mushroom seminar in HK

Dr. Emily A. Soriano of the DA-Regional Field Office (RFO) 3 and a Gawad Saka awardee for Outstanding Agricultural Researcher in 2014, served as the resource person for the five sessions on mushroom production. Her talk emphasized on the economic benefits and business opportunities in mushroom production and likewise, presented the various products and by-products developed from mushroom.

In her presentation, she expressed her appreciation and gratitude to DA, through the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), by providing the financial support, not only for the research and development (R&D) of mushroom, but also in establishing the Mushroom Technology and Development Center (MTDC), which since its establishment in 2014, continues to cater to the public when it comes to mushroom-related needs. MTDC has been serving its purpose to cater to the development of the technology in mushroom culturing, provide technical and laboratory services to facilitate enterprise development, and showcase mushroom-based technologies from production to processing. They also provide a full training on mushroom production for free.

After each presentation, participants were active in raising questions on different issues including sources of contamination for spawn, provision of actual seminar in their respective regions, required inputs and sources of inputs, initial capital requirements, and market opportunities. Participants were likewise excited in giving their insights and sharing their personal experiences as OFWs in Hongkong.

One of them was Ms. Rose Perido, a farmer-OFW and a FAITH volunteer handling the training component in agriculture at POLO. She mentioned that she helped POLO by providing free lectures/seminar on agriculture during her free time. She came from a farming family in Cavite and got her learnings in agriculture through her own experience and assistance from other agencies of DA. She wanted to help other OFWs who will retire and want to venture in agricultural business. She believes that agriculture has a great potential in helping retired OFWs. According to her, the business plan presented by Dr. Soriano gave them the opportunities to think and plan for the future.

Another participant, Richard Joyce Alfonso, quipped, "No farmer, no future!” highlighting on the importance of the farmers in the development of the agriculture sector.

To supplement their information need, BAR, in cooperation with the Asian Food and Agricultural Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) handed out information materials including DVDs on mushrooms and production manuals to POLO and OFW participants, who in response, were thankful for the knowledge learned from the seminar.

This initiative is part of the effort of DA, through the leadership of Secretary Manny Piñol, to provide opportunities for Filipino overseas workers who are returning to the country and wanted to invest in agricultural ventures. It is part of Secretary Piñol’s vision that “soon, the OFWs will no longer just be ordinary overseas workers. They will become big time investors and marketing agents for the produce of the Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.” ### (Julia A. Lapitan)