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DOT accredits DA-CVRC Agro-Eco Tourism Farm as agri-tourism site

2016-05-cvrc

The Department of Agriculture-Cagayan Valley Research Center (DA-CVRC) Agro-Eco Tourism Farm located in San Felipe, Ilagan City in Isabela was accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as agri-tourism farm/site in Region 2. The accreditation was issued on 23 May 2016 by DOT Regional Director Virgilio M. Maguigad.

The accreditation was pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9593 declaring a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development, and strengthening DOT and its attached agencies to effectively and efficiently implement the policy.

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CVRC is one of the Bureau of Agricultural Research’s active partners in research and development (R&D) in the region.

Upon hearing the news, BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar, during a writeshop event in Clark, Pampanga on 26 May 2016 exclaimed that “Region 2 is a trailblazer!” He furthered that the achievements of Region 2, DA-CVRC in particular, could be attributed to the R&D investments poured in the region specifically in terms of Institutional Development Grant (IDG) and support to Technology Commercialization (TechCom) activities. With the state-of-the-art R&D facilities, this enabled the region to initiate high-impact research and intensively promote products and technologies across the region and other parts of the country.

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Agri-tourism (also referred to as “farm tourism”), as defined by DOT, is a form of tourism activity conducted in a rural farm area which may include tending to farm animals, planting, harvesting and processing of farm products. It covers attractions, activities, services and amenities as well as other resources of the area to promote an appreciation of the local culture, heritage and traditions through personal contact with the local people.

According to DOT, an agri-tourism /farm site is a working farm producing and/or showcasing raw and/or processed products.

Certification is being issued officially by DOT to recognize the holder as having complied with the minimum standards and requirements prescribed for the operation and maintenance of farms/agri-tourism sites. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)

CPAR on organic vegetable results to farmer’s profit

2016-05-organic-veg

Farming equates income, especially to a common farmer. Aside from providing food on the table, farmers cultivate the land to earn money. Sadly though, it is not always the case for our local farmers especially when it comes to organic farming.

Farmers have this notion that organic farming is not as profitable compared to traditional farming. “Mahal, matagal ang kita,” would be their usual response when asked about organic farming. But Ifugao farmers proved this wrong as they many of them have thrived going into organic farming.

It all started with CPAR

When the Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) on organic vegetable production project was introduced, through the efforts of Dr. Catherine Buenaventura of the Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources Office (PAENRO), farmers from Kiangan, Ifugao, conceived a whole new perspective of organic agriculture.

The Ifugao province is known for its favorable microclimate parameters conducive to farming vegetables. In fact, Ifugao is among Cordillera Administrative Region’s (CAR) provinces — along with Benguet and the Mountain Province — tagged as the “Salad Bowl” of the Philippines, supplying about 80 percent of the vegetable market in the country. In the case of Ifugao province, the most common vegetables grown are snap beans, string beans, pechay, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, and tomato.

However farmers were accustomed to the traditional way of farming, which makes use of chemicals inputs as means to manage weeds and pests. This practice led to different issues such as high cost of inputs, and depleting soil health. It is the very same reason why the CPAR team thought of introducing organic agriculture in the province.

Specifically, the project aims to increase the income of selected farmers through the adoption of organic vegetable production techniques, reduce cost of farm inputs, improve farmers’ capability in organic farming, and improve the resource management capacities of rural communities within the province.

Forty farmers from barangays Banguine and Tuplac were chosen to participate in the project. To fully prepare them, two organizational development workshops were provided which resulted to the organization of the Baguinge Organic Farmers’ Association (BOFA) and the Good Shepherd Organic Farmers Association (GOFA) in 2012. Further, cross farm visits to organic farms of the La Trinidad Organic Producers (LaTOP) in Benguet were conducted so that the CPAR cooperators will experience firsthand exposure to organic agriculture practices.

Following the various trainings and farm visits, the 40 farmer cooperators established their greenhouses in a 100 m2 area. Each was provided inputs, including vinyl plastics and various vegetable seeds. Two shredders were given to each of the association in support to the production of organic fertilizers.

Interventions learned and adopted eagerly by the farmers included land preparation activities which consist of decomposing indigenous microorganisms, application of organic fertilizers into the soil prior to planting, and basal application of organic fertilizers.

During the cropping cycles, certain practices were employed to improve soil fertility especially for farms worn-out of soil nutrients as a result of mono-cropping and excessive application of inorganic fertilizers. Farmers were introduced to crop rotation practices. The cropping pattern includes the rotation of leafy vegetables, ampalaya, eggplant, and crucifers with legumes like snap beans and string beans.

Also introduced during the project was the use of fermented plant juice (extracted from locally available plants like sweet potato, malunggay, and kangkong), fermented fruit juice (extracted from fruits in season like avocado, banana, papaya, and guava), and indigenous microorganisms to improve soil fertility. Mulching was also encouraged especially during the dry season. It was done by spreading over the roots of plants a layer of straw, grass cuttings, leaves, or compost to conserve soil moisture.

On pest control and management, various techniques were used to prevent and control the attack of insect pests and diseases on their plants. They used odorous and bitter materials as repellants. They were taught to formulate botanical pesticides and fungicides using the available indigenous plants in the area.

Such practices reaped good results for the farmers, from the shelf life, to taste and size, they have noticed significant differences. Ernesto Dulnuan, BOFA president, noticed a difference in his organic pechay. “The shelf life of pechay grown the organic way is two days while that grown conventionally is only a day,” he shared. Another farmer cooperator Agapita Kimayong, observed a change in her produce as well in terms of size. “Pechay grown under the vinyl cellophane shed is bigger and grows faster compared to that exposed or without a vinyl cellophane shed,” she said.

The quest for healthier, safer food set this project in motion. Market was never a problem for the farmers’ produce. In fact, Ms. Nene Pahiwon, shared how her organic lettuce is sold fast within her community alone. “I don’t need to go to the market to sell my vegetables. Dito pa lang sa amin, ubos na agad,” she said. But for a sustainable market mechanism, a display center for organic vegetables was put up at the area near the Provincial Capitol of Lagawe. A regular market day is set every Wednesday.

Going beyond CPAR

Farmer cooperator, Aquilina Saguilot used to be a fulltime employee. She was the university librarian at the Ifugao State University. Farming served as a hobby for her until she got involved in the CPAR project on organic vegetable production. The knowledge that she acquired through various trainings she attended enabled her to seek opportunities beyond farming. She put up her own organic farm which she turned into a learning site for farmers and students as well.

Now, the Aquilina Saguilot Farm welcomes farmers, researchers, students, and other private individuals who might be interested to learn and venture into organic farming. Her farm stations included various vegetables such as tomato, mustard, pechay, and bell pepper. Whenever visitors come, she would gladly share all of her learnings she gained from the CPAR project.

The CPAR in Ifugao, particularly in Kiangan and Lamut, has been expanding through the increase in the number of farmer adopters. Apparently, Ms. Saguilot is not the only one who converted her farm into organic farming and learning site. Organic integrated farming is slowly gaining ground in other municipalities. ### (Daryl Lou A. Battad)

Expanding organic tilapia production and processing through CPAR

2016-05-tilapia

While most stories start with an insight. There are those that start with a question. People who ask the right question at the right time and through proper channel, know that this is the best way to gain deeper insight. Hence, the story of Villafuerte Camat, Jr., a farmer from Lamut, Ifugao and owner of the Camat Farm.

With the high cost of farm inputs, Camat had been wanting to go into organic farming. But he doesn’t know how. His land area, around 1.5 hectares, had beein operating as an integrated conventional farm and was mostly allotted for rice, tilapia, swine, and vegetable productions.

It was from here that he started asking people from agriculture office. Camat asked and sought the assistance of Mr. Arthur Fontanilla, an agricultural technician at Lamut Municipal Agriculture Office, who was then involved in the implementation of a Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) project on fishpond production in Lamut, Ifugao. Specifically, the CPAR project was being implemented in Brgys. Hapid and Sanafe, where most farmers are earning meager income from fishing.

Tilapia production in Lamut started growing when the Hapid Irrigation Project operationalized in 2000 allowing the proliferation of tilapia production. Idle lands and rice fields have been converted to fishponds. But with the increase of inputs for fishpond production, many fisherfolk have been encountering problems, one of which is the decline of income.

“Though they have lots of potential areas for fish production, they only produce not as much as they wanted to because of the limited funds to buy inputs for fish production. They also have limited trainings to engage in this endeavor as they are not yet organized. So there is a need to institutionalize them,” explained Dr. Catherine V. Buenaventura, supervising agriculturist, Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources Office (PAENRO).

Buenaventura, also the CPAR project leader, mentioned that the CPAR project main goals were to promote the adoption of improved technology on tilapia production to fisherfolk using the farmer’s field school (FFS) approach; and to promote fish processing and packaging technologies to add value to fishery products and therefore increase their profit.

Among the interventions introduced in the project included the establishment of tilapia fishpond production demonstration sites wherein each fisher-cooperator where provided at least 400 square meters of their fishpond areas for their on-farm trials.

Meanwhile, the FFS was conducted during the first cycle and the next were monitored by the CPAR team. “The Provincial and Municipal CPAR team facilitated the establishment of beneficiaries’ production ponds through FFS method and there were special topics discussed during these sessions. Problems identified were discussed and were given solutions outright,” Buenaventura added.

To strengthen the capabilities of fish farming communities in managing their resources, trainings were provided through the project. Conducted together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Regional Fisheries Training Center of Aparri, Cagayan, the training topics included: fishpond design, construction and management for tilapia; fishpond culture of tilapia; seine net and scoop net design, construction and maintenance; postharvest and value-adding; data gathering and record keeping; and organic fish feed formulation.

Camat, upon the invitation of Fontanilla attended these trainings, field trips and other activities on fishpond production as well as on-going sessions of FFS on organic vegetable and chicken production in Kiangan.

From the seminars he attended, Camat acquired learnings and hands-on training on integrated organic production which he applied in his own farm. He modified some of the technologies he learned from the training and customized according to the needs of his production.

Camat was thankful that the CPAR project came to Lamut. “Even though I was not a cooperator of the project and was only an adoptor, I was able to learn from the introduced technology and intervention and applied them in my farm.”

Camat was able to develop his own feed formulation for his swine, chicken, and fish and is now producing his own fertilizer using Azolla in combination with the manure for his organic swine.

In 2013, the Camat Farm was fully converted into an integrated organic farming which include: rice production, fish culture, organic swine production, chicken production, vegetables in plots and plastic containers, and rabbit production.

His organic tilapia production, which is 0.5 hectare, was further strengthened when he attended training on postharvest and value-adding.

“I started going into organic culture of tilapia in 2012. We source our fingerlings from the Central Luzon State University or at a nearby Provincial Fish Hatchery. I formulate my own feeds out of the available forages in the farm like rice bran (D1). copra and soya are added to the forages and fermented them or 21 days,” explained Camat.

His tilapia harvests are often sold as fresh and the smaller sizes which is about 35 percent of the stocks are being processed as smoked and dried tilapia. One of his recent venture is the tilanggit also known as tilapiang dinanggit (Oreochromis niloticus), which was inspired from how the usual danggit (Siganus sp.), is being prepared.

One of the distinct characteristics of tilanggit over the conventional danggit is that the former is meatier and mostly preferred by customers for its taste. The production of tilanggit did not only provide value addition to tilapia, but it also opened opportunities for livelihood and additional income to fisherfolk in the area.

Products from tilapia, both fresh and processed, are being sold at the local market in Lamut. Many of Camat’s buyers usually go to his farm to buy his produce. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)

PRISM complements R&D efforts on rice

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Fast, detailed, and accurate information on rice – this was the hub of the discussion during the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) Annual Executive Meeting held on 31 March 2016 at Bayview Park Hotel, Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

With the aim of updating the various stakeholders, the meeting was spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

PRISM is a monitoring and information system for rice production in the Philippines. Its main purpose is to gather and organize information on rice yield, yield gaps, and causes of these yield gaps; and to provide this information to key stakeholders for policy support. It is a collaborative project of DA-PhilRice, IRRI, DA-Bureau of Plant Industry, DA-Regional Field Offiecs (RFOs), and sarmap (a Swiss-based software developer). The project is in support to DA’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program, with funding support from the DA National Rice Program through the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).

The project, “PRISM: Philippine Rice Information System – An operational system for rice monitoring to support decision making towards increased rice production in the Philippines”, is a three-year initiative that aimed to support the vision of a strengthened DA with the capacity and infrastructure to use information technology for a more food secure future. PRISM’s mission is to support DA in regional and national decision-making for rice security by using state-of-the-art technologies to generate rice crop information and to enhance the capacity of the Department to collect, analyze, disseminate, and use this information.

Undersecretary for Administration and Finance Allan Q. Umali, who represented Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, delivered the welcome message. He stressed the need for the government to intensify its campaign towards achieving food security and uplifting the lives of the Filipinos. He also acknowledged the efforts of DA-PhilRice and IRRI as well as the support of DA-BAR for giving Rice R&D the needed boost and support. “Through their researches, we continue to develop new technologies that will help mitigate losses and raise farm productivity,” he reiterated.

Usec. Umali also applauded the PRISM project, which, he said, is expected to benefit the rice farmers by providing the right information on when and where they can improve rice planting through new and appropriate technologies. He also recommended the institutionalization of PRISM.

Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships, also delivered a welcome remarks and articulated the support of Senator Cynthia A. Villar and the leadership of Secretary Alcala in implementing research and development programs and initiatives of the government. Dr. Tolentino also cited an example that through the PRISM they were able to provide estimates on rice damages within two to three days brought about by typhoon Lando in October 2015.

Serving as guest of honor was Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food wherein she mentioned that PRISM is a worthwhile project of the DA which gives access to the information needs of the farmers.

BAR Assistant Director Teodoro S. Solsoloy officially capped off the event by acknowledging the efforts of DA-PhilRice and IRRI on the success of the PRISM project. Dr. Solsoloy, added that BAR will always be at forefront in delivering timely information out of its generated research on rice. ### (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca)

BAR-supported multi-purpose R&D Center for MAO in Tagkawayan inaugurated

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In an effort to enhance the delivery of agri-fishery services at the grassroots level, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) officially opened the newly-established Multi-Purpose R&D Center for the Municipal Agricultural Office (MAO) during its inauguration on 17 March 2016 in Tagkawayan, Quezon.

BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar, who served as the guest of honor and keynote speaker, underscored in his speech that BAR, through RA 8435 or Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), is investing on agricultural institutions such as the R&D Center in Tagkawayan so that the MAO are equipped with modern facility and they can provide better services to the farmers.

“The R&D facility will be a suitable workplace for researchers in producing and commercializing technologies to attain a safe, secured, and sustained food. It can also be used for conduct of trainings and seminars to disseminate low-cost technologies where farmers and fishers can take advantage of,” Dr. Eleazar said.

Strategically-located at the center of the municipality, the Center will serve as an agri-fisheries hub offering a dynamic mix of traditional practices and modern technologies, and free access to services offered by the MAO. It contains a laboratory for tissue culture and soil testing, meeting and training rooms, office of the municipal agriculturist and staff, and the local radio station of Tagkawayan that airs agri-fisheries news.

Present in the activity were Tagkawayan Mayor Jose Jonas A. Frondoso, Vice Mayor Veronica Masangkay, officials of the Sanguniang Bayan, MAO Rolando Mendoza, researchers, extensionists, and other members of the local government.

“We are thankful to the Department of Agriculture and BAR for providing funds to build this modern facility. Through this, we can improve our services to increase agri-fisheries productivity not only for Tagkawayan but also for the whole region” said Mayor Frondoso.

Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Masangkay expressed her full support to the initiatives of the MAO and suggested to revive citrus production. In response, MAO Mendoza said “the facility gave us additional confidence in performing our jobs, we promise to double our effort to increase agricultural productivity”.

After the program, Rev. Fr. Celso L. Baretto led the prayer and blessing of the building. This was followed by a ceremonial ribbon cutting and unveiling of the commemorative marker. The activity concluded with the traditional tossing of coins which is symbolic of abundance and success. ### (Jacob Anderson C. Sanchez)