Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sen. Villar voices support for AFCs at Luzon-wide congress

Sen. Villar keynotes the Luzon-wide AFC Congress held at the One Vittoria Hotel, Bantay, Ilocos Sur. 
(Photo courtesy of DA-RFO 1)
Senator Cynthia Villar expressed strong support to the cause of the Agricultural and Fishery Councils (AFCs) as AFC members from Luzon convened on September 16 and 17, 2015 to tackle possible solutions for some of the pressing concerns that affect the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Sen. Villar, currently the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, reiterated that the farmers, fisherfolk and other stakeholders have her full support in dealing with the changes and challenges confronting them and the industry.

With the theme “AFCs: Sumasabay sa Hamon ng Makabagong Panahon”, the Luzon-wide AFC Congress commemorated the efforts of the AFCs to cope with the dynamic and evolving sectors of agriculture and fisheries through the years.

Held in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office of Region 1 (DA-RFO1) and the Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council headed by Chairperson Vincent Adorna, the congress also highlighted the AFCs’ contributions as DA’s integral partners in the development of sound and responsive agri-fishery policies and in ensuring the effective implementation of local programs and projects.

In her keynote speech, Sen. Villar encouraged AFC leaders to continue to be resilient and steadfast in their commitment to the development of the agriculture and fisheries sector in the country despite the challenges they face.
She also briefly discussed some priority legislation related to the sector which she passed and co-sponsored, namely, the Sugar Industry Development Act, Amended Fisheries Code, Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, Farm Tourism Bill, Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2015, among others.

Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) Executive Director Ariel Cayanan also graced the event and underscored the contributions of the AFCs in policy-making for agriculture and fisheries in the countryside which include Sustainable Corn Production in Sloping Areas and implementation of stricter regulations for meat importation, among others.

He also assured the AFC members that PCAF will continue strengthening its support mechanisms including the provision of quality, timely and cost-effective capability development activities and of technical leadership and guidance and administrative support to ensure the conduct of the AFCs’ regular meetings and activities.

PCAF Committee on Climate Change Vice Chairperson Hazel Tanchuling and DA-RFO 1 Regional Technical Director for Operations Dr. Paz Mones also talked about climate change and the Philippine Rural Development Project, respectively. Regional Fisheries Office Director Nestor Domenden also discussed the priority thrusts of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for 2015-2016 and the agency’s existing interventions.

Sloping Areas and implementation of stricter regulations for meat importation, among others.

He also assured the AFC members that PCAF will continue strengthening its support mechanisms including the provision of quality, timely and cost-effective capability development activities and of technical leadership and guidance and administrative support to ensure the conduct of the AFCs’ regular meetings and activities.

PCAF Committee on Climate Change Vice Chairperson Hazel Tanchuling and DA-RFO 1 Regional Technical Director for Operations Dr. Paz Mones also talked about climate change and the Philippine Rural Development Project, respectively. Regional Fisheries Office Director Nestor Domenden also discussed the priority thrusts of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for 2015-2016 and the agency’s existing interventions.

Members of the AFCs from the Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, 4B and 5, together with representatives from DA-RFO 1 and PCAF’s Partnership Development Division, convene at the Luzon-wide AFC Congress. (Photo courtesy of DA-RFO 1)

By the end of the congress, AFC chairpersons from the participating regions endorsed resolutions to address issues in their respective localities.

Among the issues tackled are on the practice of vermi composting and implementation of Solid Waste Management Program in Region 1, allowing Ivatan fishers to use small commercial fishing vessel to fish within the 2-kilometer radius in Batanes and provision of green super rice in Region 3 for farmers to be able to adapt to the effects of climate change.

RAFC 4A called for the creation of a Climate Change Committee in all levels of AFCs in the region while Occidental Mindoro PAFC requested for the extension of the country’s quantitative restriction on rice. Likewise, the Sorsogon PAFC urged the DA to strengthen bottom-up budgeting process through the AFCs.

A resolution requesting for the total ban on the usage and sale of chemicals with glyphosate component was also endorsed, as well as the provision of fuel subsidy for standing crops that will be affected by El NiƱo. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 Gawad Saka top 3 finalists picked

After a careful selection process, the 2015 Gawad Saka Search for Outstanding Agriculture and Fisheries Achievers now has its top three finalists as presented to the National Executive Committee (NEC) last September 17, 2015 at the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority Convention Hall, Visayas Ave., Quezon City. The top three finalists for the national level of the Search were selected for each of the 22 Gawad Saka categories following the field validation and evaluation conducted by the National Technical Committees (NTCs) which were created for each category. Divided accordingly into three groups for crops, institutions and research, and livestock and fisheries, the presentations were rendered by the NTCs during the breakout sessions. Each group was respectively moderated by Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority Dir. Clarito Barron, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Administrative Services Assistant Director Atty. Benjamin Tabios and Dir. Manuel Jarmin of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF). The final presentation materials on the finalists will be submitted to the board of judges before their deliberation on October 5. PCAF Executive Director Ariel Cayanan, who also serves as this year’s Gawad Saka NEC Chairperson, urged NTC members to continually draw inspiration from one another in ensuring the success of the Search this year and hoped that everyone’s efforts will help make Gawad Saka remain a relevant undertaking in the ever-changing agri-socioeconomic landscape. He also thanked everyone for the support being given to PCAF which serves as this year’s Gawad Saka National Secretariat.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

AKBay’s reach extends to more families in Baras, Catanduanes

At 55 years old, Roni Valenzuela of Barangay Quezon, Baras in Catanduanes is yet to retire from alternating between two jobs—one as a construction worker and another as farmhand—to make sure that their youngest child will finish college next year.
His wife Roliza, 52, helps him by selling the produce harvested from their 100-square-meter vegetable farm at their backyard. With her meager earnings, the family is able to pay for household bills.
Until, on March 24, 2015, Roni received a P10,000 loan from the local government for a swine-fattening business through the local replication of the Government of Japan’s Agrikultura: Kaagapay ng Bayang Pinoy (AKBay) Program.
Where it all started
AKBay is a targeted poverty-reduction program that helps its beneficiaries start sustainable agri-based livelihood projects.
Implemented by the Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the then National Agricultural and Fishery Council and now the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries Council, it is funded under the Japan Grant Assistance for Food Security Project for Underprivileged Farmers (2KR).
The program is intended for the poorest households in farming and fishing communities in 31 priority provinces identified in the government’s Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program. This is in support to the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 1, “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.”
The Japan-assisted AKBay Program provides start-up funds worth up to P10,000 for each household-beneficiary. It is expected that the farm-household will be able to pay back the assistance fund starting from the second to the third year after the start of the project, at zero interest rate.
The funds recovered from the projects are pooled into a Roll-Over Fund or ROF which is used to assist other households from within the province where the original project fund was allocated.
Aside from financial assistance, AKBay also extends technical assistance in project identification, project proposal writing/development, and project implementation. It also assists in marketing the goods produced by each household under the program.
In 2011, 26 households in Baras became beneficiaries of the 2KR-assisted AKBay Program. It grew to 28 in 2012 under the second tranche and turned to benefit 101 more through the ROF.
Municipal AKBay Coordinator Pablo Tayangona noted the positive impact of the program in the fifth class municipality where agriculture is the main source of livelihood.
“AKBay helps augment the income of the families here in Baras. It is a huge opportunity for the beneficiaries to be able to stand on their own feet,” Tayangona shared.
He added that, in fact, the beneficiaries themselves go to his office to repay the financial assistance from AKBay and do not just wait for him to collect the money. Hence, in 2014, Baras recorded the highest replenishment among the eight municipalities helped by the AKBay Program in Catanduanes.
Baras Mayor Rodel Abichuela (in checkered polo) with the awardees of the second ROF of the 2KR-assisted AKBay Program in Catanduanes during the celebration of the Women’s Month in 2013.
In 2013, Baras Mayor Rodel Abichuela graced the awarding ceremony for the beneficiaries of the program’s second ROF. There, he saw the sustainability being provided by the program to his constituents
Determined to alleviate poverty in Baras, Mayor Abichuela decided to replicate AKBay locally and allocated P230,000 worth of funds under the local government unit’s (LGU) 2015 budget which benefited a total of 23 beneficiaries which include Roni.
Furthermore, the mayor had also pledged to shoulder the notarial fee of the acknowledgement receipts of the recipients to avoid additional expense on the part of the farmers.
With the help of Provincial AKBay coordinator Nelia Teves, the Municipal Agricultural Office made a few adjustments in the guidelines to adapt to the local conditions.
Municipal Agricultural Office OIC and Municipal AKBay Coordinator  Pablo Tayangona, Jr. (far left, in pink) together with Baras government officials, during the awarding ceremony of the locally funded AKBay Program.
 “For the locally funded AKBay Program, we decided that the beneficiaries should be enterprising poor — meaning families with monthly income of below P5,000 but have the capacity to manage agri projects. With this, we could expect that the beneficiaries would be able to pay back the financial assistance within a year at zero interest rate and with no collateral, as with Japan’s AKBay Program,” Tayangona explained.
According to Tayangona, most of the projects that the AKBay beneficiaries in Baras engage in are on swine-breeding and fattening, like the Valenzuelas.
“Using the financial assistance, beneficiaries can purchase two heads of swine at around P2,500 each and the rest of the money would usually go to the feeds. After four to six months, they would then be able to sell the pigs at around P110 per kilogram liveweight at the local market. At that time, a pig would usually have a liveweight of around 100 kilograms,” Tayangona said.
They could choose to sell both their pigs and buy one sow for breeding or they could also sell one and leave the other to be used as breeder — like what the Valenzuelas are planning to do.
Tayangona added that the beneficiaries are required to undergo orientation so that they would be able to manage their projects effectively.
With the implementation of both the Japanese Government’s and the Baras LGU’s AKBay programs, two to three families in all the 29 barangays in Baras are now engaged in agri-based enterprise.
Where dreams lead
Baras Municipal AKBay Coordinator speaks to beneficiaries of the locally funded AKBay Program.
Next year, the Baras municipal government hopes to benefit 100 more households under the locally funded AKBay Program.

Aside from livestock, Tayangona hopes that the beneficiaries could also engage in fishery projects.

"The risk is high especially as Baras is prone to natural calamities but we do hope to help fishing families here improve their lives as well,” Tayangona said.

To ensure the sustainability of the projects, Tayangona himself conducts regular monitoring at the field in spite of various challenges. Using what little income he has, Tayangona pays for his own fuel usage during these trips.

A father of three, 48-year-old Tayangona has been with the local government for 21 years. Aside from AKBay, Tayangona also coordinates activities under agricultural programs for 4H Club and rural women.

Being a farmer himself, he says that he is glad to see his fellowmen slowly rise from poverty through agricultural projects.

“I am happy that I get to be an agent of change. I don’t earn much from what I do but, for me, it is enough that I am able to help improve life in this town and be able to reach this ultimate dream,” Tayangona said.

He, together with the Valenzuelas, hopes that both the 2KR-assisted and the locally funded AKBay programs will be sustained for many more years and care for more poor families, as what the Filipino word ‘akbay’—which is literally having one’s arm over another’s shoulder—signifies.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cradling hands, nurturing heart

Baras MAFC Chairperson Oropesa shares how she was inspired to persevere in 
reaching out to their remote town at the awarding ceremony for the 2015 Search for 
Outstanding Rural Women.

“It is an honor to be a woman. We play a big role in shaping our nation,” said Baras MAFC Chairperson Luzviminda Oropesa as she encouraged women to take part in nation-building.

An awardee of the prestigious 2015 Search for Outstanding Rural Women of the Department of Agriculture, Chairperson Oropesa endeavored in promoting organic agriculture through setting up a demo farm with her own resources.

Her passion for agriculture started when she was with Nicua-Leyte Ironsand Corporation as corporate social responsibility officer prior to her retirement. 

“I was tasked to manage soil rehabilitation work of mined areas in Leyte. I realized that there is more to it than just soil rehabilitation work, so, right after my retirement, I went back to my hometown in Baras, Catanduanes and started agricultural development projects,” she recalled.

It was in 2011 that she decided to develop her 3.3-hectare farm, “What we eat should holistically nurture us. However, majority of the foods available in the market today are heavily mixed with fertilizers and pesticides that could harm us. So I decided to go organic and grow my family’s own food.”

Chairperson Oropesa imparts her knowledge in agriculture to the other 
members of her community.
But it didn’t end with her family as she also started sharing her knowledge in organic farming within her community because she believes that “through organic agriculture, every farmer would become sustainable.”

My heart is always with the small community of Baras. It is where I was born, it is where I was raised and it is where I would spend the rest of my life. It feels great when I wake up to simple living each morning. Agriculture makes me appreciate my Creator more,” she shared.

Her vision

Last July, the Outstanding Rural Women awardee was elected as MAFC Chairperson in Baras, Catanduanes.

Being new to the council, she aims to establish a good partnership with the Baras local government unit (LGU).

“I hope that the LGU will understand that we are their partners towards agricultural development,” she said.

She also envisions that someday, more families will engage in farming: “Our farmers are already old, I hope that their children will continue their parents’ endeavors in tilling the land where they were born.”

Her mission

“Everyone was born with a mission. Mine is to help farmers improve the quality of their lives,” Chairperson Oropesa said.

She believes that changing one’s mindset is the first step towards development.
“What the farmers needed was someone to guide them, thus I opened my farm so they could learn from it and I could learn from them. That’s how the Happy Farmers Producers Integrated and Livelihood Association, Inc., or HAFPILAINC Farm, started. It aims to empower responsible and sustainable rural farmers” she emphasized.

“Women have the hands that rocks our country’s cradle and have the heart that nurtures with patience. It is our mission to make life beautiful,” she underscored.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

PCAF hosts 4th Halal inter-agency meeting

In support to the development and promotion of the Philippine Halal Industry, the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) hosted the 4th Halal Inter-agency Meeting spearheaded by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) on September 2, 2015 at the PCAF Apacible Conference Room A. Among the government bodies represented at the meeting were the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Science and Technology, and the Bureau of Customs, as well as other stakeholders from some local government units, the private sector and the academe. The NCMF, led by Commissioner Edilwasif Baddiri, reported on updates on the commission’s plans and activities on Halal. The NCMF’s presentations included the stakeholders’ comments on the proposed Philippine Halal logo, local ordinances on Halal, the draft Terms of Reference on the Promotion and Development of the Philippine Halal Industry, and the draft proposal on the Procedures for Recognition of Foreign Halal Certification Bodies. Presentations were also rendered on the Halal Hub by the Department of Tourism, the Zamboanga Special Economic Zone, and Halal Programs by the Province of Palawan and by the City of Tanauan. The NCMF serves as the lead agency in Halal programs mandated under Republic Act No. 9997 to “promote and develop the Philippine Halal Industry and accredit Halal certifying entities/bodies for the utmost benefit of Muslim Filipinos and in partnership or cooperation with appropriate agencies, individuals and institutions here and abroad.”