Tuba, Benguet - Even if farmer-trainees in Tuba, Benguet would be harvesting just a few of their vegetables planted during their training, SM Foundation still held the harvest festival and the graduation of batch 187 of the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan trainees.
The trainees were just as happy with the few products that were ready to be picked. Most of their planted crops were damaged by the habagat and typhoon Ompong that lashed through most parts of Regions 1 and 2 late last year.
They were able to harvest lots of squash, tomatos, eggplant and a few patola and celery but the majority, including honeydew melon were not yet ripe as these were new plants that were sown after the storm.
SM Foundation’s Cristie Angeles, executive director for livelihood and outreach, asked the farmers to pursue what they have learned in their training, not just to ensure food on their tables, but also earn from their products which, the local government said it would help market right in Benguet and its neighbor, Baguio.
Spread the word
Farmer Dominador Biago, 59 who had been farming for 40 years even if he obtained an engineering course in his early life, said he would definitely continue what he learned about planting the natural way—meaning less chemical fertilizers and pesticides and using plastic mulches to protect the crop from the rigors of weather (too much water during rainy season and wilting during the dry season).
He is resolved as well to pursue and spread the new technology to his fellow farmers (relatives and neighbors) to ensure that the new planting technology will be sustained and ensure better yields for everyone, thus ensuring better revenues.
He plants on 2-hectare farm from his ancestors where he grows bitter gourd, tomato, eggplant and squash. His message to the youth—who opt for an easier life as employees—“magtanim kasi mas kikita kayo at matutulungan ang pamilya sa mas malaking paraan through better food.”
He also has a message for those that chose to be idle: “Magtanim kaysa magtambay kasi wala kayong kikitain sa katatanga.”
Richard Palangdan, 52 had been farming since he was 8 years old.
He said he would pursue more trainings, if possible so he can keep improving and he would maintain farming. He said he plans to form an association’—either from his batch of 77 trainees or from his neighbors—so that together they can sell their products at better rates in the public market and elsewhere.
He said the real farmer “ay hindi sumusuko habang may buhay.”
He plants pipino, lettuce, Benguet beans, upo and many other saleable agricultural products in his farm.
Euraleigh Requidan, 45, took his first five sessions in Calasiao. But because Tuba was nearer his farm (in Rosario, La Union) he decided to join in the Tuba KSK.
He plants in 52 hectares (which includes a natural and man-made forest) rice, corn, vegetables but mostly sili. He said he wants to grow sili commercially because it has better returns. Right now, many of his sili are the pang-sinigang type. But he says there is more money in growing labuyo (and processing and bottling them) because it has a bigger market demand. He said he learned that using modern farming technologies will be less costly and there would be less need for farm labor, which is now so hard to find. Eventually he plans to fully mechanize his farm.
Partners of Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan are the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture - CAR and the LGU of Tuba. The SM Group which includes BDO and SM Supermarket Baguio provided financial literacy sessions and market linkages last January 9.
The 77 farmers from Tuba, Benguet received their certificates of completion at SM City Baguio.
John Paul Arnaiz, Assistant Mall Manager SM City Baguio said the "most unforgettable experience of the program for him is sharing the 14 principles of Tatang (Henry Sy Sr). It makes me proud that I'm part of company that take cares the environment."
Marlyn Cabanes, Municipal Agriculture Officer of Tuba, Benguet said "Matatapos na din ang isang yugto na pinaghirapan ninyo sa training."
Tuba Mayor Ignacio Rivera said “ang training ninyo ba’y simula pa lamang. Ito na ang ating pagkakataon dahil binigyan tayo ng SM ng pagkakataon na magkaisa."
Brenden Quintos, Regional Executive Assistant DSWD-CAR said "This is indeed another milestone and beginning of improvement of your life."
Cristie Angeles, assistant vice president for SM Foundation’s Outreach program said "Malaki po ang utang namin sa inyong mga magsasaka."
Terecita Acerit, KSK participant presented the sustainability plan. Also present at the graduation were Vice mayor Carlita Sul-ongan, Councilors of Tuba, Benguet, SM City Baguio Mall Manager Rona Vida Correa, SM City Baguio Supermarket Branch Manager Charles Andrew Digo, Savemore La Trinidad Store Manager Kathelene Bagawisan and DSWD-CAR.