Postharvest project keeps elderly farmers productive
by Noel T. Provido
Davao City (17 February) -- They spent more than half of their lives in the farm, weathered the scourging heat of the sun or the pouring of the heavy rains just to produce rice and earn a living for their families.
Now on their sunset years, the members of the Senior Citizens Organization (SCO) in this town still work hard but sans the painstaking field works.
This after their organization was able to put up a mechanical dryer facility servicing more than 400 hectares of rice farms.
"Since we can no longer endure the hard labor in the field, our children are now the ones tending to our crop. But we cannot just be idle for we need to continuously help our family earn a living," said Simplicia Lumanao, one of the SCO members.
Lumanao said the project is manageable to fellow senior citizens as it will not require much time and effort compared to fulltime farming.
She added that a viable dryer facility was a long felt need since erratic weather conditions had greatly affected the quality of their produce and income.
"We had experienced several losses due to lack of postharvest facility especially during rainy season. Palay if not properly dried results to poor milling quality. The rice is either broken or spotted which cannot command better price," Lumanao said.
Much as they would like to help address the need to improve postharvest practices in their community, they are hampered by financial constraints.
"Although operating a dryer facility could help boost our organization's hardly earned income mostly taken from our membership contributions and loaning services, we cannot afford such investment," said Zenaida Felix, the organization treasurer.
After learning that the Department of Agriculture-Mindanao Rural Development Program (DA-MRDP) is providing livelihood assistance to farming communities, their organization did not hesitate to come-up with their corresponding equity.
Out of the total project cost of P794, 000.00 the SCO was able to provide a counterpart amount of P244, 000.00, one of the biggest PO cash equity so far. The said amount was taken from the savings of their 83 senior citizen members. The barangay government unit also provided P50, 000.00 while the remaining P500,000.00 was a grant from the Community Fund for Agricultural Development (CFAD) of MRDP.
"We are the only mechanical drying facility in Carmen, so we expect our project to earn more in the years to come," Felix said.
Felix said a net income of P15, 378.00 was attained during the initial operation of the facility last year. She is optimistic that a return of investment will be attained soon since the mechanical dryer is the only operating postharvest facility in the community.
Meanwhile, MRDP program director Lealyn Ramos underscored the importance of investing in postharvest technologies for farmers to weather the impact of climate change to our farmers' productivity.
"In increasing food production, we should also look into reducing postharvest losses as a key strategy in attaining food security and improving farm productivity," Ramos said.
For the elderly farmers of Carmen, investing in postharvest facility is not only a means to reduce postharvest losses and improve their families' incomes but also as a way of securing self worth even on their twilight years. (DA-MRDP) [top]