Feature: The brighter side of upland farming
SAN ISIDRO, Davao del Norte (22 December) -- Pieces of house furnishing; much better abode; and means to send her children to school. These are just few on the wish-list of Rosalie Mira who sees a much productive upland farm four to five years from now.
Rosalie, 29-year-old mother of two young children takes time helping her husband Arman Mira in tilling their one-hectare farm which used to be thick of cogon grass way back in 2003.
Arman recalled how little did he earn from that farm which was then sparsely planted with cacao, few coconut trees and a mango tree.
When he became an cooperator of the Upland Development Program (UDP) in 2004, Arman saw an increasing turn-out of his labor, applying UDP technologies such as the diversified farming system and contour farming.
From a measly P11,000 annual income in 2003, Arman earned P16,000 in a year practice of upland farming techniques he learned from municipal and provincial inter-agency project monitoring team of UDP, particularly the offices of agriculture and environment and natural resources.
Arman is looking forward towards raking in huge income of about P500,000 a year in four to five years from that one-hectare upland lot now planted with vegetables, bananas, and fruit trees.
Existing cacao trees estimated to be more than 20 years old have been regularly pruned to result in much higher yield.
Aside from crops and trees, goats and other backyard animals are also raised in that one-hectare farm which is also into vermi culture to produce organic fertilizer.
Others may find the UDP sustainable farming practices as tedious but the couple knows that diligence pays off.
"Kami ray ga-ugmad ani nga yuta. Wala mi magsuhol ug laing tawo. (We (couple) are the ones tilling this land. We have not hired anyone to help us)," said Rosalie.
No wonder their farm has been identified as a model farm where other farmers from neighboring areas can take a look and learn the ways of sustainable upland farming.
Their farm was one of the must-see sites of some 300 farmers from UDP areas in Davao del Norte on December 14 farmers' field day which highlighted the theme, "Kakugi, Kahibalo, ug Kamitud-anon sa Mag-uuma."
Municipal Agriculture Officer Laureano Pintor noted a high level of interest among farmers in the municipality of San Isidro to adopt UDP farming techniques "because of the evident increase in income, farmers can get once adopted."
He said sustainability of the program lies in people's participation and involvement in creating a widespread practice of upland farming techniques.
Other than the local government farm technicians, farmers who have been adopting UDP farming practices have been tapped to become barangay extension workers to teach fellow farmers in their community of sustainable farming practices.
Field school days are also being conducted to provide lectures on how to raise a particular crop and discuss solutions of various farming concerns.
Municipal UDP technician Saturnino Pislan noted with pride that farmers can go on their own once UDP folds up next year.
"Kabalo na sila. Mag-ilog man gani ug tubag sa mga pangutana sa open forum. (They are fully aware (about farming techniques). Note how they vie in answering questions during the open forum.)," he said.
San Isidro Mayor Tomas Abelita vowed support for the program and committed to carry it through because he had seen its benefits for upland farmers.
San Isidro was one of the UDP areas in Davao del Norte which came in as a UDP site only in 2003, way too late from other UDP areas in Mindanao.
Other UDP covered provinces are Compostela Valley Province, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Sarangani, Bukidnon, among others.
UDP is a European-funded project under the Department of Agriculture. (PIA XI/JMDA) [top]