The town of Dalaguete is known as the vegetable basket of Cebu as well as its summer capital. For the past years, it has been living up to its name by providing vegetables for its people and also the nearby towns. Just like any other community that is engaged in farming, its farming folk aim for a better harvest and higher production.
After years and years of tilling the soil, the farmers of Dalaguete noticed the decreasing level of agricultural productivity in their lands with reductions in the crop yield, brought about by low soil fertility levels, moderate to severe erosion, lack of irrigation facilities, minimal use of high yielding varieties, and occurrences of pests and diseases. There was also the unavailability of quality animal breeds particularly small ruminants.
With these problems identified, the farmers felt the need to move and solve their dilemma immediately.
Introduction of CPAR
Various government agencies joined forces-Central Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CENVIARC), Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Cebu, Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit VII, the local government unit of Dalaguete and the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
The project site is located in Manlapay, a second-class municipality situated in the mid southern part of the province. It is a mountainous area with five sitios bordered by Municipality of Badian in the west, Barangay Balaas in the north, Barangay Maloray in the south, and Barangays Bulak and Salug in the East.
Manlapay has coal reserves. Mining was the main source of income years back but it has long been stopped due to financial problems of the mine operators. Aside from coal, guano or bat droppings are abundant in the caves of Manlapay which the farmers use as fertilizer.
Essentially, the Community Based-Participatory Action Research (CPAR) involves the community-in this case the farmers-- from planning to implementation. Staff from the local government units provided technical assistance and they also served as facilitators.
To ensure efficient and effective project implementation as well as for socio-economic reasons, farmer cooperators and adopters underwent a series of trainings and consultations. Some of the trainings that were conducted were: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for highland vegetable varieties, soil and water conservation management and upland farming systems development, animal health care management, simple bookkeeping and farm record keeping and food processing.
BAR funded the project which provided loans for the farmers. Members involved paid the cost of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizers from their profit after harvesting. The money collected served as the revolving fund which the farmers association, under close supervision of the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist, manages.
What the farmers and the community want
The Manlapay farmers, now armed with CPAR, sought to increase farm productivity of dominant crops by 100 percent and their annual income by fifty percent in two years. Vegetable production was aimed at three to six tons per hectare per cropping season. Also, more farmers were encouraged to adopt appropriate soil and water conservation management technologies. Cost of production should be reduced with the introduction of appropriate resource management technologies and the use of low cost and indigenous materials. Lastly, the farmers can have an alternative source of income though integration of livestock with their crops.
The specific components of the Dalaguete project are:
Carrots, cauliflower and cabbage-which are high value crops-were the main crops recommended in terms of profitability and increased efficiency in terms of land use per unit production area.
Goats are highly suitable in the project area and require very minimal capitalization. This ruminant could provide meat and its wastes can be a source of organic fertilizer.
Soil and water conservation management
Since erosion was observed to be severe to excessive, appropriate soil and water management system should be implemented especially in areas with slopes greater than 25 percent.
Integrated Nutrient Management
Aside from using organic fertilizers, the rates of fertilizer applications rely on the recommendation of a soil laboratory based on the analysis of soil samples from individual farms.
Food processing and farm by-product utilization This was introduced during the last phase of the project as an expansion activity to diversify the sources of income and increase the participation of the women's group in the community.
To minimize postharvest losses, the women were trained on vegetable processing as well as meat processing.
Vermiculture was also introduced to utilize farm wastes as alternative source of fertilizer therefore reducing the cost of farm inputs.
Farmers benefit from their hard work
After 2 years of hard work, the farmers are reaping what they sowed. Before the project, the farmers harvested only 5.1 tons of cabbage per hectare. With the integration of CPAR, in the local agricultural practices, 9.1 tons per hectare was achieved-a 78 % increase. For carrots, it was 4 tons per hectare to 5.6 tons per hectare or 40 % increase. Lastly, cauliflower it was 6.2 tons per hectare to 9.6 tons per hectare or 55 % increase in yield. More yield means increase in income for the farmers. With this, the use of high yielding varieties farmers fared better in responding to market demand.
Soil and water conservation technologies applied such as contour cropping, crop rotation, establishment of diversion canals and contour ditches and utilization of forage and fodder materials as contour hedgerows greatly reduced the rate of erosion, stabilized the soil fertility level and prevented crop damage caused by erosion.
With the integration of livestock, the farmers maximized idle areas. The number of introduced small ruminants increased thereby improving the existing breeds. Aside from a source of organic fertilizer, it also provided additional income for the farming household especially the women.
The application of integrated pest and nutrient management led to the development of an environment-friendly ecosystem and reduced the need for chemical farm inputs.
Together everyone achieves more
With all these promising results, the farmers of Manlapay has been inspired to do better. CPAR truly proves that when the community works together harmoniously in achieving their goal, the outcome is always net positive. Dalaguete is indeed the vegetable basket of Cebu, and the basket is overflowing.
This article was based on the study, "CPAR on Vegetable-based Highland Integrated Farming System Development Project in Dalaguete, Cebu" by Dr. Eduardo Alama, Florentino Calinawan, Jr., Joseph dela Cerna, Necias Vicoy, and Kathryn Ylanan of DA-RFU 7, Central Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CENVIARC).