A successfully-implemented project is gauged not only by the goals and objectives that it was able to accomplish, more importantly, it is also measured by how it was able to continue and sustain what it has started even after the project has already ended.
For the case of Sta. Josefa in Agusan del Sur, all it needed was the right project to come along and the appropriate agencies and people to come together to work towards one goal: improve the quality of living of corn farmers in the area by increasing their profits.
Establishing a CPAR on corn
A landlocked province in the Caraga Region and the third largest province in the Philippines, the people of Agusan del Sur lives by planting rice, corn and banana which are also their main sources of food and livelihood.
The province has vast untapped yet fertile agricultural lands which is suited for corn production. Out of its 415,102 ha of agricultural area, its prime corn land has a potential production of 21,539 metric tons per cropping season given the proper package of technology on corn production.
In the municipality of Sta Josefa, white corn production is much favored since 1998. But in 1999, farmers shifted to yellow corn after various government initiatives promoting yellow corn production poured in the area. One government program is the Total Agricultural Production Development (TOP-D) Ordinance which was implemented to finance yellow corn production. At the time the Department of Agriculture (DA) also provided 100 bags of yellow corn under the program, Plant Now Pay Later (PNPL).
While the yellow corn production increased in the area, other aspects of the value chain remained unresolved. How will the farmers market their produce given the unstable farm gate price of corn? What are the appropriate technologies available on corn-based farming system? How to ensure an increase in farmers' income?
These issues were addressed when a Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) project was established in Sta. Josefa. With funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the project was conceptualized through the CARAGA Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CARIARC) in collaboration with the Provincial Veterinary Office- Agusan del Sur and DA-XIII- Regulatory Division as collaborating agencies.
Specifically, the CPAR project aimed to 1) enhance the basic knowledge and skills of the project beneficiaries on corn-based farming system, feed formulation and feed milling operation; 2) produce quality and readily available feeds at a reasonable price; and 3) provide income for the corn farmers and their families.
Feed milling operation
From 2001 to 2007, Agusan del Sur is said to have produced 39,000-52,000 mt of corn (yellow and white) with an average of 29,000-44,000 metric tons (mt) corn surplus.
Given the prevailing surplus of corn in the municipality, an establishment of a village level feed mill was proposed to process corn surplus and to utilize locally available feed ingredients in the area. Also, with implementation of CPAR, the feedmill was made operational to use locally-produced corn and in return support small poultry and swine raisers in the community by providing them with low-cost feeds.
Ensuring corn production is one thing, marketing the produce is another thing. Marketing the farmers' produce became a problem given the variability of the farm gate price of corn. During wet season, farm gate price of corn could not compensate farmers' production resulting to a break even or even a big deficit for farmers. Hence, the local government of Sta. Josefa facilitated a marketing strategy known as the "Buy-back Scheme" which aims to provide a stable corn prices for the farmers. Through this scheme, the price of corn was stabilized giving an assured equitable income to corn farmers.
Following this scheme, farmers' harvests are sold solely to the LGU that in return will market the product outside the municipality, either to the National Food Authority (NFA) or to other big corn dealers. The LGU stocked a portion of corn from the farmers' deliveries for their feed mill operations.
All inputs were provided by the LGU-Sta. Josefa and will then initiate a contract with agricultural supplies provider for the inputs to be lent to the farmers. Payment for the availed inputs is given at the end of the cropping season.
In the contract, the farmer would estimate his expected yield based on the stand of his corn and his expected harvest date. The farmer's responsibility was to deliver his product to the LGU for estimation and appraisal for him to get his payment for his product.
Dispersal program of piglets
Another important component of this CPAR project is the dispersal program of piglets for fattening and distribution of formulated feeds. This is part of the project's objective which is to be able to produce low cost feeds for swine and poultry production.
Through this program, the local government of Sta. Josefa provided piglets to farmer members of LAPRA with feeds (from starter mash to finisher mash) to not only provide additional income but also to test the efficiency of the feeds that were formulated.
Traditionally, swine growers in Sta Josefa were highly dependent on indigenous feedstuff such as darak, kangkong and gabi as sources of feeds for their animals which would usually take long for the pigs to reach their marketable weight.
During the duration of the project, it was found that traditionally-grown pigs produced thick fat while the meat grown with the formulated feeds produced lean fat and thicker meat parts.
The favorable result of the project opened a wide market for feeds which consequently increased the demand for feeds produced from the feed mill established in the community.
Collaboration for rural development
One of the attributed factors for the success of this CPAR project is the strong and effective collaboration between and among the agencies involved, namely: DA-BAR, DA-RFU 13/CARIARC, LGU of Sta. Josefa and the farmers association.
The project was implemented based on a resource sharing scheme with BAR providing the funds with counterpart from local government of Sta. Josefa. Meanwhile, CARIARC provided the technical assistance, implementation, monitoring, data gathering and project management with the farmer cooperators providing the land and labor for corn and swine production.
The procurement of equipment were provided by CARIARC through funding support from BAR while the establishment of equipment shed was provided by the LGU- Sta. Josefa. As part of the counterpart funding, DA-RFU 13 provided feed ingredients for the 100 heads experimental animals to test the efficiency of the feeds formulated during the duration of the CPAR project. Other inputs such as the hybrid yellow corn seeds, fertilizers and other production inputs were provided by the MLGU Sta. Josefa.
Farmer-cooperators for the project were members of the Livestock and Poultry Raisers Association (LAPRA). As cooperators, the members attended trainings and cross visits to enhance their knowledge and skills particularly on corn production, livestock production and management, and feed formulation. Feed mill operators were trained on the different mixing techniques and processes in order for them to equip with the proper knowledge on the operation while computerized feed formulation and follow-through training on basic computer operations were also conducted to fully equip them with the needed skills.
This article was based on a study titled, "Community Participatory Action Research (CPAR) in Sta. Josefa: LGU-RIARC Collaboration for Rural Development" by Escolastico S. Cagatin, DVM of DA-CARAGA Integrated Agricultural Research Center, DA-RFU XIII, Trento, Agusan del Sur.