The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) or locally named as “kamote”, once-touted “a poor man’s crop”, is now regarded as a “cash crop” for a Manobo IP group in Carmen, Surigao del Sur.
Despite the many concerns brought by the coronavirus disease (CoViD-19) pandemic, these did not hinder the 50 members of the Mag-uumang Manobo sa Hinapoyan (MAMASAHI) Association to turn the adversity into an opportunity as they ventured to sweet potato farming.
The said association is a recipient of the Sweet Potato Production Project of the Department of Agriculture – Caraga’s Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program in 2019 worth Php 436,250. They received 120,000 sweet potato cuttings which they planted in their association members’ idle lots with the total area of 3 hectares. The project also includes organic fertilizers, farm tools, carabao, and a hand tractor.
Prior to planting, the members were trained on sweet potato production to ensure their readiness in managing the project. The said program aims to develop livelihood activities which the beneficiaries themselves can effectively manage, augment their incomes, and provide employment in the community.
Mr. Venancio P. Meniano, Chairman of MAMASAHI, admits that the majority of the villagers are seasonal laborers with no definite daily income to support the basic needs of their family.
“The support of the DA-Caraga SAAD Program teaches us to use the resources that we have here in our village. Starting to build a production area isn’t difficult for us because we have good soil that can provide us a nutritive crop,” said Mr. Meniano.
Last August 14, 2019, the group started to grow sweet potato and after five months of waiting, MAMASAHI began to reap their first fruits in January. They harvest an average of 400-500 kgs twice a month and sell them at the local market for Php 20 – 25/kg. The gross sales until March 28, 2020 for the 1,700 kg of sweet potatoes is Php 39,000. The association managed to invest at least 23% of their sales or an equivalent of Php 9,000, which is set aside as savings.
“Eventually we are looking forward that through this project we will have an additional income of at least Php 2,000 – 3,000 per month for each member. This is a big help for us,” said Chairman Meniano.
With this, the association plans to continually propagate sweet potato to ensure a continuous supply of the root crop for the community and adjacent communities. The cooperation of each member made the idle land into a productive sweet potato field. They even managed to expand their area from 3 hectares to 12 hectares for their second cropping due to available sweet potato cuttings from their previous crop.
In this trying time where food is essential, the association is one of the local government unit’s partner producers that supplies sweet potato to the locals. “We don’t know when will this crisis ends, but we are grateful that this project will give as an additional source of income at the same time provide food for our family and our community,” Mr. Meniano added.
“We are starting to empower this tribe through the DA-SAAD Program interventions. We are on track to develop the entrepreneurial capabilities of the beneficiaries and improve their knowledge and appreciation that Agriculture is not just farming but also an enterprise,” said Ms. Dailinda Mollanida, DA-Caraga SAAD Program Deputy Focal Person.
“The sweet potato production is timely as the Plant, Plant, Plant Program was launched by Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, which sought to boost the food sufficiency level of the agriculture commodities that are essential in the country’s food security amidst COVID-19 outbreak”, Ms. Mollanida added. ###
Writer: Rhea Abao- Information Officer II, DA Caraga
Source: Ligaya A. Toroy- Area Coordinator, SAAD Caraga