At the onset of the global pandemic where industries are immobilized, the state turned into independent cultivation and food production to secure food supplies as physical movement is identified as the top means of virus transmission.
In this context, the old age sector experiences a whole new layer of imposed limits by being quarantined in their own homes, to the point of losing access even to recreational activities.
However, in a larger view, this limitation is nothing compared to when opportunities begin to become elusive as one starts to get past the conventional workforce age, and to the anxiety of the decrease of functional capacities which science-wise shall persist.
The Department of Agriculture – Special Area for Agricultural Development (DA-SAAD) Program, though mainly focused on the marginalized members of rural communities, also encourages differently-abled and old age stakeholders to take part in the state’s combat against poverty.
The program believes that distributing capital inputs, capacity building, and training initiatives, partnered with modernization on both food production and post-production aspects shall create a new wave of diverse agricultural workforce. This is, especially among the marginalized, hopefully contingent on accessing the program’s services to provide themselves food on the table, and have a competitive surplus for local enterprise establishment.
The Upstream Livelihood Farmers Association (ULFA)
The Upstream Livelihood Farmers’ Association in Luna, composed of 158 members, is one of the province’s SAAD-established farmers’ cooperatives and associations.
The group, which was registered at the Department of Labor and Employment on July 17, 2017, is composed of members from five barangays – Dagupan, Shalom, Bacsay, San Gregorio, and Salvacion.
In 2019, the association received 29 sheeps (25 ewes and 4 rams), supplemented with dairy feeds, forage seeds, biologics, and housing assistance worth Php 590,318.16. The project was proposed by the association after a community consultation.
Additional stocks were provided on August 26, 2020, comprising 50 ewes and one ram, with a package of sheep concentrates, mineral blocks, vitamins, wound spray, drencher, and galvanized wire. In total, the project cost was Php 1,044,850.
Through granting sheep as capital stocks, the group engaged in sheep production, where 54 members were initially chosen to be the first-in-line beneficiaries of the said project.
SAAD’s livestock project in Apayao
Felicidad Dela Cruz, or Inang Piling as she is fondly called, is a seventy-two-year-old farmer and a member of the Upstream Livelihood Farmer’s Association (ULFA).
Inang Piling, a mother of three, grandmother of six, and wife to Tatay Jose Dela Cruz, attests farming has been their family’s lifeline.
In her 30s, Inang Piling was a farm laborer. “Gapo ta high school graduate nak lang ket, awan unay iti oportunidad ko nga agubra iti sabali idi tawen nga 1990s [Since I am only a high school graduate I can only work as farm laborer back in1990s],” she shared.
Inang Piling added that through farming, she and her husband were able to support their children’s education. Her two children are college graduates, while the youngest was a college undergraduate.
Now, living with her 77-year-old husband, the couple’s income comes from the yield of their backyard vegetable garden, and from raising chickens and ducks in their 7,500 square meters farm.
In 2017, she became one of the beneficiaries of the SAAD Program and is thankful for the opportunity that she strives to remain an active member.
As the saying goes, Inang believes that “age is just a number”, adding senior citizens like her find purpose in indulging in productive activities, such as farming.
“Etuy nga sheep farm nga adda kanyak ket sapayla kuma ta mapadakel pay ta agbalin to kuma met nga mabalin pagpasyaran iti tat-tao,” Inang Piling, expressed.
[This sheep farm that I have, I hope that one day this could turn into an agri-tourism site.]
According to the ULFA chairperson, Maxima Camayang, Inang Piling is truly an inspiration to their association.
“Ni Inang Piling, maysa isuna nga kagagagetan nga miyembro. Isu maibagak nga pagtuladan isuna iti daduma nga miyembro. Ta uray kasano kinabaket nan, ay ket aramiden na amin iti makaya na tapno maipakita na nga deserving isuna nga maysa nga napili nga beneficiary ti program,” said Maxima.
[Inang Piling is one of the most hardworking members of our association. I can bluntly attest that she is a good example to other members. Despite her age, she would pour her effort just to prove that she deserves to become one of the beneficiaries of the program.]
Inang Piling’s sheep production from DA-SAAD
In 2019, Inang Piling became a SAAD Sheep Production Project recipient, receiving five sheep (four ewes and a ram) where 7 offspring were produced in September 2020.
“Ti pinagited yu iti tulong kadakami nga nakukurapay nga farmer ket makaited iti inspirasyon. Ita nga madama iti krisis iti COVID-19 pandemic, nagdakel nga tulong etuy nga pagbirukan nga naited kadakami. Gapun iti naaramid nga agreement iti miyembro iti association mi, kada beneficiary babaen na etuy nga proyekto ket agited to iti offspring kin iti sumarunu nga beneficiary. Iti partek, agishare nak to iti lima nga offsprings. Tapnun nu kasta dumakel iti pakadanunan na etuy nga livelihood,” shared Inang Piling.
[Helping poor farmers like us is very inspiring. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a great help for us. As an agreement between the members of the association, each recipient will be passing the offspring of the sheep to the next-in-line beneficiaries. For me, I will be sharing five offspring with the next grantee for this livelihood project to expand.]
Inang Piling sold three rams in her neighborhood at Barangay Dagupan, Luna, Apayao earning Php 13,000 on October 1, 2020. With this, they were able to cope amid community lockdowns. Aiming to organize her farm, Inang purchased five rolls of wire for her animal fencing worth Php 6,500.
Today, Inang Piling is rearing her five original sheep and four offspring to produce more.
Continuous pursuit despite old-age
As sheep production booms in Barangay Dagupan, Luna, Apayao, Maxima extends her gratefulness to Inang Piling.
“Iti naaramid ni Inang Piling ket pakaidayawan iti association mi ta nu han na kuma tinaraken nga nasyaat ay ket para kanyak ket awan kuma iti pakakitan kin pagsarmingan nga mapintas a ipadamag. Naragsak kami nga kakadwa ni Inang Piling ta makita mi nga dumak dakel kanyana tay proyekto,” added Maxima.
[Inang Piling’s success made an impact on our association, if she didn’t take care of the animal stocks, I think, there’s no good story to be told that can be shared. As an association, we are happy for Inang Piling that despite her age, the project on her part became bigger.]
During the interview, Inang Piling shared that a new day is a new opportunity for self-growth. Her passion for farming and gardening keeps her active to continue developing her land to provide a comfortable and safe space for her animals. This might be one of the reasons why Inang remains healthy and strong through the years.
Inang Piling also shares how she rears her animal stocks, demonstrating compassion and very specific goals for the welfare of her animals. “Dal-dalusan mi tay paginuman da once-a-week tapno haan nga narugit metlang,” [We usually scrub their drinker once a week to keep it disinfected] she shared.
The primary goal is to reduce stress through good management by regularly providing fresh and clean water for the sheep all day. She also added that a barn is essential to provide animal stocks with a shaded area, so when the weather changes, the animals will be safe.
“Tapno metlang haan da unay aglamin nu tay kapigsa tudu, ik-ikkan mi isuda iti ruut nga mabalin da pagidaan,” [For colder climates, we make sure that these animal stocks are clean and warm by giving them thick bedding of hay],” Inang Piling added.
Be it for passion, or fulfilling suspended life-long dreams, or maybe just for an extra source of income, agriculture is a reliable road to take, a career choice that can address a wide variety of needs.
Inang Piling’s passion for farming is the main reason she and her husband want to establish additional animal housing to protect their animal stocks from harsh environmental climatic conditions, which may have adverse effects on the sheeps’ performance and productivity; while her determination on establishing an agritourism site is to inspire other farmers to provide a healthy environment for their animals. ###
Writer: Kathleen Faye B. Agonoy, SAAD Apayao Information Officer I
Editors: Myer Mula, Ulysses Lustria, Jr., Jhomai Canlas, and Jessa Mae Gabon
Source: Felicidad Dela Cruz, ULFA member