“Gutalac Rises for Rice” depicts the success story of Matunoy Farmers Cooperative from the municipality of Gutalac, Zamboanga del Norte province. The group received interventions on the Lowland Rice Production Project.
Matunoy Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative was organized as ‘’kapundok’’, meaning “in a group”, and was composed of 10 members. Each member agreed to set up 1 peso per day savings to build up funds for the “Kapundok”. The money collected was deposited in the nearest bank. Eventually, the members decided to organize themselves into a cooperative.
For the longest time, the farmers in the community planted rice only once a year. Their main problem is the absence of an irrigation system. They are dependent on the rain as the main source of their water supply for the rice fields.
Moreover, there are insufficient small farm machinery in the area for tilling and other related farm activities.
In 2016, the local government of Gutalac endorsed the cooperative to be one of the first groups to avail the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA). Their proposed project was the provision of mudboat for tilling services and rice thresher.
On March 22, 2017, the cooperative received their requested small farm machinery along with inbred rice seeds and fertilizers from the DA-SAAD during the 6th National Rice Technology Forum held in Dipolog City.
“The association adheres to the old adage “Charity Begins at Home”, hence, priority to the tiller and threshing services are given farmer-members”, said Ricardo Daga, President of the cooperative.
With the mudboat tiller, the farmers experienced synchronized planting for the first time. It resulted in less insect and pest infestation on their rice farm which also increased production from an average of 40 sacks per hectare to 110 sacks per hectare.
INNOVATIONS AND GOOD PRACTICES
As a cooperative that aims to help farmer-members, it is the association’s policy to extend soft credit to the members at 50% payment for first tillage and another 50% for the second tillage. This will ensure that the cooperative will have a revolving fund to support the tilling services to the farmer-members.
For threshing services, the charges follow the prevailing practice in the area. For every 13 sacks of threshed palay, one (1) sack goes to the operator of the thresher.
To ensure timely planting, the cooperative extends production loan to the members for the purchase of good seeds and fertilizers.
The group adheres strictly to the policy. Members with outstanding unpaid obligations cannot avail of the services of the cooperative, added Mr. Ricardo Daga.
The association also regularly meet and share experiences on individual farming practices to determine the best lessons for everyone’s application. This practice further strengthens the cooperative and establishes a smooth interpersonal relationship among members.
Lack of irrigation will always be the major challenge in rice farming. As of now, the association can only plant once a year even with the small farm machinery they received from the DA. This situation is compounded by the lack of other post-harvest facilities like a solar drier and rice mill.
The association looks forward to avail Solar-Powered Irrigation System from the DA in the future. With this, they can contribute to rice production to ensure available food for the community.
Matunoy Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative is a fledgling organization of small farmers that envision to be the major contributor to the development of Gutalac.
They are a cohesive team of farmers in Matunoy with a clear mission to help each member to rise from the current poverty situation into active contributors for community development.
The group has already set up a well-entrenched financial management system through the community-based financial management training extended by the DA-SAAD. They already have a bank account in the association’s name with a modest deposit from the proceeds of their tilling and threshing services.
Natural calamities are beyond the farmers’ control. This is the reason that all of the association members are insured with the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.
Organizationally, the farmer-partners adhere to the strict rule of non-full payment of obligations, meaning no services can be availed of by members. A member in good standing is a member without unpaid obligations.
The group’s strongest asset in mitigating the effects of a disaster is their members who still imbibe and live the Filipino “bayanihan” spirit.
Matunoy Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative is looking forward that the government through the DA shall institutionalize agriculture-related programs that enshrine the importance of building basic communities that will become a driving force in agriculture-based economic development. Strong agricultural communities are on the frontline in the war against rural poverty.
A massive transfer of technology training shall also be conducted with the support of a strong mechanization program for agriculture.
Written by Benhar Abunawas