MATNOG, SORSOGON, March 15, 2021 – A 30-year-old housewife turned farmer, Mrs. Jellyn Bitara, is truly thankful to the Department of Agriculture (DA) – Special Area for Agriculture Development (SAAD) Program for the additional earnings from selling ampalaya (bitter gourd) in her barangay at Sisigon.
Mrs. Bitara is a SAAD Program beneficiary since 2018. She is one of the 30 members of Brgy Sisigon Farmers’ Association (FA) registered under the Department of Labor and Employment in 2019.
The said FA was granted the Vegetable Production Project in 2020 worth Php 277,056.34 utilizing the funds under the same year.
The project consists of sweet potato cuttings and fruit tree seedlings such as rambutan, lemon, and pili. They also received farm inputs and tools such as organic fertilizer, drums, plastic tray, HDPE pipes, wheelbarrows, plastic mulch, and knapsack sprayer (Table 1).
The FA members utilize their own area for vegetable production for about 3ha, where each of them cultivates an estimated 2000sqm. As the DA forwards independent food production, this setup is favorable to the marginalized rural families to establish small enterprises within their area since they own areas fit for production purposes.
“Malaki po ang naitulong saamin ng SAAD. Lalo na ngayong pandemya, ang pagtatanim at pagbebenta lang ng ampalaya ang hanapbuhay naming mag asawa na nakatulong sa amin para makaraos. Sa panahon ngayon, mas sinisikap talaga namin na magtanim; umulan man o bumagyo dahil kahit papano, kumikita kami sa pag-bebenta ng ampalaya,” Mrs. Bitara shares.
Her husband, Mr. Mario Bitara Jr., taking advantage of the vegetable farming opportunities, devotes his time to cultivating their small plot by planting vegetables.
Bitter-mostly-sweet beginnings: Jellyn’s ampalaya production journey
The SAAD Program provided a capacity-building training for the farmers of Sisigon in 2019, called Training on Vegetable Production and Enterprise.
The training provided a refresher on the farm practices for efficient and independent food production.
Mrs. Bitara recalled that at the beginning, the Brgy Sisigon FA struggled to make a living from farming ampalaya. However reluctant about its feasibility and market opportunities, Jellyn went on to cultivate ampalaya.
In 2020, several typhoons hit the Bicol Region leaving serious agricultural damage in a span of weeks. Because of this, the couple struggled and did not make additional income from their ampalaya production in consecutive days but they remained steadfast.
This 2021, they were able to find a buyer with a competitive price who purchased their ampalaya produce at Php 35 per kilogram. The couple made Php 34,000 in three months from 500 hills or at least 900 kilograms (kg) of ampalaya.
The SAAD Program agricultural intervention is very timely especially to the marginalized rural farmers in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA), with the continued socio-economic crises brought by the pandemic and other natural disasters.
In line with the DA’s approach of independent food production, the program can greatly contribute to stabilizing food supplies, and access to nutritious foods within their community.
With the intervention extended to the local backyard farmers in Brgy. Sisigon, they were able to find a new source of income to support their family and to contribute to an accessible supply of nutritious food within their community.
“Nagpapasalamat ako ng sobra sa SAAD dahil sobra-sobra din ang binigay nilang tulong saaming mga magsasaka lalo na sa pamumuhay naming mag-asawa ngayong panahon ng krisis. Malaki ang binigay nilang epekto saaming buhay dahil hindi kami makaka-asenso kung wala ang SAAD,” Mrs. Bitara said. ###
Writer: Pauline Trixia Borja, DA-SAAD Sorsogon – Information Officer
Sources: Area Coordinator – Matnog, DA-SAAD RPMSO 5
Photos by: Pauline Trixia Borja