PILAR, SORSOGON, June 18, 2021 – “Substantial food on their tables, and the farmers are already organized and some even started on their value-adding enterprises.” This is how Dr. Myer G. Mula, National Program Director of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) sums up observations of his visit to Bicol to personally assess SAAD implementation.
Dr. Mula initially met with the SAAD regional program implementers headed by DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla, SAAD Focal Person, Luz R. Marcelino, and SAAD Action Officer Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez at the DA regional office on June 15 before proceeding to Sorsogon province.
In the discussion, Dir. Mula opens up the possibility for SAAD beneficiaries who are organic practitioners to apply and be certified under the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of RA 11511. Present during the meeting is the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) Organic Division Chief, Ms. Joeve Calleja.
A briefing was also conducted to the Provincial SAAD Management Staff of Sorsogon headed by Mary Rose Detera (Provincial Coordinator) on June 16.
Two organizations in Pilar benefited from the SAAD intervention. Dr. Mula turned over Php 275,000 worth of high-value crops project to the Esperanza Farmers’ Association (30 members) and Poctol Backyard Farmers Association (33 members). Randy Argote, president of Poctol Backyard FA thanked Dir. Mula and the SAAD Bicol for the continued outpour of interventions to his group.
“Halos kumpleto po ang ibinibigay ng SAAD, may pananim, abono, farm equipment at training. Kulang na lang nga po yun SAAD staff ang magbungkal ng lupa,” Argote quipped. His group also received Php 221,000 worth of interventions from SAAD in 2020 which they planted in aggregate 15 hectares (ha) of vegetable areas. They harvested more than 200 kilos of siling haba which they processed into pickles.
The other vegetables they harvested were consumed by the members’ households. “Binubuhay po ng SAAD ang aming mga pamilya ngayong pandemic. Last year nang nag-ECQ napakalaking tulong po ng SAAD dahil naging food sufficient po ang mga pamilya namin,” Argote added.
The SAAD interventions also reached the nearby Poctol Elementary School where the teachers were inspired to put up a vegetable garden with the help of the parents. “Ako mismo, nakita ko ang enthusiasm nila (Poctol Backyard FA) at ang impact ng garden sa community,” Jane Tad-o, the school principal attested. Impressed by the principal’s dedication to vegetable gardening, Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez committed to including the Poctol Elementary School as a recipient of the Gulayan sa Paaralan Project under HVCDP.
The SAAD team also paid a courtesy call on Pilar Mayor, Ms. Carolyn C. Sy-Reyes. SAAD chief and the officials discussed the progress of SAAD agricultural projects in the municipality. Mayor Sy-Reyes welcomed Dir. Mula and his team, and ensured continued support to the program especially for the future SAAD projects that will cater to Sorsogon marginalized farmers and fishers including indigenous cultural communities (ICCs).
Dr. Mula turned over Php 370,000 worth of livestock package composed of 400 heads of mallard ducks, 450 bags feeds, nets, and laminated sacks to 39 members of the Ogod Indigenous People Agta Agriculture Production Association. Director Mula challenged the indigenous community to multiply the ducks from 400 to 40,000 heads and come up with sustainable enterprises such as balut, salted-egg, and become a multiplier farm of the province. He also urged the SAAD beneficiaries to integrate small ruminants in their farms and diversify their crops as he noticed that most of the areas in Bicol are coconut-based. He emphasized the importance of SAAD’s partnership with NCIP and the LGUs as agricultural extension workers from the respective local areas who serve as resource persons in various training conducted by the Program.
Mary Rose Detera, SAAD provincial coordinator said that they have organized 89 groups of farmers in Sorsogon since 2018 and also helped them register with either SEC or DOLE.
Director Mula said that SAAD will continue providing various assistance to deserving farmers’ associations in the provinces covered by the program. He is keeping his fingers crossed that SAAD will be extended beyond 2022.
SAAD is under the locally-funded projects of the Department of Agriculture, serving as armor against poverty among the marginalized sectors in agriculture and fishery. It is currently being implemented in agriculture-based poorest of the poor provinces in 11 regions identified based on poverty incidence of 2012 and 2015. ###
Writer: Lovella P. Guarin / RAFIS 5