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Ripe direction: Former rebel-led FA peeling new income stream with SAAD’s lakatan production

DAVAO DE ORO, April 12, 2023 – Sangab Energetic Farmers Association (SEFA) in Maco, a SAAD Davao Region beneficiary, enjoys a new income stream from lakatan production, with more than Php 135,000 gross earnings since December 2022.

Led by chairperson Eugene Cabalida, the FA currently has 4,500 banana trees planted in a 2.25-hectare area. The FA started harvesting in late December, with continuous harvests every 15 days since. Chairperson Cabalida estimated this season’s yield will continue until May.

Muabot jud ni ug April or May nga binungahay. Kani amoang mga harvest, upat ka class. A, B, C, ug Rx. Lahi-lahi ug presyo taga-isa. Ang mga followers, namili na pud mi daan” (This (pertaining to the harvests) will last up to April to May.  We have four classes on our harvests: A, B, C, and Rx. Each has a different price per kilogram (kg), he related. A banana plant can only be harvested once. After that, it is cut off. Followers, or suckers, are shoots that sprout beside the mother plant. There are at least 2-3 suckers for every banana and only one chosen for the next cycling. The selection and management of banana followers are pivotal for sustained income in the following harvest cycles. 

The FA’s buyer, a local middleman, has ties to a Chinese businessman in the National Capital Region. They send the banana through local freight, treated in fungicide to prolong its shelf life, and boxed in wooden crates. Bunches classified A and B are priced Php 32/kg, while C is at Php 22/kg and Rx at the Php 12-14/kg range. SEFA has approximately sold 2,500kg of lakatan so far. 

Sangab Energetic Farmers Association

Founded in March of 2018 through the local 71st Infantry Battalion for the End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) initiative, Sangab Energetic Farmers Association (SEFA) was endorsed to SAAD Davao Region in 2021. The FA was able to avail banana and goat production projects.

SEFA had previous experience with lakatan production from the budget given to them through the local implementation of Executive Order No. 70. When SAAD distributed the plantlets, the FA in turn identified a communal area for the production. As it was, the first 10 months of the banana is most critical in its life cycle. Proper monitoring, sanitation, and fertilization should be observed. 

Kani, among gibuhat, giplastar namo ug tarong – ang yuta, ang mga plantlets, kay wala may makit-an kung dili i-communal” (What we did was execute a plan – the land, the plantlets – we couldn’t have seen results if not for communal planting), Cabalida said. Of the 6,000 plantlets given by SAAD Davao Region, about 5,000 was allotted to the communal area. The remaining were distributed for individual planting.

The hills were planted on a down-sloping farm a kilometer away from the barangay’s center. Cabalida shared that at the five-month mark, he and his members had to weed out the whole communal farm of more than 2 hectares, “Nanglimpiyo mi. Duha ka adlaw kay hapit jud ni mawala kay napasagdan ang maintenance” (We really did some intensive cleaning. For two days. If we hadn’t done that, the farm could’ve gone out because it wasn’t maintained properly at the time). 

When SAAD Davao Region monitored at the time of harvest  (20-minute walk from the barangay’s center on a sloping cliff), the farm was clean as banana farms could be. It was a testament to the renewed energy that the FA manifested in ensuring the production was rooted in good management practices.

Lakatan reaches maturity in 18 months. Flowering and fruiting stages start in the 15th month. When the flowers start showing hands, SEFA farm workers put in a protective covering and a cellophane strip. The color of the strip identifies how many days the bananas are in their fruiting stage. It takes 80-90 days from flowering to harvesting.

DA-SAAD Interventions

In 2021, SEFA received 6,000 banana plantlets from SAAD Davao Region. The project, banana production, benefitted 38 FAs across Davao de Oro. Alongside several components (fertilizers, digging bars, plastic crates, machete, and vegetable seed packs), the project cost Php 165,495.25 per FA. The entirety of the production cost amounts to Php 6.2 million.

A total of 220,000 plantlets were distributed throughout the province, with an estimated production area of 197.35 hectares. 

Asked about SAAD Davao Region’s approach of identifying projects for beneficiaries, Ms. Naomi Lamata, Alternate Assistant Focal of the program, said, “Kani atoang mga projects, base ni sa mga kinahanglanon jud sa area. Kung gusto sila ug saging, saging ang ihatag” (Our projects are based on the needs of the area. If they want banana plantlets, then banana plantlets it is).

Ang SAAD special nga programa. Mao ng dako ta ug matabang sa mga farmers, lalo na jud sa lagyong dapit kay dili ta limitado sa isa lang ka type sa intervention” (SAAD is a special program. We help our farmers, especially those in geographically isolated areas because we are not limited to only one type of intervention), she added.

For 2021, SAAD Davao Region focused on production projects that encourage community-based enterprises out of FAs. This was in conjunction with the program’s continuing thrust of empowering GIDA and ELCAC farmers.

The ELCAC connection

Chairperson Cabalida was a former community organizer for the Underground Mass Organization (UGMO). He surrendered in August 2019 after former President Duterte’s plea for the New People’s Army to surrender. Under his term, Duterte intensified support for former rebels and small farmers vulnerable to communist groups through the controversial EO No. 70.

Cabalida was one of the many invited to Malacañang in line with the former President’s thrust of providing rehabilitation for rebel returnees.

Towards CBE formation

Amoang pangandoy, kami na ang mag-market sa amoang abot. Kami na mag-market sa saging sa SEFA. Among kulang, logistics: sakyanan” (Our aspiration is for the FA to market its own harvests. Our banana, our market. What we lack now is logistics: a hauling truck), Cabalida noted.

SAAD Davao Region has advised SEFA to apply for the agency’s CSO accreditation in hopes of being eligible for logistic support. Cabalida said that they would work on it.

Naa na mi passbook ug ATM sa coop. MADECO. Didto namo ginabutang ang kwarta. Sa karon, kana sa amoang goal. Sunod na ang paghimo ug mga produkto” (We already have a passbook and ATM through a cooperative, MADECO. We put the money there. Right now, our goal is to market our own produce), he said. MADECO stands for Maco Development Cooperative, a local cooperative in the municipality.

The lakatan variety is famous locally and most commonly sold in fruit markets nationwide. Defined by its characteristic fragrance, it’s the variety of choice for most Filipino households. It’s also said that lakatan has the most beta carotene out of local varieties. ###

Writer: James Brian R. Flaga, SAAD RPMSO 11 Information Officer
Source: DA-SAAD Davao de Oro

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