Benguet agri sector gets boost

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The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) concluded this month a three-year agriculture cooperation project with the farmers in Benguet Province, while citing the benefits of a thriving agriculture sector in the Philippines’ overall economy.

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The JICA project, in partnership with the Japan Agriculture Exchange Council (JAEC) piloted safe vegetable promotion and marketing for Benguet farmers, and introduced the “Mokusaku” technology (Japanese charcoal) to help enrich soil for better farm produce.

“Agriculture has an important share in the Philippine economy, in terms of GDP [gross domestic product], and jobs generation. We hope that the farmers, and local government units [LGUs] in Benguet will continue to sustain the gains from the project not just to benefit the rural economy of Benguet, but also the country’s overall economy,” said JICA Philippines Senior Representative Kunihiro Nakasone.

Agriculture accounts for about 10 percent of Philippine GDP, and employs 38.12 million people, 2013 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

Known as the Philippines’ salad bowl, Benguet province supplies 80 percent of the vegetable needs of Metro Manila. Meanwhile, 54 percent of the workforce in Benguet is engaged in vegetable and cut-flower farming.

Through JICA-JAEC’s assistance that began in 2012, Benguet farmers in Kabayan, Tuba, Tublay, La Trinidad, Kibungan, and Bokod farming communities were able to adopt the so-called Safe Vegetables from Rich Soil or SAVERS technology such as the Mokusaku in enhancing their vegetable production.

The technology helps prevent soil from drying, and unnecessary losses of fertilizer nutrients, while also serving as repellant, herbicide, and fungicide.

Ying Cho, a farmer in Benguet, who used the planting facility provided by the project for strawberries said, “Our strawberries became less prone to overwatering especially during heavy rains and flooding.”

With JAEC’s support, some local farmers were trained in Japan on Japanese agriculture practices.

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