The Department of Agriculture strongly pursue climate-resilient agricultural technologies and systems to sustain productivity. PHOTO BY THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The Department of Agriculture strongly pursue climate-resilient agricultural technologies and systems to sustain productivity. PHOTO BY THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

FARMERS and fisherfolks play a significant role in achieving modernization and industrialization of the agricultural sector to ensure enough food supply for the country.

The exemplary contribution of our food heroes in the development of the agriculture sector was recognized, as we celebrate the 2022 Farmers' and Fisherfolk's Month with the theme "Modernisasyon at Industriyalisasyon tungo sa Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita." The month-long celebration is in line with Presidential Proclamation No. 33, Series of 1989.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said President Duterte has been a staunch ally of the agriculture sector, having implemented key reforms such as the Rice Tariffication Law and the Coconut Farmers' and Industry Trust Fund Act.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) led the farmers and fisherfolks' celebration with the opening of the photo exhibit at the DA lobby in Quezon City. DA has showcased agricultural products from nearby provinces through the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita.

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Agriculture undersecretary Fermin Adriano said the National Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and Industrialization Plan (NAFMIP) will help cushion the impact of the global food crisis and help double the income of farmers and fishers in the country.

He said NAFMIP, a 10-year strategic plan can guide the next administration in its pursuit of a productive, competitive agriculture and fisheries sector. NAFMIP is a strategic guidebook for agricultural development from 2021 to 2030.

Dar recommended an annual budget of P250 billion to be able to implement a long-term vision of commodity industry development, significant agricultural infrastructure development including agri-industrial business corridors, and attain food sovereignty.

DA continues to enhance the country's production of food and other agricultural products amid the pandemic and the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Financial assistance

The DA distributed financial assistance, machineries, and other interventions worth P366.5 million to rice and corn farmers and fisherfolk in Los Baños, Laguna on May 17, 2022.

A total of 56,823 rice farmers from the Calabarzon Region received P292.64 million under the second wave of the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program, which grants P5,000 subsidy to rice farmers tilling 0.5 to two hectares of land.

Arnel de Mesa, assistant secretary for operations introduced the Interventions Monitoring Card (IMC), which is a multipurpose card that serves as unique identification and transactional card where cash assistance for DA beneficiaries will be received.

Meeting agri stakeholders

Chairmen and members of various program and priority committees under the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) met with Secretary Dar and discussed the major agri-fishery concerns, recommendations, and priority programs.

These include the development of vaccines against the African Swine Fever (ASF), exploring fertilizer alternatives, updating commodity roadmaps, participatory assessment of the Rice Tariffication Law, review of importation policies, and establishment of postharvest and processing facilities, among others.

The clinical study on vaccine against ASF has so far yielded positive results. DA has successfully conducted an initial trial from February 10 to May 6 in San Miguel, Bulacan, in collaboration with the Bureau of Animal Industry and the Universal Robina Corporation.

"In the trial, no clinical signs associated with ASF disease were observed and minimal non-ASF related mortality was posted," Dar said.

Recognizing 120 farmer-carapreneurs

In this year's celebration of National Farmers' and Fisherfolk's Month, 120 champion-partners in the carabao development program (CDP) implementation were honored during the "Pistang Parangal sa mga Kaagapay na Magkakalabaw sa Nueva Ecija".

The partner-carapreneurs who are members of dairy cooperatives and associations, private farm owners, and family module beneficiaries received plaques of recognition from the DA-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC). They were recognized for their resolute hard work and dedication in helping advance the growth of the carabao dairy industry in the countryside.

DA-PCC OIC executive director Dr. Ronnie Domingo urged the farmer-carapreneurs to scale up their production and upgrade their products' quality to be more competitive in the market domestically and internationally.

Leveraging technology

In Mangatarem, Pangasinan, DA commended the success of around 400 Pangasinense farmers who participated in the Philippine Rice Research Institute's (PhilRice) RiceBIS Community Modern Farms Project.

The project's success was attributed to technology, as farmers were provided with farming technologies, modern varieties of rice seeds, and a good business model.

Dar said RiceBIS' clustering and consolidation approach, which is also one of the major strategies of the DA, especially in providing assistance pushed for a positive outcome.

RiceBIS program leader Aurora Corales said the project has formed over 10 farmer clusters in Mangatarem, covering 400 farmers and more than 300 hectares of farmlands. It also successfully increased the average yield of the farmers per hectare from 3.5 metric tons (mt) to 4.2 mt.

The farmers also experienced a 64 percent increase in their incomes, even selling more than 15,000 mt of milled rice in Metro Manila. DA will continue to determine and develop the best markets for the Mangatarem rice farmers to ensure progress.

Introducing precision and digital agriculture

Secretary Dar spearheaded the inauguration of the Precision and Digital Agriculture Center (PreDiC) facilities in Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in Nueva Ecija.

Dar encouraged PreDiC officials and staff to continue bringing in the latest precision and digital agriculture technologies and to adapt them to the Philippine setting to further improve agricultural production in the country. He encouraged the center to put up research priorities to guide their implementing activities and set up a technical committee to bring together all agencies located in the Science City.

"There are lots of national research institutions of the DA now located and hosted by CLSU. So let's bring in and harness the synergy between and among agencies in agriculture. There will always be something to do in precision agriculture and digital agriculture," he said.

CLSU President Edgar Orden said, "CLSU has been put in the forefront again to contribute to the betterment and sustainable future under the Sustainable Development Goals, which is Zero Hunger. Our goal is toward food sufficiency. Our university stays true to its commitment of generating new technologies to help the lives of the community".

PreDiC was established with P50 million funding from the DA's Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) in 2020, following the need for a permanent development facility for precision and digital agriculture technologies.

Its notable facilities and technologies include a greenhouse, irrigation canals, field monitoring system, microclimate monitoring equipment, fabrication tools, and farm machineries including a 40-hp tractor.

It has implemented projects such as mapping of the spatial variability of soil fertility, the development of a variable rate fertilizer applicator, and the development of a 12-row onion direct seeder.

DA, Green Plus discuss smart farming

DA is collaborating with the Korean government to invest in agriculture-related projects in five regions in the Philippines. Green Plus is the latest Korean farming institution to express interest in investing in the agricultural sector.

Green Plus takes pride in its smart greenhouse with the capacity to create the optimal environment for agricultural, livestock, and fishery production. Some of Green Plus' key technologies include an automatic up-down cultivating device system, air conditioning and heating system, building-type fish farming system, environment control system, and artificial light complete control.

Secretary Dar advised Green Plus to create a business model to allow members of the agriculture sector to view and experience its smart greenhouse farming technology. He recommended partnering with existing Philippine-based agriculture companies as another option for Green Plus' business model.

"I am a believer of smart technologies like greenhouse farming. The big business people will be interested as this will be the future of agriculture," he said.

Ornamental fish production

The DA-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-NFRDI) conducted a technology demonstration on "Ornamental Fish Production" on May 17, 2022.

Frederick Muyot, senior aquaculturist of the NFRDI- Freshwater Fisheries Research and Development Center (FFRDC) explained the potential of ornamental fish production not just as a hobby for enthusiasts but as a huge prospect for livelihood and rewarding aquaculture business.

He presented videos on how to breed "livebearers" and "egg bearers." Muyot explained that "livebearers" are fishes that give birth to fully formed and functional young or fry. The eggs are fertilized and hatch inside the female. Examples include guppies, mollies, and swordtails.

Meanwhile, "egg layers" spawn by scattering, depositing, burying, nest building, or mouthbrooding the eggs, which are laid and fertilized in their habitat. Some examples are koi, fighting fish, goldfish, and angelfish. An aquarium featuring ornamental fishes was displayed during the techno demo.

Various projects

The Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) conducted an isDA ON THE GO (iOTG) partnership project orientation with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA)-registered cooperatives from Davao Region, Bohol, and Southern Leyte in April.

Camille An Moog, of PFDA Operations Services Department discussed the project's business model, product lines such as frozen fish and fresh fish, and distribution channels.

To benefit from this partnership project between PFDA and CDA, cooperatives must adhere to several requirements and must achieve certain criteria. The CDA-certified cooperatives must first sign a contract agreement with PFDA and have at least six square meters of space. They should oversee and process point of sale purchases; must have the capacity for bookkeeping and asset inventory management; has a minimum of three years in operation; a CDA Certificate of Good Standing; and preferably with members from the marginalized sector.

Improving fish production

The DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and the Maritime League held the 172nd Maritime Forum on April 26, at the BFAR Central Office.

DA-BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona shared the Fisheries Action Plan to improve fish production in the country and empower municipal fisherfolk. The action plan included capacitating municipal fishing by providing 62-footer boats and improving the efficiency of small-scale fishers by providing more efficient 3 gross tonnage boats.

BFAR assistant director for administrative services Atty. Demosthenes Escoto discussed the Integrated Marine Environment Monitoring System (IMEMS). The IMEMS is an innovative, optimized, and integrated monitoring system that expands and improves the government's monitoring, control, and surveillance of the Philippine-flagged vessels.

Members of the Maritime League, headed by vice admiral Eduardo Ma Santos, AFP (Ret.), visited the IMEMS facility after the forum.

West PH Sea

Researchers from the DA-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-NFRDI) gathered information from fishers in Pag-asa Island, West Philippine Sea to determine the aquatic resources usually caught and the inventory of fishing boats and gears used in the area.

The information gathered will enable fishery managers to determine the island's fishery potential and the sustainability of fishing practices in the community. It can also be used in making fishery policies and management decisions for the coastal areas.

LBP lends to agri sector

The Land Bank of the Philippines released P236.8 billion worth of loans to the agriculture sector in the first quarter of the year, 3 percent higher than the P229.7 billion loans disbursed in the same period last year. The loan released to small farmers and fishers amounted to P35 billion.

In 2021, LandBank's outstanding loans to the agriculture sector reached P247.85 billion, a 4.31-percent increase from P237.62 billion in 2020. Out of the total P247.85 billion, P38.83 billion directly benefited small farmers and fishers, including those which were channeled through cooperatives and farmers' associations, rural financial institutions, and other conduits.

A total of P155.66 billion supported small, medium and large agribusiness enterprises, while the remaining P53.36 billion aided agri-aqua-related projects of local governments and government-owned and -controlled corporations.

May is the Month of the Ocean

The DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) remains committed to the sustainable use and management of ocean and coastal resources, which are vital life-support systems and economic assets where benefits should accrue to both present and future generations of Filipinos.

By virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 57, issued in 1999, we celebrate the month of May as the Month of the Ocean (MOO). This year's theme "Protect and Restore Ecosystem and Biodiversity" is deeply rooted in the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) with the message, "The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want."

With this year's celebration of the MOO, it aims to understand the effects of multiple stressors on ocean ecosystems and develop solutions to manage and restore ecosystems and the rich biological diversity found there under changing environmental and social conditions.