DA Usec Laviña eyes Pangasinan as new farm tourism site attraction

Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn Laviña paid a visit to three potential agri-tourism sites in Pangasinan upon the invitation of Pangasinan’s 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia.

A two-day activity with an end goal of identifying possible interventions that the High Value Crops Program could provide to further promote high value crops farming and enterprise in Ilocos Region and to lead the distribution and awarding of high value crops interventions to farmers, Usec Laviña also took the opportunity to discuss with the farmers’ associations and farm-owners possible partnership with the DA.

In her meeting with the calamansi farmers’ group in Brgy. Lekep-Butao, San Fabian, Pangasinan, Usec Laviña together with Congressman de Venecia toured the 6.5-hectare calamansi farm and advised the farmer leaders in the area to form into association for a more cohesive interventions from the DA.

Seeing the farm as a potential agri-tourism farm, Usec Laviña also recommended to look into value adding activities that the farmers could pursue to enhance their calamansi production into a more productive enterprise like production of calamansi scented soap, mix of calamansi with other fruit juices, calamnsi hair gel, among others.

Another promising agri-tourism site visited by Usec Laviña is the Fortune Dragon Fruit Farm of Mr. Teddy Nuez in Brgy. San Juan, San Jacinto, Pangasinan.  A 12-hectare farm filled with various high value crops, with dragon fruit as the main crop, the farm is ideal for agri-tourism site with its production of high-end marketable crops such as mulberry, fig tree, cherry, passion fruit, guave and vanilla, among others.

The farm was established in 2014 in collaboration with the ‘Dragon Fruit Lady’ in Ilocos Region, Ms. Edita Dacuycuy.

Concluding her first day visit in the region, Usec Laviña led the technical briefing and turn-over ceremony of DA’s interventions for Urban Agriculture Project and interacted with the Baritao Sampaguita Farmers group for the further enhancement of sampaguita farming in Baritao, Manaoag, Pangasinan.

As the DA’s initial intervention, Usec Laviña, upon the request of Engr. Arnold Raul Geronimo, Municipal Agriculturist of Manaoag, committed to allocate funds for the conduct of research study to identify quality sampaguita planting materials that would be suitable for production in the area with the help of the Bureau of Agricultural Research in partnership with agricultural state universities like the Pangasinan State University.

MAO Geronimo also made a request for the inclusion of sampaguita as one of the commodities to be insured by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC). Usec Laviña in response said  she will try to collaborate with the insurance agency and look into possible funding support for the provision of capital to farmers who would engage into value-adding activity for sampaguita.

Taking into account all these interventions from DA, Congressman de Venecia challenged the sampaguita farmers to create, innovate and try to come up with more sampaguita by-products.

On her second day visit in Pangasinan, Usec Laviña led the distribution of DA’s interventions to 16 farmers associations in support to the Urban Agriculture Program as a component of the Bayanihan II Program of DA – To recover as One. # # # (DA-RFO I, RAFIS)

DA- CAR forms Integrity Circles in the region

In its pursuit of leveling up the effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the implementation of plans, programs, and policies, the DA created “Integrity Circles “dubbed as “Agriculture Dialogue and Information Network Group” or ADING by virtue of Administrative Order NO. 14 s.2020, amended by Administrative Order NO. 21 s.2020.

The ADING serves as the management implementation and advocacy program of the DA focusing on the improvement of public trust and confidence in government. 

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said that the creation of ADING is in response to the call of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to provide transparency and integrity in all government interventions.

The Integrity circles will be composed of representatives from the farmers and fisher’s cooperatives and associations, youth and women, civil society, local government units, agribusiness industry, academe, and religious group.

Members of the ADING will work together in a sustained manner to promote integrity by strengthening good governance and transparency, and ensuring accountability in all DA-funded agri-fishery initiatives.

Composition of ADING is at least 5 members including 3 representatives from above- mentioned sectors and 2 from PCAF accredited farmers and fisher’s organizations.

Qualifications to become a member will be selected by the DA based on their character, affiliations, and socio-civic engagement since the commitment for ADING activities are volunteerism. A capacity building in exercising their functions will be conducted to volunteers/members of Integrity Circles.

In the Cordillera, 21 association representatives rejoined to the call of the President and signified their intent to join the “Regional Integrity Network Group” or RING representatives. These are the Church Institution (2), Farmer’s association (3), AFC’s 8 Indigenous People associations (2), Environmental groups (2), and Youth representatives (2).

As a member of the ADING, they will be involved in various activities including; consultative agenda setting, participatory monitoring and evaluation, assessment and evaluation activities, as well as observers during procurement/bidding of agri-fishery projects, and price monitoring of agricultural products.

In the creation of ADING, it is anticipated that establishment of a cohesive relationship between DA and its stakeholders are perceived.

 It is hoped that through the collaborative and constructive deliberations among ADING members, it will eventually lead to the formulation of quality, responsive and appropriate recommendations guided by existing laws to address the priority needs of the agricultural and other sectors as well.

Meanwhile, recruitment activities for prospect provincial ADING members are already scheduled in the other provinces of Cordillera for the formation of provincial and municipal integrity circles. # # # (Johnny Comicho and Johnwayne Tosay / DA-RFO CAR, ADING)

For further reading, please refer to DA AO NO. 14 s.2020, amended by AO NO. 21 s.2020

PRRD okays P523-M nat’l soil health program, boosting food security efforts

As part of the government’s goal to attain food security, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte recently approved a National Soil Health Program (NSHP) aimed at rejuvenating the country’s degraded and “sick” soils and ensuring increased crop production in a sustainable manner.

The NSHP will be implemented by the Department of Agriculture through its Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM) from 2021 to 2023, with a budget of P523.57 million (M).

“On behalf of millions of Filipino farmers, we thank President Duterte for supporting this long-awaited soil rejuvenation program to enable our farmers produce bountiful crops and earn more income for their families,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

“As soil is the foundation of agriculture, we must therefore protect, preserve, and nurture it to sustainably produce adequate, affordable, and nutritious food for all Filipinos,” he added.

“Since I came back from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), soil rejuvenation has been one of my major advocacies. Aside from water, healthy soil is the other key ingredient to attain sustainable crop production,” the DA chief said.

“With the NSHP, we now have a science-based framework to rejuvenate our sick soils that will subsequently lead to increased crop harvests and farmers’ incomes,” he added

The program features four major components that aim to:

  • institutionalize national soil monitoring and rejuvenation program;
  • establish mobile soils laboratory to monitor soil health;
  • strengthen partnerships with relevant agencies and organizations to sustain food security; and
  • improve soil analysis for macro- and micro-nutrients, and develop manuals on the use of physical and biological parameters as indicators of soil health.

The first component entails the adoption of a national soil database and monitoring system to rejuvenate degraded soils.

It also aims to enhance the capacities and efficiencies of national and regional soil laboratories through the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment, upgraded laboratory facilities, and highly-trained technical staff.

The second component involves acquisition of modern mobile soils laboratories that will serve farms far from established DA-BSWM provincial and regional laboratories. It also entails training local government extension workers, farmer-leaders, and other stakeholders on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils.

“With these modern soil laboratories, farmers would have their soil samples analyzed in a matter of minutes, with the corresponding specific site and crop nutrient recommendations,” the DA chief said.

The third component aims to strengthen partnerships between the DA-BSWM and relevant agencies and organizations to sustain food security efforts.

“Part of this is to empower rural-based organizations, particularly farmers’ cooperatives and associations or FCAs (Farmers Cooperatives and Associations), that will serve as partners in implementing the national soil health program,” Secretary Dar said.

The program also aims to provide municipal local government units (LGUs) with “Enhancement of Soil Test Kit” or ESTK for their farmer-constituents.

The fourth component entails the development of a “National Soil Kit” complete with the “OneDA” branding. The kit features all possible properties—physical, chemical, and biological indicators—of soil health.

The NSHP was patterned after the successful “Bhoochetana” or soil rejuvenation program implemented in 2009 to 2012 by ICRISAT in Kartanaka, India, covering 3.3 million hectares. Secretary Dar served as ICRISAT director-general from 2000 to 2014.

Through Bhoochetana, Karnataka farmers were able to increase their crop yields by 23 percent (%) to 66% through the adoption of soil-test-based nutrient management recommendations, along with the use of quality seeds of high-yielding cultivars, and soil and water conservation measures. The economic returns for every dollar invested by farmers ranged from 2.1 to 14.6 times, according to ICRISAT. ### (Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms)