Commentary

Central Luzon’s ‘One Million Trees’ project

By: Ernesto M. Ordoñez, September 6th, 2013 01:49 AM

Planting one million fruit trees in Central Luzon (Region III) in the next 10 years has the economies of scale we need to achieve sustainable agricultural development. This is advocated by the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF) as it helps achieve a vision of making Region III a fruit center of Luzon.

The Beginning

On May 19, 600 people responded to an invitation aired by Louie Tabing of dzMM. It was a call for people to attend a one-day seminar on fruit tree nurseries, bee-keeping and mushroom growing. After the seminar, Alyansa Agrikultura leaders called for another step not in the original plan.

The Alyansa engages not only in issues such as international trade agreements, DA budget monitoring and smuggling. It also advocates technology transfer for small farmers, such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). The additional step Alyansa implemented was a sign-up session for those who wanted detailed training in each of the seminar areas. For the fruit tree nursery, 66 signed up; mushroom, 44, and bee-keeping, 24.

Whole day training sessions were conducted separately for each of these areas in three successive weekends. These were conducted at the Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University in Bacolor, Pampanga. For the fruit tree nursery training, full support was given by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Plant Industry Director Clarito Barron, and BPI fruit nursery head Andrea Innocencio.

After the fruit tree nursery training, the 66 who participated decided to set up KDF satellite nurseries. Today, they hold regular monthly meetings organized by their elected officers headed by Honorio Bungay (0921-2053368). To achieve economies of scale, they designated KDF to be the anchor unit that will get accreditation from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). The KDF will then be responsible for coordinating and assisting the 66 satellite nurseries using BPI guidance.

The million trees are distributed according to their classifications. Examples are 300,000 for carabao mangoes, 100,000 for rambutan and 100,000 for longkong (a Thailand variety of lansones).

Inspiration

Focusing on certified fruit trees is inspired by the Guimaras mango experience. Many years ago, former Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban chose the best carabao mango seedlings from Zambales and, after certification, brought them to Guimaras. He advocated growing only the certified seedlings and provided technical assistance and support. Today, Guimaras mangoes are famous for their consistent high quality and are exported. The success is due to the certified fruit trees strategy, which is what the KDF satellite nurseries wish to replicate.

When the KDF satellite nursery proponents went to visit Barron in Manila, he told them that rambutan had a large market. But he identified a specific rambutan variety, or else they would not be successful. The proponents were glad they got this information from the director on time, or else they might have made a serious mistake.

In an interview, Barron said he was planning to enhance the BPI website to provide such information. In addition, before the end of this year, the enhanced BPI website will include business information, such as the size of potential markets for each major fruit. This way, people will know which fruit to propagate.

For example, the large volume of longkong imported from Thailand can be replaced if we have our own certified longkong fruit trees. This will give more livelihood and income to our poor farmers. Barron said: “We will now look at the farmers who visit our website not just as producers, but as agri-entrepreneurs. They will get additional information on a product’s best varieties, market sizes, and quantified income opportunities.”

Conclusion

Central Luzon’s  “One Million Trees in 10 Years” program encompasses the new kind of thinking we need to achieve significant agricultural development. Economies of scale using a large system with small contributing components (i.e., farmers), knowledge of markets, the choice of the correct varieties and the transfer of technology assistance achieved through the public-private-partnership (PPP) model utilizes the basic business principles needed for success.

Implementing this model can truly result not only in one million trees, but several more throughout the nation. Since this model uses small farmers to make up the whole system, it is ideally suited to achieve inclusive growth.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch and former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail agriwatch_phil@yahoo.com or telefax (02) 8522112).

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