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COMMENTARY

Private sector catalysts in agri

05:25 AM September 25, 2017

For us to achieve change in the agriculture industry, we must stop relying on government as the main catalyst. We must change this paradigm of overdependence, and instead look for private sector catalysts.

That is now happening in 30 private sector farms in Pampanga.

Last August 3, my column titled “30 Hectares to Enrich Farmers” described a vision of the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF) led by businessmen Manuel V. Pangilinan as chair and Benigno Ricafort as president. The vision is to get 30 one-hectare farms to serve as catalytic models in transferring technology and improving small farmer incomes.

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I have personally experienced new technology resulting in improved income. During my UP Los Baños diplomate studies, I found out that the average sweet potato yield per hectare was only 3.5 tons. But after getting a new variety from the Visayas University, my Balayan, Batangas farm yielded an average of 28 tons in the first year. The fact that this inexpensive technology was hardly known in Batangas showed me how much agriculture technology transfer is needed in the Philippines.

To be effective, this technology transfer must be done through systematic arrangements. A good example is one developed by KDF. The objective is to have the farms make at least P300,000 per hectare by using new technologies, and eventually have them transfer the knowledge to other farmers.

One noteworthy example of this program is the involvement of 93-year-old Lamberto Un Ocampo. He is the founder of the famous and respected DCCD Engineering Corporation. (He is also the father of historian and Inquirer columnist Ambeth Ocampo). He is now into agriculture, thanks to KDF.

Below are useful components of the program, which can be replicated elsewhere.

The model farmer must have the following qualifications:

1) He or she must be willing to inter-crop coconut with high value crops such as cacao, rambutan, durian, mangosteen and lanzones.

2) He or she must own one hectare, and have the financial capability to run the farm and plant the crops identified, consistent with the model’s guidelines.

3) The land must have enough sunlight, enough year-round water supply, and not be flood-prone.

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4) The farm must be accessible to transport for access and delivery of farm inputs and produce.

5) He or she must commit to the following:

a) Agree to have the farm as a learning center for other farmers.

b) Implement good agriculture practices (GAP) and protocols prescribed by the KDF and the Department of Agriculture (DA) (e.g. drip irrigation, organic fertilizers and pesticides, certified seeds).

c) Document his or her experience. Since the farmer will accept free seedlings provided by KDF, he or she must be willing to pay these back five-fold within five years.

d) Establish a cacao and fruit nursery in a 1,000-square meter lot inside the farm accredited by the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

On the other hand, KDF as overall project manager (Honorio Bungay, contact: 0949-440387) must do the following:

1) Commit to be the main organization in charge.

2) Give the seedlings needed by the model farms. KDF must therefore raise funds or resources (e.g. seedlings) from both the government and the private sector.

3) Provide the technical support to ensure that the farmers will use GAP and the appropriate protocols and technologies.

4) Guide the farmers in the business aspects of agriculture.

The elements described above can be a model template for others to follow. This way, private sector catalysts will become the new links who will partner with the government to achieve our badly needed agriculture change.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Business
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