Sunday, December 17, 2017
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Commentary

Technology to solve farmer poverty

It is technology, more than money, that can solve farmer poverty.

The latest available statistics show our rural poverty at an alarming 37 percent, more than double the 17 percent of Vietnam and the 14 percent of Thailand and Indonesia.

Among our rural poor, the coconut farmers are the poorest. Their annual net income is only P20,000 per person, or P1,700 per month.

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INCOME IMPACT OF COCONUT TECHNOLOGY

With Multinutrients
Traditional Traditional Hybrid
Nuts/ Tree 50 100 200
Tons/ HA 1 2 4
Revenue (P) 40,000 80,000 160,000
Expense 20,000 22,400 22,400
Net Income 20,000 57,600 137,600

Based on the table, the assumed copra price is the current P40 per kilo. The additional multinutrient cost is P2,400 for two bags per hectare.

These numbers do not include the one-time investment cost for seedlings. The traditional seedlings sold commercially today cost P30 each. Hybrid seedlings are P125 each.

Poor Technology. If the farmer had an extra P2,400 for micronutrients per year, his income would practically triple to P57,600. If he also had an initial P12,500 for hybrid seedlings that will last for 60 years (or P210 a year), he would multiply his net income to P137,600.

Ramon Rivera, head of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Zamboanga Research Center, told me the main reason so few coconut farmers use the multinutrient and hybrid technology is plain ignorance. The second factor is lack of funds.

The PCA should therefore provide an adequate budget for extension and trimedia communications. Financial institutions may also provide funds.

Other alternatives. In the upland areas where the farmers are poorest, multinutrients should be used. But if the required P2,400 is not within their reach, salt costing only P500 per hectare (two bags) can improve yield by 30 percent. While small, the resulting additional income of P12,000 will still mean a lot to a poor farmer.

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Note, too, that if these coconuts are planted in triangular formation, there will be 192 instead of 100 trees per hectare. If 100 trees using multinutrients and the hybrid variety can yield a net income of P137,600, then the technique can almost double this.

Technology, with very little money, is what will effectively address farmer poverty. It is time the government and the private sector wake up to this reality.

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TAGS: farmer poverty, rural poverty, technology
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