Anchors for agriculture
For agriculture to succeed, anchors are critical. An anchor is defined here as the nucleus or center that will enable others to grow.
When an Alyansa Agrikultura (AA) leader was asked in a meeting of the Economic Cluster of Cabinet Secretaries what was the missing anchor that prevented the development of agriculture, he identified an advanced version of the typical Trading Center (TC). This would go beyond the bagsakan concept that is limited to trading. The TC would provide technology expertise, financing and marketing arrangements.
Under the existing administration, the advanced concept was never operationalized. Thus, the AA embarked on a center that was easily implemented by the private sector. This center would lack the financing and marketing aspects, but it would offer technology and production assistance. This would fulfill two out of three main elements identified by incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in his first book “Feeding Millions.”
Citing the dismal state of our agriculture, Piñol wrote: “The lack of farming technology, good planting materials, and absence of a sure market are the reasons behind the failure of the Filipino farming families to produce food.”
The Kapampangan Development Foundation Satellite Nursery Association (KDF-SNA), a KDF-affiliated group and AA member, led the initiative to form the Floridablanca National Agricultural School (FNAS), a center that would provide farming technology and good planting materials.
FNAS is in an ideal location for Filipino farmers who have little access to technology and farm inputs. It is located in a 62-hectare property bound by Pampanga’s western towns of Porac, Bacolor and Lubao that still have large tracts of underdeveloped agriculture lands.
With the support of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 3 under Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, KDF, AA, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Rotary Clubs of Pampanga and Metro Pacific Investments Foundation, FNAS is becoming an agriculture center that has the following:
•A model of 10 coconut hectares with cacao intercropping—one hectare each of scion groves for high value fruits such as durian, rambutan, mangosteen, mango, longkong lanzones and mango.
•Learning opportunities for planting coconut, cacao, the above mentioned fruits, and balanced fertilization, grafting, establishing a nursery, and even starting a small plantation.
FNAS is a replicable model agriculture school that also responds to the needs of the community. It provides technology know-how anytime to farmers wishing to learn the proper way of planting and maintaining their crops. Farmers can buy seedlings certified by the Bureau of Plant Industry. They can also get the necessary inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
The current students of FNAS, half of whom are Aetas and the other half from the lowlands of Pampanga, will earn while they learn. When they graduate, they can start their own business (e.g. nurseries), or get hired as agriculture technicians, grafters and managers.
This initiative of establishing an anchor is already attracting important supporting players.
Chair Emil Javier and president Ben Peczon of the Coalition of Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP), which represents science and academe in the five-coalition Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA), have signified their intention to help FNAS by providing the best and most recent agriculture technologies.
The Pampanga Chambers of Commerce and Industry are mobilizing their members to plant high value crops promoted by FNAS to compete in the domestic and export markets.
The provincial and local governments are considering the one crop per municipality concept to benefit from economies of scale in production and marketing. This strategy is also advocated by Piñol in his proposed Agriculture Guide Map as explained in his book.
The DA’s Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) has agreed to recognize FNAS as a key agriculture training hub for Region 3.
PCA is using FNAS as its focal partner in its joint project with KDF. This is to provide one million free coconut seedlings in Region 3 for the next five years, provided there is cacao intercropping using the technology taught by FNAS.
Taking its cue from the incoming administration, FNAS is now considering the provision not only of planting materials from their scion groves, but also other inputs. These include farm equipment, referrals to agriculture experts, market intelligence, and even market contracts for the products they are focusing on. Unfortunately, FNAS cannot be a trading hub because of its location. It also lacks the expertise in the area of financing farmers.
It is about time we say no to fragmented farming. But this will not happen automatically. We need anchors such as FNAS to be the center, nucleus, or focal point that will catalyze the use of the right technologies and economies of scale. Only then can we solve rural poverty, feed our millions, and attain inclusive growth.
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected]hoo.com or telefax (02) 8522112).
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.