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Man for others, man for agriculture

Our nation needs more people like Manuel V. Pangilinan (aka MVP). He is known as a man for others, who recently also became a man for agriculture.

Last July 14, MVP was given a memorable 75th birthday gift. It was a concert where songs rendered by our best singers depicted MVP’s life of giving, especially to the underprivileged (link is “[email protected]”).

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Earlier that day, in his home province of Pampanga, a pioneering launch of one of the nation’s largest coconut nurseries was done by the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF), where MVP is the chair.

Can a man for others, known for communication (PLDT), electricity (Meralco), and infrastructure, also become a man for agriculture, in spite of his lack of formal agriculture training? And can others similarly without this training do what MVP did? Let us visit MVP’s journey to his agriculture destination. Last May 2, Ben Davis described a “man for others” (www.mvorganizing.org): “This means a man who is not self-centered. He put others’ needs before his own; he makes sure he helps everyone around him before he helps himself. The men for others are the real men of the world.”

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Health advocacy

In the concert, MVP’s generosity came shining through. In 2016, when offered a chance to help his home province of Pampanga, MVP became the KDF chair. He saw it was a well-run organization that was helping the underprivileged, mainly through medical missions.

He subsequently set up three centers for more stable and consistent service for the poor: prosthetics (walking free), eyesight (seeing free) and hearing (hearing free). After raising enough money (including his own personal contribution) to have a hospital to house these centers, Pangilinan arranged for a Department of Health accreditation. With his management skills, this hospital is now probably the only one in the world serving underprivileged People with Disabilities (PWDs) completely free. In addition, KDF tied up with the Jesus Datu Medical Center doing cleft operations (smiling free) with a medical and x-ray laboratory, also completely free.

Agriculture initiative

So far, the results of this health advocacy have been impressive. As of June 30, on top of consultations, KDF has performed 192,660 free surgeries in these four areas.

Pangilinan saw how the underprivileged PWDs benefited from these services. He also saw another opportunity to help the poor: livelihood. He chose to do this in agriculture, where modern technology and progressive management practices were sorely lacking.

In 2016, KDF signed an agreement with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). KDF embarked on a pioneering effort to plant coconut trees, which government officials said could not be done in Pampanga. Seeing the coconut advocacy success, KDF in 2019 inspired the private sector to establish 180 model coconut farms, provided they did intercropping between the coconut trees and share their knowledge to help others. This was to demonstrate that two million out of our 3.5 million coconut hectares, which today have no intercropping, should change this monocrop practice. The P25,000 average income per hectare can increase to P80,000 with one intercrop, and more than P300,000 with “dormitory planting” using additional high value crops.New technology

An ongoing example is a disabled OFW (overseas Filipino worker) named Roland Mayo (0920-7022523). He is one of the 180 model coconut farmers with little formal agriculture training. With KDF help, he intercropped lakatan bananas and received P500, 000 in net income for his 1.4-ha farm on his very first try.

On MVP’s birthday, KDF launched a 26-ha DA-accredited nursery for hybrid coconuts with DA and PCA support. This new technology yields three to four times the volume in half the time of the traditional coconut variety. Also included in this nursery are high value crops such as durian, rambutan, and lanzones. One of the largest nurseries in the country, it will partly fill the existing large nursery gap of good planting materials that prevent many farmers from improving their lives.

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MVP’s journey into agriculture has yielded tremendous benefits for the poor. For those with no formal agriculture training, he has shown that management skill, coupled with a “man for others” orientation and modern technology, is all that is needed to take our farmers out of poverty. This is critical, because our 32 percent rural poverty rate is more than double that of our neighboring countries.

Our average annual agriculture growth for the nine years prior to the pandemic was only 1.6 percent, worse than industry’s 6.8 percent growth. To address this problem, more men for others, like MVP, are needed to become men for agriculture. This applies to both genders and all age levels. Only then can agriculture fulfill its potential in improving economic growth and reducing poverty for our beloved nation. INQ

The author is Agriwatch chair, former Secretary of Presidential programs and projects and former undersecretary of DA and DTI. Contact is [email protected]

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