by Daryl Lou A. Battad
What does it take for farming communities to level up from a state of agricultural paralysis to a resounding case of community-driven agricultural empowerment and development?
Farmers in the province of Ilocos Norte were convinced that embracing good change brought about by an equally good government intervention was the key, especially in the case of Batac and Laoag, where the Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program was introduced. CPAR is one of the banner programs of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) that is being implemented nationwide.
CPAR on integrated rice-based farming system
Ilocos Norte is considered a prime agricultural land with 3,662 hectares of it dedicated to rice integrated with livestock farming. However, farmers continue to struggle with low yield resulting to low income, thus poor productivity.
In 2012, project leader, Ariel Agresor of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 1 implemented the project, “CPAR on Integrated Rice-Based Farming System: An Approach towards Community Driven Agricultural Development in Ilocos Norte,” participated in by 38 farmer-cooperators.
The project was carried out in a 10-hectare model farm following the rice-rice-mungbean + cattle fatteningproduction for irrigated areas, and another ten hectares for rice+wingedbean-corn+cattle fattening productionfocused on participatory community-based resource management system.
Technologies introduced using the CPAR approach include integrated nutrient management; integrated pest management; farm waste management for crops; housing, breeding, feeding management; health management; and waste management for cattle.
Agresor explained that the implementation of a CPAR project in the region targets the development of a modernized agriculture through efficient and effective community-based research and development (R&D) systems specifically in the municipalities of Batac and Laoag. Agresor and his team considered CPAR as a potent strategy for rural development, where appropriate and acceptable farming systems are determined by the community members themselves.
Learning and unlearning
Truth be told, the success of the CPAR project lies in the capability and willingness of the farmers to adapt to change.
With the CPAR intervention, the farmers were expected to implement various technologies based on their identified problems and needs. According to Agresor, the farmers were more than eager to learn and unlearn new and old practices, respectively.
“Hindi naman naging mahirap para sa kanila na i-apply ang mga package of technologies as identified during the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) na ginawa namin prior to CPAR implementation. Open sila sa mga bagong kaalaman, at tinanggap nila talaga ang CPAR dahil nakita nilang mas maganda ang magiging resulta nito sa pagsasaka nila,” shared Agresor.
For instance, farmers were accustomed to unsystematic nutrient management practices, and without regard for soil analysis. Through CPAR, they integrated and improved such practices, which resulted in a significant increase and quality in their produce.
The farmer-cooperators also adopted technologies for cattle raising from housing, breed selection, to feeding and health management. As in any rural setting, cattle raisers normally practice backyard cattle production which often equates to poor quality of feed, housing, and animal health.
“Through CPAR, we taught our farmers on the selection of feeder stock, improved forages, formulated feeds, forced feeding, and complete confinement. With these production technologies, our CPAR farmers gained an average income of about Php7,000 per head, a hefty addition to the earnings acquired from other crops,” Agresor said.
Palma Lorenzo, one of the farmer-cooperators enjoyed not only financial gains but more importantly, the sense of empowerment brought by his involvement in the CPAR project. “Hindi lang nadagdagan ang kita ko, marami din akong natutunan sa pamamagitan ng mga trainings namin sa CPAR. Masaya ako na naging parte ako nitong proyekto ng gobyerno dahil kung hindi, nabalahaw na kami sa kung ano lang ang alam namin pagdating sa pagsasaka,” he narrated.
“Sana mas marami pang proyektong gaya nito ang makaabot sa amin dito,” Lorenzo added.
Another farmer-cooperator from Batac, Rosalinda Basamot, shared how CPAR greatly improved her life. A long-time tobacco farmer, Rosalinda said that the income they get from it sustained them on a daily basis. “Isang kahig, isang tuka,” as they say.
But when CPAR came, everything changed. “Unang-una, parte na kami ng planning, ng pagdedesisyon sa proyekto. Don pa lang naramdaman na namin na mahalaga kaming mga magsasaka. Pangalawa, naging effective talaga ang CPAR sa akin dahil kumita talaga ako, napaganda ko pa ang production ko,” Rosalinda said.
“Nabawasan ang gastos namin sa production dahil natuto kaming mag-organic,” she added. Since the farmer-cooperators were trained on organic fertilization, they now produce vermicompost which they utilize in their farms. Rosalinda said how this significantly contributed to reducing their cost in farm production.
This is not just the case for both Palma and Rosalinda, but for the rest of the CPAR farmer-cooperators as well. In fact, their records show that from 2012-2016, the average yield of crop components increased significantly, bearing a 21% increase for rice; 140% for white and yellow corn; and 348.18% for winged bean.
“Since tumaas ang ani nila, ibig sabihin nito, tumaas din ang kita nila. In rainfed rice-based CPAR sites natin, we recorded an increase of 88%, 659%, and 191% for rice, corn, and wingedbean, respectively,” Agresor shared.
Not only that, every CPAR farmer-cooperator now produces organic fertilizer which they utilize in their own farms, and at the same time sell to other farmers in nearby barangays. The farmer-cooperators earned P407,907.00 in total from the vermicompost alone. Value-added products such as rice crispies and chicharon were also developed, giving added income to the farmers. Currently, the CPAR farmer associations were able to tie up with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the processing of these products.
To date, the CPAR project implemented seven years ago is still flourishing. In 2016, it has been turned over to the local government unit of Ilocos Norte for sustainability.
Complementation of introduced technologies and capability buildings enhanced the knowledge skills and attitudes of many farmers while opening opportunities and unified communities for project development. In its four years of implementation under the DA-RFO 1 in partnership with BAR, the human and social capital of farmers were increased inspiring 625 beneficiaries adopting the same package of technologies.
Presently, these farmer-cooperators are serving as farmer-leaders influencing other farmers to adopt the CPAR approach, and just like them, be successful, community-driven farmers who committed to change for better lives, and better communities.
The CPAR project also won the “AFMA Best R&D Paper Development-Agriculture Research Gold Award” during the 30th National Research Symposium organized by BAR on November 8, 2018 at PICC, Pasay, Manila.