December 10, 2018
The vibrant commercial production area for high value vegetables in an upland community in Tiwi, Albay illustrates how farmers in this part of Bicol have found a niche growing such types of crops they can sell to expensive hotels and restaurants in the area.
The result is an increase in income of a regular Tiwi farmer from 800 pesos a week to 2,000 pesos a week for high value crops like lettuce. The shift to producing high value crops is part of the project Sustainable Upland Agribusiness Enterprise Development assisted by Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) Shunsuke Imaizumi.
"I held a market survey on needs and supply of vegetables in Legazpi, Tabasco, and Tiwi in Bicol. I found out that lettuce has very high demand in the local market but has very low supply. This is how I started the idea of teaching the farmers on commercially producing different varieties of lettuce," said Imaizumi, who graduated with Master's degree in agricultural sciences from Nagoya University and has worked in organic farming in Japan and in Germany. Imaizumi is among the Japanese volunteers dispatched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to partner countries like the Philippines to help address development challenges.
Imaizumi trained 30 farmer members of Sto. Cristo Upland Farmers Association on agribusiness and organic farming techniques such as mokusaku (using wood vinegar as alternative fertilizer) and vermicomposting (turning organic wastes into high quality compost using worms). Local production sales rose as much as P20,000 for the farmer's association during peak months.
Prior to the project, farming in upland communities in Tiwi faced many challenges, including limited capital to sustain production, access to information on appropriate farming techniques, trainings on agricultural entrepreneurship, and market access.
"I assisted farmers on how to become a farmer entrepreneur. The farmers in our area are now motivated to produce more high value vegetables due to its high demand in our locality," said Michael Francisco, agricultural technologist at Tiwi's Municipal Agricultural Office (MAO). "With help from the Japanese volunteers, our farmers found their niche, connecting to different markets."
Japanese volunteer Imaizumi said the motivation of the Tiwi farmers to pursue high value crops is part of the success of the project. The farmers in Sto. Cristo now have vermicomposting and mushroom production facilities. The farmers in Tiwi are also benefiting from the mokusaku production plant established in Tumana in Tiwi.
In the span of two years that the project was implemented, local farmers in Tiwi showed that it is not enough to just rely on nature's bounty, farmers also have to work hard to sustain their revenue stream.
Farmers showing off a successful harvest from the trial growing of lettuce