The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is unquestionably a trying circumstance.

The crisis compelled everyone to reckon with overwhelming social and economic adversities, paralyzing the livelihood of a great majority.

While most are in limbo, disconcerted and idle in the face of the pandemic, Michael Madale, a 35 year-old farmer beneficiary of the DA-10’s Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program from Salvacion, in Kadingilan, Bukidnon chose to be otherwise.

Michael invests himself in backyard gardening and makes the most out of his family’s yard.

He organically grew several vegetables, root crops and herbs in his lawn, raised goats, pigs, cattle and fish, maximizing his time while going through mandatory quarantine.

“I have been gardening way before the pandemic. However, since we are obliged to undergo the quarantine, then I have more time gardening around the house” Michael remarked.

Michael continuously provides for his family notwithstanding the crisis.

Now, he steadily earns at least P700 a week by selling his organic produce. This year, he estimated to make at least P200k from all his farm products.

“Formerly I worked for an NGO. After years of working I finally decided to be a fulltime farmer. I realized I can earn more than my salary by farming” Michael shared.

The provider to a family of three, Michael’s life revolved around agriculture, and he has since developed the passion for farming.

“My parents are farmers. They provided our daily needs and supported our education by planting rice, corn, cassava and banana, and by growing vegetables. Agriculture, especially organic farming, is a personal advocacy for me” Michael averred.

As an Environmental Management graduate, Michael is amenable today’s farmers should be “environmentalist” in their own little way.

He said minimizing the use of synthetic agricultural products and shifting to organic farming will go a long way in protecting the environment.

“As farmers we should farm without compromising the environment. We should provide our family safe and healthy foods, and care for our environment at the same time” he asserted.

Michael and 25 fellow farmers in Barangay Salvacion are members of Nagkahiusang Mag-Uuma Farmers Association.

The association is a recipient of numerous interventions from SAAD Northern Mindanao such as farm inputs, garden tools, cattle and Multi-Crops Drying Pavement.

As officer of the said association, Michael is always in the forefront, being a helping hand in the implementation of SAAD projects in their community.

“We have been receiving agricultural assistance from SAAD since 2018. The program provided us several interventions for crops and livestock production. SAAD is undeniably a big help to indigent farmers in our place. We are truly indebted to the program” Michael said.

A visionary man, Michael hopes one day he can convert his home-based farm into an organic farming learning site, allowing him to share his knowledge and passion to other farmers.

Similarly, he and his wife are looking forward to starting a food processing business in the future by utilizing their farm products as raw materials.

“We planned to produce processed peanut and meat products since we are producing the raw materials. For now, we lack the tools we need, but we are not rushing. We wanted to be holistically ready before engaging in the business” Michael accounted.

Coming from a financially challenged family, Michael is convinced that agriculture is the most practical solution to the country’s long-standing battle against poverty.

He stressed, with enough scientific support, agriculture can change the lives of poor farmers.

Moreover, he underscored farmers’ attitude towards government’s assistance are crucial to the attainment of inclusive development in the country.

“With the crisis we are facing, it is about time that farmers like us twist our mindset and think of government assistance not just as dole out but an opportunity to better our lives. We should value the projects granted to us and foster them to our advantage” he pointed out.

Michael urges farmers like him to stay productive, particularly in this challenging time. He challenged them to maximize idle spaces in their houses to earn extra income, instead of plainly relying on government amelioration.

“While hoping for the pandemic to dwindle, we need to be able to continuously earn for our family. We do not need a huge area to start farming. We can make use of our idle yard and plant anything we can eat and earn from there” Michael asserted.

He believes balance decision and advance thinking are fundamental to a farmer, most especially since the pandemic holds still. He professed being initiative-driven makes the difference in a farmer’s life.

“My mantra is to learn to regret ahead. As farmers we need to be able to foresee what lies ahead. We should be able to scan our horizon and make the best we can today for our tomorrow” Michael advised.

The new normal is indeed overwhelming. But Michael Madale proves a farmer can thrive amidst the pandemic.

As he modelled, toppling the COVID-19 adversities requires nothing more than the ability to capitalize on every existing opportunity – taking full advantage of government assistance and doses of ingenuity and diligence. #

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The agriculture department in Northern Mindanao (DA-10) eyes for the Mantibugao Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Farmers’ Cooperative (MARBFC), as one of its pilot areas for the Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation Program (F2C2).

Based in Zone 2, Mantibugao, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, MARBFC is primarily engaged in corn and cassava production and other value-adding activities, and one of the longstanding project-implementers of the department founded back in 1991.

Two years ago, the farmers’ group has also been recognized as the Grand Champion for the Cassava Cluster Management Excellence Awards (CCMEA) of DA.

“The cooperative has been chosen, given their responsiveness to the implementation of various programs and projects of the government,” Carlene C. Collado, regional executive director of DA-10 said.

“With the continued vision of the farmers’ group in uplifting the lives of its members and the community, MARBFC is a great prospect in leading more small farmers to replicate their clustering and consolidation approach in production, processing and marketing, and further bringing it to another level,” he detailed.

DA Administrative Order 27 states, F2C2 aims to bring economies of scale in agriculture through the provision of technical and financial support, enabling more farmers and fisherfolk, including agripreneurs to produce and earn more, at the same time.

Under said Program, the agency can extend a downpour of assistance ranging from pre-production and production support, postharvest facilities, packaging support, transport and logistics, credit, marketing assistance, among others to farm and fishery clusters.

DA’s set eligibility criteria to avail of projects under F2C2 is set at 100 hectares for rice production, corn and other grain crops (75 ha.), high value vegetable crops (50 ha.), fruit trees and perennials (100 ha) and, at 100 hectares for fiber crops.

“Amid the current decline in the buying price for corn, MARBFC is assured of a market by providing the weekly 500 metric tons requirement of Pilmico Foods, Corp. pegged at P15 per kilo,” Richan D. Lacanaria, regional corn focal person of the agency reported.

The coop is catering corn farm clusters from Southern Bukidnon like Quezon, Kitaotao, Kibawe, Damulog, Don Carlos and Kadingilan to avail the higher price of Pilmico.

Back in March 2018, MARBFC has already inked an agreement with Pilmico under its Inclusive Corn Sourcing Project.

“We are buying corn from other corn clusters, aside from our own, to also aid other corn farmers,” Antonio B. Juanitas, Jr., MARBFC chairman accounted.

“We are also thankful for the department in granting us farm machineries and equipment that helped us in reducing our labor [production] cost,” the farmers’ coop official continued.

While an orientation for the pilot farm clusters is still underway, Juanitas conveyed, that it is a good opportunity for them to be considered under DA’s F2C2 program.

“Should we be fortunate, and the Program be finally in place, we really look forward in proposing for inputs assistance and additional establishment of a storehouse,” the farmers-coop official shared.

He further detailed, MARBFC will buy farmers corn produce at a reasonable price to help them since the provision of inputs is crucial.

Their approach will prevent farmers from going to traders for financing that will force them to sell their harvest [to them] at dictated prices.

Since MARBFC’s inception with only 15 members, they are now 480 members in strength planting around 117 hectares of corn and 264 hectares of cassava.

Of which, under the farm cluster’s wing is five cooperatives and four associations from the towns of Manolo Fortich and Libona in Bukidnon. #

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, October 1 – Five farmer-groups are now link to shoppers and mallgoers through the Farmers’ Produce initiative.

Farmers’ Produce is initiated by Robinsons Mall, which enlisted the department through its AMAD to invite agribusinesses to sell their products at their mall spaces for a minimal rental fee only, which runs from October 1-30, 2020 at Robinsons Department Store, Lapasan, in this city.

These farmers-groups from the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon which include the Northern Mindanao Federation of Dairy Cooperatives, Canitoan Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Tagpuangi Farmers and Fisherfolk Association, Homegrown Marketing Cooperative, and NM Foods are displaying their agri-fishery products during the said period.

Through the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) of the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office 10 (DA-RFO 10) farms and other agri-entrepreneurs are connecting to the buyers with their products ranging from freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, snack items, dairy products and other processed agri-fishery food.

“We’ve pushed to really participate in this kind of event, because we believe that linking the farmer-producers direct to the consumers will be beneficial to both parties,” Chedy V. Ansale, AMAD chief said.

The customers will likewise be assured of fresh, safe and affordable food products, the DA-RFO 10 division chief added.

“This is a great opportunity for us as we usually do wholesale,” said Melanie O. Waasdorp of Manzano Farm, Tignapoloan, this city.

She further detailed, this [activity] will help increase our sales, as we are going straight to the customers within the mall premises. # (JCGamboa, DA-10)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – As the centerpiece drive of the Department of Agriculture’s (DAs) Plant, Plant, Plant Program to ensure sustained food production and availability, its Regional Field Office 10 (RFO 10) granted assorted vegetable seeds to Rockville Grace Christian School (RGCS), Naawan, Misamis Oriental.

On September 4, Field Operations Division OIC-Chief Audy G. Maagad of DA-RFO 10 handed over 2 packs at 50 grams of eggplant, 1 pack at 250 grams of okra and 1 pack at 250 grams of pechay seeds to school representative and MAPEH coordinator of RGCS Ethel Leslie E. Barillo.

“The seeds provided by DA will be given to elementary students which will be planted on their backyard and pots in their respective houses,” Barillo explained.

She added, said activity is part of the students’ grades and performance thru virtual classes that will start on October 5, this year.

The said intervention is part of the students’ Music, Arts, Physical Education, Health – Home Economics and Livelihood Education (MAPEH-HELE) subject that was conceptualized, designed and developed for the development of learners’ knowledge and skills on agriculture and other related topics.

Under Secretary William D. Dar’s leadership, DA envisions that the provision of assorted vegetable seeds to different schools and beneficiaries will not only provide food security in schools and communities, but will also create a community of young farmers in the incoming years. # (Irish Mae Juntahan)

MALAYBALAY CITY, BUKIDNON, October 3 – The agriculture department in Northern Mindanao (DA-10) has been urged to strengthen its efforts of championing adlay, an indigenous crop being introduced as an alternative source of income and livelihood for farmers at the same time, a healthier staple food substitute.

In a report by the Research Division presented to DA Undersecretary for Regulations Engr. Zamzamin L. Ampatuan, growing said commodity can generate about P100,000 net income per hectare from an average cost of production of P30,000-P35,000.

Also known as Job’s tears, adlay is produced in about 570 hectares in Region 10, particularly in Bukidnon with major growing areas in Lantapan, Manolo Fortich, Impasug-ong, Talakag and Malaybalay City, even citing that former rebels in the latter site have taken interest in cultivating the crop.

Adlay production takes about five to six months depending on elevation and are being sold at a farmgate price of P50-100 per kilogram (kg) as seeds and P80-P100/kg as grits, with market outlets in the abovesaid producing areas, including the cities of Iligan and Valencia, Claveria town and even Metro Manila.

“Isang issue na dapat nating tignan ay kung paano ang income niya [adlay] kung itatapat mo siya sa palay at mais,” the DA official remarked, adding that profit comparisons will help more farmer-producers come up with informed decisions to invest in growing adlay.

As food source, adlay can be cooked similar like rice and corn. It is known to be good for diabetics, as it contains low glycemic index, while it can also be processed in making flour for bread, porridge, delicacies and wine.

Further, it can also serve as fodder for livestock.

With funding from DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), value-added products are also being developed using adlay ranging from breakfast cereals, wine, beauty soap, coffee, crispies and crunchy bar.

Noting that adlay is yet to break into the mainstream market, USec Ampatuan explained, that over time, the commodity will eventually become a food staple, not only for the health conscious or the high-end market, but for more Filipino people.

“May market na ‘yan [adlay]. Maging trend sana ito kasi sa ngayon, curious pa lang tayo dito, but still, curiosity generates market,” he asserted.

Likewise, the agri official challenged DA-NorMin to position the commodity well, as talks for adlay to be adopted in DA’s organic agriculture program are in progress.

“Our plan is to make this [adlay] as a flagship project, a potential organic and export commodity,” he continued.

He also suggested for the food technologists of DA-10’s Research Division to create dishes such as risotto and paella, utilizing adlay to possibly capture the foreign market, especially Europe.

While factoring in the possibilities of a market for said commodity, the DA official also underscored thorough preparedness in terms of boosting adlay production.

“Continue producing the [adlay] seeds. Paramihin na ninyo iyan at maka-adopt sana ang iilang farmer-groups na ang focus is seed production para ma-promote talaga siya,” USec Ampatuan said.

Meanwhile, DA-10 Regional Executive Director Carlene C. Collado expressed his gratitude for the DA undersecretary’s first ever visit to the region and allowing the team to showcase NorMin’s strides relative to the research and development initiatives on adlay.

“Hopefully, next time, the group can discuss, not only adlay, but the agri-development of Region 10, as a whole, as we are the host of many agri-based companies. We are also major producers for cattle, swine and poultry, and almost all fruits and vegetables are likewise grown in NorMin,” the director responded.

Capping the event, the DA official also visited the 403rd Infantry Brigade, one of the department’s partners in growing adlay, which are planted in the fields of Camp Osio Bahian in Impalambong, Malaybalay City. # (JLO)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Technical Research Report on the project entitled, “Socio-Economic Profiling of Farmers in Northern Mindanao,” was presented by the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) – Claveria, Misamis Oriental before key officials of the agriculture department (DA) in Northern Mindanao.

Said study, which was presented by USTP-Claveria Research and Development Extension Director Dr. Apolinario Gonzaga, Jr. on September 23, aimed to come up with general field information on physical, social, and institutional conditions in Region 10.

Survey results were drawn from 35,000 small farmer-respondents across Northern Mindanao, covering the provinces of Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin.

Carlota S. Madriaga, regional technical director for operations of DA-Regional Field Office 10 (DA-RFO 10) said, such study will be instrumental in the program implementation of the agency in determining clients’ needs, aside from being a vital input in the department’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

Key issues initially discussed for further validation include farmers’ monocropping practices; damages in productivity due to calamities; high dependence on human labor and draft animals; less emphasis on farm mechanization for extension services; and machinery preference driven by familiarity and utility value.

Correspondingly, proposed solutions were laid out including unification of research and development efforts, science-based mitigation intervention, intensive social formation, and cross-sector partnership.

DA-10 executive Carlene C. Collado also emphasized the significance of research results in delivering better services to agri-clienteles, adding that the department eyes to allocate P2 million for the RDE activities of USTP-Claveria.

This, he further said, will jumpstart the partnership between DA-10 and that of the institution towards research development.

Said activity was spearheaded by the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (PMED) of DA-10 in coordination with the RDE of USTP-Claveria. # (Mary Grace B. Sta. Elena)

In a recent meeting, 3rd district Bukidnon Representative Manuel F. Zubiri discussed with DA-RFO 10 executive Carlene C. Collado, as he sought help from the agri department to address the clamor of corn farmers to better command prices for their produce.

To collectively aid farmers in said district, it was agreed that farmer-leaders, processors, feed millers and cooperatives will be brought in together to a stakeholders meeting early October, this year, to be held in one of the department’s research stations in Dangcagan, Bukidnon.

The move is part to apprise said stakeholders with the demand, requirements, buying price, among other concerns on corn.

Other than pursuing such initiative to address the prevailing buying price of corn, Rep. Zubiri requested assistance on how to establish a corn grains complex, to aid in stabilizing market prices for corn in a long-term basis in said province. #

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – In line with its Animal Health Program and annual observance of World Rabies Day (WRD), the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office 10 (DA-RFO 10) handed over a total of 2,700 vials of anti-rabies vaccine to the different veterinary offices in NorMin.

The veterinary offices of Misamis Oriental received 1,000 vials, Cagayan de Oro City (700 vials) and Lanao del Norte (1,000 vials) from DA-RFO 10 Regional Executive Director Carlene C. Collado and Regional Technical Director for Operations Carlota S. Madriaga on September 24 and 28, respectively, at the agency’s compound.

Part of the mitigate measures, the department continues to appropriate budget for vaccines which are being provided to the different local governments regionwide.

On-site vaccinations are being done to animals at the provincial, municipal/city or barangay levels, while some administer them in their respective veterinary offices for their walk-in and nearby clients owning animals or pets.

“One vial can be used to more or less 10 dogs, so for these [provisions], around 27,000 dogs can be vaccinated,” Ma. Lourdes Sypiecco, livestock program focal person of DA-RFO 10 said.

Agricultural Center Chief I Efren Melner S. Viloria of MisOr vet office said, DA has always been supportive in helping eradicating rabies in the province through providing such assistance which could cater to the needs of animal or pet owners.

“The support of DA makes a step closer in ending rabies and safeguarding our community, as a whole,” Dr. Lucien Anthony Acac, CdeO City veterinarian added.

On top of the received anti-rabies vaccines, the LdN vet office has also been given with 1,800 syringes which will be utilized in administering rabies vaccinations of the province.

“Along with the conduct of our ongoing mass vaccination for dogs in the province, we also highlight responsible pet ownership resulting also in raising awareness on how fatal, but preventable the virus is,” Ken Harvey A. Luna, representative of said office remarked.

For this year, the WRD celebration centers on the theme” “End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate.”, where it highlights the aim of zero human deaths by 2030, the significance of dog vaccination and the unanimous effort of concerned stakeholders in eliminating rabies.

Rabies is a fatal, but preventable viral disease that can spread to people and animals if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, which is usually transmitted through a bite.# (John Carl R. Anito)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Two units automated disinfection systems are now installed in the province of Bukidnon to continuously combat African Swine Fever (ASF).

Regional Executive Director Carlene C. Collado of the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office 10 (DA-RFO 10) said, the disinfection system is first in Mindanao and in Region 10.

On Monday, September 28, Collado led the ribbon cutting of two units automated disinfection systems installed in DA-RFO 10’s Malaybalay Stock Farm (MSF) in Dalwangan, Malaybalay City and Alae Quarantine Station, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon to improve the efficacy of the disinfection strategies and reduce reliance to our frontliners.

One unit was turned over to the Provincial Local Government Unit of Bukidnon (PLGU Bukidnon) worth P1.59 million thru Vice Governor Rogelio N. Quiño for the additional animal biosafety system of the province under the agency’s Livestock Program.

Meanwhile, there is a need to sustain the biosecurity measures of the health and sanitation of DA-10’s MSF livestock that does not only cater Region 10, but the entire Mindanao.

Collado emphasized, “DA thru this Automated Disinfection System project is serious in implementing the prevention of ASF, particularly in Bukidnon, and the entire Region 10, in general.”

He also revealed, the agency has procured three units for this year, wherein, two units were installed in Bukidnon and one unit for Magsayasay, Misamis Oriental.

For next year, DA will procure additional five units to augment the existing units.

He appealed to PLGU Bukidnon for the sustenance of the project, through various resources such as water and electricity that will continuously utilize its purpose aside from helping in maintaining the province and the region as an ASF-free zone.

Livestock program coordinator Ma. Lourdes M. Sypiecco of DA-RFO 10 noted, considering that Bukidnon is one of the top pork producers in the country, there is a need to strengthen strategies in protecting the producers and farmers from said disease.

Vice Gov. Quino said, “Kinahanglan masugpo ang ASF nga dili makasulod sa Bukidnon. Ang mga hayop sa Bukidnon dili matakbuyan sa sakit nga kanunay nga gimonitor busa higpit ang pagsulod sa livestock diri sa probinsiya.”

The automated disinfection system has high automatic pressure sprayer and sensor with one set installed wall.#(ATCabig)

CdeO City – In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Agriculture – National Dairy Authority (DA-NDA) procured P10 million worth of milk from its assisted-dairy farmers.

Said intervention is part of DA-NDA’s ‘We Drink Milk As One’ Program that aims to provide marketing support to local dairy farmers, at the same time provide frontliners with fresh and nutritious milk to help boost their immunity.

In Northern Mindanao, the DA-Regional Field Office 10 (DA-10) received 350 bottles at 350 ml per bottle of chocolate milk on September 18, 2020 at the agency compound.

Under this program, DA-NDA buys milk from local dairy farmers and processors and donates them to select frontline workers across the country.

Along with this, DA-NDA has set up milk outlets in DA’s Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita sites nationwide to provide a stable market for its dairy-partners and to help bring local dairy farmers’ produced milk closer to consuming households.

For the period April 29-September 3, DA-NDA through said program has provided 18,871.40 liters of milk sourced from 152 assisted local dairy farmers to 55,520 frontline workers for Region 10 alone. # (Irish Mae Juntahan)