Farmer-Scientists Are “Forced to Become Rich”
Dr. Romulo G. Davide can truly take pride in his formula for making farming more profitable. He quips that the Farmer Scientists Training Program that he started in 1994 “forces the farmers to become rich.”
He is not, of course, bragging. The fact is that it is now hard to count the thousands of beneficiaries of his program who have attained economic independence, thanks to FSTP. The program has taught the farmers how to produce higher yields not only from their corn crops but also from various vegetables, root crops and farm animals that they have been taught to integrate in their corn farming.
One proof that the FSTP has been a rousing success is the fact that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has issued late last year an Administrative Order which mandates the adoption of the program in various parts of the country.
Truly, countless farmers have become much richer after 15 years of implementing the program. In Dr. Davide’s hometown of Argao alone, more than 2.000 farmers have tremendously increased their annual incomes, not only from planting corn but also from improved varieties of vegetables and other crops. Farm animals like cattle, goats, chickens and others have also augmented their incomes.
In 2007, FSTP conducted a survey to assess the impact of the program on the farmers’ annual incomes. The survey showed that farmer-scientists in Brgy. Bayabas, Argao, have increased their farm incomes many times over. For example. Dionisio Aballe made P800,000 from selling various vegetables and root crops like cassava and camote. Another barriomate, Joemar Agrabio, sold no less than P500,000 worth of vegetables that he grew that year.
Aside from vegetables, other Argao farmers made money from farm animals like livestock and poultry. For instance, Besaida Geverola of Brgy. Bayabas, made an income of P315,000 from her vegetables and livestock. Some farmer scientists in Argao have acquired their own trucks which they use to transport their farm produce to Cebu City, their main market. Motorcycles have also become a common sight as a means of transportation for the residents, even in the remote barangays.
Of course, it is not only in Argao where the farmers, have become much richer because of the improved farming techniques they have learned from the experts. Similar increases in incomes have been observed in the areas where the program has been adopted. These include all the other towns and cities of Cebu province, certain towns in Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Mindoro and Compostela Valley in Mindanao.
In the 2007 survey, one of the things they wanted to find out was how much higher corn production the farmers had achieved. A total of 855 corn planters cultivating some 865.93 hectares were surveyed from 174 barangays in Cebu, Siquijor and Negros Oriental. The survey found out that the farmers produced a total of 964.51 tons as surplus production, meaning beyond what they set aside for their own consumption. They sold the surplus production at P10 to P20 per kilo in the form of green corn for boiling, whole grains and as milled corn grits. The total value of the surplus production amounted to P10.66 million.
It may be recalled, that the farmers used to harvest only 500 kilos of white corn per hectare. These days, it is not unusual for the farmers to harvest four to six tons per hectare.
What are the things that the farmers do to achieve high yields? One of them is to plant hybrid seeds as well as improved open-pollinated varieties. Another is the application of bio-organic fertilizers like Durabloom and Bio-N, as well as inorganic fertilizers. In Duero, Bohol, a farmer planted corn in a very poor soil. He got only 280 kilos per hectare without fertilization. In a similar area fertilized with Durabloom, the yield was practically four times – 1. 1 tons per hectare. In other places where the soil is much better, the yield of fertilized plants produced much higher yields. In Alegria, Cebu, for instance, the plants fertilized with a combination of Durabloom and chemical fertilizers yielded 4.3 tons while the unfertilized plants yielded only 1.4 tons.
The improved varieties of corn have also contributed much to the high yields obtained by the farmer-scientists. For instance, the old Tinigib variety which the farmers used to plant could produce only 500 kilos per hectare, sometimes 1,000 kilos or one ton. That’s too low compared to the yield from hybrids obtained by farmers in Alegria, Cebu, in 2007. For instance, the hybrid variety GSI-40 produced 6.1 tons per hectare. In Monpeller, farmers planting IPB Var 4 got 6.6 tons per hectare; 6.4 tons from GSI-40; and 6.4 tons from Pioneer White.
Through experiments the farmers have conducted, they have learned that planting just one seed per hill is better than the usual practice of planting three or more seeds per hill. In Loon, Bohol, UP Var 4 gave 3.16 tons per hectare when one seed was planted per hill; 2.92 tons from 2 seeds per hill; 2.25 tons per hectare from 3 to 4 seeds per hill; and only 1.9 tons per hill from the 4 to 5 seeds per hill.
Even the number of times the land is plowed affects the yield of corn. Farmers in Cebu City observed that the land plowed two times yielded 8.10 tons per hectare while the land plowed only once yielded 5.10 tons. On the other hand, the land not plowed but hand-weeded gave 4.8 tons per hectare while the unplowed and unweeded gave 4.7 tons per hectare.
There are many other improved practices that the farmers have learned to increase their productivity as well as their incomes. Dr. Davide observes, however, that there are places where the FSTP had not been as effective. For instance, too much politics is the usual problem. He says that when the municipal officials don’t belong to the same political party, farm and livelihood programs usually suffer because no funds are appropriated for such programs. The same is true when the municipal mayors don’t appreciate the importance of agriculture because they don’t have backgrounds in agriculture like lawyers, architects, doctors and the like.
Dr. Davide also observes that some mayors misuse their Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA). In some cases, he said, mayors and barangay chairmen do not use enough IRA funds for food production and livelihood projects to reduce poverty and hunger among farmers. Instead, they spend more for personnel and infrastructure and generate more savings -for higher Christmas bonus in December.
Despite these problems, however, the Farmer-Scientists Training Program is one program that is really a great success. It has been sustained during the last 15 years and continues to make more and more farmers richer than ever.