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Onion Field Day/Focus Group Discussion/Training

Friday, March 13, 2009, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija–this was truly an extraordinary day for the onion farmers.

Starting as early as 4 o’clock in the morning of Friday, March 13, 2009, visitors from the Bureau of Agriculture and Research (BAR), the Metro Manila Fresh Food Dealers Association (MMFFDA) and Foundation for Resource Linkage and Development (FRLD), together with people from the National Onion Growers Cooperative Marketing Association (NOGROCOMA) officials and staff left Manila for Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. We were joined by representatives from Region III. No less than the Regional Director, Engr. Redentor Gatus, High Value Commercial Crop (HVCC) Regional Coordinator Fernando Lorenzo and staff, HVCC National Coordinator Dr. Rene Espino, Agriculture Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) William Valdez, Post Harvest Training and Research Center’s (PHTRC) Pearl Nuevo and more than 150 farmer-members of NOGROCOMA and KASAMNE and other barangays from Laur and Bayambang, Pangasinan attended. Twelve (12) farmers from Pangasinan led by Rodrigo Lajera and Pablo de Vera joined the meeting. We all spent the day together.

The field trip was a learning experience. NOGROCOMA Farmer Nardo Francisco harvested his crop. Onion stacks of shiny yellow granex onions comparing farmers’ practice and scientific application of new technology. Offhand, preliminary results show that farmers practice used 2o bags of fertilizer per hectare. Scientists only used lo bags or 50%. Farmers sprayed insecticide and herbicide 12 times while scientists only sprayed four times or 75% less.

Result: The harvest shows scientifically grown onions weigh 30% more than farmers practice using only 50% of fertilizer and 25% of insecticide, herbicide and fungicide.

Side by side, we realized that if only our farmers will adopt this new technology or good agricultural practice, then production cost will be much lower and the harvest, higher. This is a true sign of competitiveness. But it takes time for farmers to adopt new technologies. Given the long term duration of the project, we surmise that in five years time, we will succeed.

Media people were present, Mr. Peter Kho , President of MMFFDA, HVCC and PHTRC, especially the UPLB scientists were all excited about the preliminary results. We are looking forward to the first final report of the five (5) farmer sites.

Nardo is only one of the five farmercooperators of the UPLB scientists. The others are Noli Mendoza, Rosemarie Tabliga, Guillermo dela Cruz and Linda San Juan with Ven Mantile as Head, Coordinator.

Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) representative Mariko Ramos and Christmas de Guzman were amazed at the results of this NOGROCOMA-DA-BAR experiment on retooling the onion industry. It showed a down-to-earth technology that can change the lives of farmers.

Farmer-cooperator Linda San Juan from the standing crops of her farm is showing signs that the initial result from Nardo’s farm will also be duplicated.

I came to know that this is the best practice in disseminating technologies. Techno demo, side by side with farmers practice shows immediately the effect of the use of a certain technology. It is a better way of teaching. The scientists and farmers talk to each other about the merits of the new technology. The farmers are also able to defend their own practices.

After the field trip, under the heat of the morning sun, we organized the Focus Group Discussion (FGD).

We organized 11 FGD groups. Each table has two farmers, one trader, a cold store owner/transport/labor contractor, one from media, one from school, and church. Everybody was given a chance to share her/his views on two topics: (t) why we need to export? and (2) how can we insure that we share in the profits of importation?

Each group has a moderator and a secretary. The moderators were HVCC Dr. Rene Espino, Engr. Redentor Gatus, Wiliam Valdez, Fernando Lorenzo, Mariko Ramos of BAR, Peter Kho, Dr. Renato Mabesa, Dr. Bonifacio Cayabyab, Dr. Pearl Nuevo, Noli Mendoza, Ven Mantile and Rudy Niones.

It was a lively discussion of the 11 dynamic groups. They were given one hour to discuss and for the moderator/ secretary to report on the results.

The results were revealing. Everybody wanted to support the move to go into exports. Most groups did not want to import and some are interested to share in the profit in importation if government decides to import for food security. Everybody wants soil tests, good seeds, crop insurance, among others.

Everybody showed interest in the training done by Dr. Bonifacio Cayabyab and Dr. Renato Mabesa. Using power point presentation, and instruments that measures soil fertility, the right time to water the plants and other new gadgets, the interest of all was aroused.

It was altogether a very successful affair. LGU representative expressed appreciation for the initiatives. The meeting ended with a solid commitment from each sector.

At the end, we were tired but happy. We reached Manila at 10:00 p.m.

It was an exercise well worth the effort. If only all industries can do a similar exercise, it can ensure competitiveness, sustainability and income for farmers.

It is a five-year goal to reach 160,000 bags for export to Japan and five million bags in io years. But goals can be reached through a step-by-step process. It depends on the commitments of all players. And we heard the commitment at the closing of the day.