They Escaped the Muslim Conflict and Became Model Farmers
Peace and order may have been elusive in some parts of Mindanao for some time, and many farmers feel uncomfortable whenever the situation is unstable. In fact, they don’t want to be caught in any crossfire and, hence, they migrated to other parts of the big island where it is relatively peaceful and orderly to be able to concentrate on their farming activities.
Vicente “Enteng” G. Antonio of Brgy. Tagapua, San Francisco, and Rogelio Antalan of Brgy. Kapatungan, Trento, both in Agusan del Sur, are just two of those farmers who escaped the conflict. And they became model farmers in their newfound home.
Born in Kalibo, Aklan in 1950, Enteng was brought by his Ilocano parents to Dadiangas (now Gen. Santos City), South Cotabato in 195 L Three years later, they moved to Norallah, South Cotabato and then to Brgy. Sampao, Isulan, Cotabato (now Sultan Kudarat) because they were searching for greener pasture.
Until 1994 Enteng was doing quite well as a farmer in Sultan Kudarat. He had accumulated several lands and farm equipment, and was considered as one of the outstanding farmers in Sultan Kudarat. His rice harvests reached 160 cavans a hectare (ha) with IR 68, 170 cavans/ha with IR 42, and 190 cavans/ ha with IR 44.
However, the situation in Mindanao was becoming unstable due to the Muslim conflict. He was worried because he already had five children at that time. So when a friend told him that there were lands for sale in San Francisco, he and his wife decided to sell their property and move out.
On February 24, 1994 they bought 6.8 ha of land in Brgy. Tagapua for a bargain price of P135,000. They left Sultan Kudarat on June 18, 1994. They brought with them two carabaos, a floating tiller, a water pump, and a thresher which was bought in 1988 and had a capacity of 56 cavans an hour.
At the start, a big portion of the farm was occupied by old coconut trees and forest trees. Only 1.5 ha was cleared for rice farming. So he cut down the unproductive coconut trees and forest trees and he even filled up the seven creeks that crossed his farm. Then he was able to develop the farm gradually.
In the first year, he planted rice in 3 ha but his harvest (150 cavans) was a great disappointment compared with his previous harvests in Sultan Kudarat. On the other hand, he had no regrets for having moved out to Agusan del Sur because he already had a bigger farm with great potentials.
TAKES HYBRID RICE
Until the wet season of 2001, Enteng was planting rice and corn. He said his harvest increased as he labored hard to learn the new rice technology. He also started consulting the researchers of PhilRice-Agusan at that time. And before he knew it, he was already participating in a season-long training course on hybrid rice seed production (A x R) in Trento from December 2001 to April 2002.
He used 1,250 square meters of his farm as his practice field and harvested 100 kg of hybrid rice seeds. He sold 60 kg for P7,200 and planted 40 kg in his farm; a hectare needs 20 kg of seeds. Enteng thought that there is money in hybrid rice, especially in seed production.
From his commercial hybrid rice crop in the 2002 dry season, he harvested a total of 232 cavans (50 kg each), which he sold at P7.30 per kilo for a total of B84,680. Enteng said the price of commercial hybrid rice at that time was still low because it was not yet known by the traders who pegged a lower price for it than for inbred rice.
At the same time, he planted 1 ha for A x R production and harvested 32 bags or 640 kg. He sold 30 bags for P72,000.
In the wet season of 2002, he planted the remaining two bags of hybrid rice seeds in 2 ha and harvested 242 cavans worth P88,330.
Since then he has been into A x R and commercial hybrid rice production since he saw it as a very rewarding enterprise. During the dry season of 2006, he utilized 2 ha forA x R production and harvested 113 bags (20 kg each) worth P271,200. After deducting his production cost of P59,154.40, he obtained a net income of P196,774.
On the other hand, he harvested 8,576 kg from a 1-ha crop of commercial hybrid, which was sold for P83,486. His production cost was P19,520, leaving him a net income of P63,966. In another area, he harvested 11,448 kg from 1 ha and sold it for P96,331.20.
In contrast, his harvest of 190 bags of PSB Rc82, an inbred variety, was sold for P90,693. This gave him a net income of P57,633 after deducting the production cost of P33,060.
Enteng also maintains two small ponds (1,000 square meters each) near his house for tilapia production. Between October 2006 and February 16, 2007, he harvested 622 kg which he sold at P20,520.
He is very thankful to PhilRice for teaching the new rice technology. Through that, he was able to improve his rice farm. He said that aside from the learning, his relationship with the national rice agency has given him an all-expense-paid trip to Luzon, particularly in Nueva Ecija and Manila during the PhilRice R & D review this year.
Enteng said that despite his age, he will continue to plant hybrid rice in the next five years or so and then divide the farm among his children.
Rogelio Antalan, an Ilocano, was only 13 years old when his parents brought him in 1965 to Carmen, Cotabato, then a resettlement area. Due to the Muslim conflict, his family moved out to Kapatungan, Trento, Agusan del Sur in 1969 upon the suggestion of relatives who went there ahead of them. Trento then was still a barangay of Bunawan town.
Since his parents were not able to acquire much property in Carmen, his father became a tenant of another Ilocano who went to Kapatungan earlier and already owned 13 ha of farm land. Although some areas were already cleared and slightly developed for farming, much more were still forested.
At age 20 in 1972, Rogelio has started to be on his own as a farmer. His father gave him a calf (carabao), but he decided to sell it at P1,500 to be able to mortgage a half-hectare farm.
His first crop was IR 5, the second variety released by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) after the “miracle rice” IR 8. Although he did not apply fertilizer and insecticides, he still harvested 50 bags, which was equivalent to 100 bags/ha. For a neophyte, that was already considered an achievement because the new rice technology was just beginning to spread to the countryside.
Rogelio’s crop in the second season, however, was a dismal failure due to armyworm and cutworm infestation which affected the grains when they were 75 to 80 percent mature. He wanted to cry because he only harvested 25 bags (50 bags/ha).
Amidst his indebtedness, Rogelio persevered as he had been raised through difficulties and hardships. Of course, his efforts produced good results. His yields started to increase due to the Masagana 99 rice production program of the government, which was administered by the agricultural technicians in the barangay.
His yields increased to an average of I 10 bags/ha and it enabled him to pay all his debts. He said the arrival of Masagana 99 became the turning point in his life as a farmer. Increased yields and income enabled him to mortgage an additional hectare of rice land in 1992 for P5,000, which was considered a big amount of money at that time.
Rogelio was also into hybrid rice seed production for four seasons. His harvest of 57 bags from 1.2 ha in the first season was worth P136,800. This was followed by 37 bags (P88,800) and 48 bags (P115,200) from 1 ha each in the second and third seasons, respectively. In the fourth season, he harvested 37 bags from 0.91 ha. However, he said that one problem with A x R production is its supplemental pollination, which coincides with the rainy season.
The size of his farm kept on increasing as more farmers continued to mortgage their property to him. Today, he already cultivates 3 ha and 2.5 ha of which are his own. A few years back, Rogelio gave 0.85 ha to his son so that he would be able to provide for his family.
A new period in Rogelio’s life as a farmer cropped up in 1996 when he got acquainted with the staff of PhilRice-Midsayap. He knew well that there was a growing demand for certified seeds in Trento and nearby towns and, hence, he used his relationship with the PhilRice people to teach him how to produce certified seeds.
Since then he has been producing seeds of the latest inbred rice varieties which are very much in demand.
He later became a partner of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)-funded PhilRice PalayCheck project, a holistic, integrated, and objective approach to rice production. This was based on Australia’s RiceCheck system that helped increase rice yield from about 6 tons/ha to 9.5 tons (t) in 2000.
In his second season, he planted NSIC Rc128, one of the latest rice varieties released by the National Seed Industry Council, and obtained a yield of 7.5 t/ha. His first PalayCheck harvest was 5.6 t/ha with PSB Rc82.
As a PalayCheck partner, he demonstrates the best key technology and management practices as Key Checks. In this production approach, the partner and 35 cooperators around the demonstration site compare farming practices. Through continuous group discussions, the farmers learn to sustain improvement in productivity, profitability and environment safety, as PalayCheck is simply “learning, checking, and sharing for best farming practice.”
Rogelio said PalayCheck is good since production cost is kept to a minimum. While it is true that yields were also high in the past, he said, the cost of production was also high. He is thankful to PhilRice for teaching him and his cooperators the following best-practices:
1. use of certified seeds of recommended varieties;
2. no high and low soil spots in the field after final leveling;
3. synchronous planting after a fallow period;
4. sufficient number of healthy seedlings;
5. sufficient nutrients at early panicle initiation to flowering;
6. avoid excessive water or drought stress that could affect the growth and yield of the crop;
7. no significant yield loss due to pests; and
8. cut and thresh the crop at the right time.
Rogelio concluded that it would be harder to engage in farming under unstable situations, because the farmers must also take care of their lives and their families.