Turning Ordinary Farmers into Scientists
Farmers from the Visavas are fortunate because they have a UP Los Banos professor by the name of Dr Romulo G. Davide who grew tip in Colawin, a barrio that used to be a very depressed barangay in Argao, Cebu. In 1994, Dr Davide received a prize of P500,000 for having been that year’s Outstanding Agricultural Scientist under the Gawad Saka project o f the Department of Agriculture.
With the amount, he decided to launch a project that is aimed at turning ordinary farmers into scientists so they can improve their farming techniques. He launched the. Farmer-Scientists Training Program (FSTP) with helping the poor corn farmers from his province uppermost in his mind.
He had observed that in his own hometown, the farmers were very poor because they were using very crude farming methods. They were mostly planting the old Tinigib variety of white corn which yielded just about 500 kilos per hectare. Besides the low yielding variety that they planted, the poor soil that barely had topsoil contributed to the low yield. Thus, they could not even produce enough white corn for their own consumption.
Because of the low income of farm families, Dr. Davide said, there was rampant insurgency and a serious drug problem. Ownership of paltik, the illegally manufactured gun for which Cebu is famous, was the status symbol among the menfolk.
Today, however, Argao has become s progressive town, thanks to a large measure to the FSTP started by Dr. Davide some 15 years ago. Cellphones have replaced the paltik as the prized possession of the menfolk. Motorcycles have also become a common sight as a means of transportation even in the most remote barangays of the town. Up to now, training of more farmers to become scientists continues in Argao, and in fact, it has covered the entire province of Cebu and beyond. The FSTP has also been adopted in Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Mindoro and Compostela Valley in Mindanao.
The main objective of FSTP has been to transform an ordinary farmer, whether man or woman, into a scientist even if he or she has not reached high school. To be a participant in the training, one must be able to read and write.
And what is Dr. Davide’s concept of a scientist? He is observant. He watches things. He reads. He finds out how things work, and how they can be made better. He wonders. He experiments. He finds out what is true. And he sees that wonderful things indeed
Dr. Davide believes that if the farmer has these attributes, he will readily adopt the scientific ways of growing his crops and raising his farm animals. He will become more self-confident about his own capabilities. He could become some sort of a leader in the community where he lives, able to help his fellow farmers in whatever way he can.
Indeed the FSTP has worked wonders for the farmers. In fact, it is not only the farmers that have improved their incomes because of the program. Even the town’s income has improved tremendously. When Dr. Davide started FSTP in 1994, Argao was a 5th Class town. By 2006, it had become a 1st Class town, thanks to a large measure to the program. The rapid improvement stemmed from the fact that taxes from the business establishments have increased. That’s because the townspeople had increased their purchasing power and were buying a lot of their needs from the town’s commercial establishments. The farmers themselves have also started to pay their personal income taxes.
The same phenomenon has also happened in many other towns where the FSTP has been adopted. Many municipalities have improved their classification because of increased revenues.
Of course, the P500,000 prize money of Dr. Davide, who continues to be the project leader, could not have financed all the activities of FSTP Well, it just served as seed money to start the ball rolling, so to speak. What’s great about Dr. Davide is that he had the credibility right from the. start so that it was easy for him to enlist the support and collaboration of several institutions and private individuals, financially and otherwise.
Dr. Davide was able to enlist the support of both government and non-government agencies concerned with poverty reduction among our farmers and the country’s food security program. These include the UP Los Banos College of Agriculture, National Crop Protection Center, the Institute of Plant Breeding, BIOTECH, Department of Agriculture (National Agriculture & Fisheries Council or NAFC, Bureau of Agricultural Research or BAR, Agricultural Training Institute or ATI), Department of Education in Region 7, Department of Science & Technology-Region 7, local government units, schools and colleges like the Cebu State College of Science and Technology (CSCST), Colawin Technical School, East-West Seed Company, Colawin Education Foundation, UPLB Pahinungod Program, and others.
Even private scientist friends of Dr. Davide have pitched in a big way to support the project. These include Dr. . Rene Sumaoang of Novatech, a manufacturer of the bio-irganic fertilizer Durabloom. Dr. Sumaoang and his franchisee, Wellington Chanlim of Bantayan Island, have donated no less than 3,500 bags of Durabloom used in the fertilization experiments of the trainees.
Oh yes, the farmer participants in the program conduct a lot of experiments in the course of their season-long training under the supervision of volunteer scientists and technicians from Los Banos and other institutions.
By Zac B. Sarian