It is very common nowadays for businesses and the government to affix the word “smart” to a certain project or program, if only to connote that the project or program has merits and is making an impact on people’s lives.

Among these projects that has the word “smart” affixed to it is SMARTFarmS, which is the initiative PALAWAN PEOPLES COALITION to DEVELOP SOCIETY and HABITAT(PPC-DSH) headed by Rep. Douglas S. Hagedorn, 3rd District of Palawan in collaboration with KaMMMPi, or the Kapisanan ng Magsasaka, Mangingisda at Manggagawa ng Pilipinas Inc., one of the oldest farmer organizations in the country headed by V.L. Sonny Domingo .

SMARTFarmS stands for Systematic, Modernized, Appropriate Technologies for Farmers’ Sustainability.

“The SMARTFarmS approach is a culmination of our group’s research and experience in what will make small farmers in the Philippines adaptive and competitive for today’s environment,” Hagedorn and Domingo said.

Among the areas where the SMARTFarmS will be piloted is in Palawan, which is backed by Rep. Douglas S. Hagedorn of PPC-DSH.

“SMARTFarmS provides a production regime by way of an Agribusiness Systems Approach to the subsistence farmers of the 3rd District of Palawan to break them away from the vicious cycle of poverty while perceiving that the government has neglected their sector,” the report on the Palawan SMARTFarmS project said.

Pres. Benigno C. Aquino III seeing the potential of SMARTFarmS to make farmers competitive in ASEAN Economic Integration has approved a P 99 M grant for the project upon the endorsement of Sec. Proceso J.Alcala. The initial area will be in Aborlan and Puerto Princesa, both in Palawan.

The Department of Agriculture has already allocated P54 million as an initial commitment to the P 99-million budgetary requirements to set up an a 1,000-hectare module benefiting 1,000 subsistence farmers adopting the

Based on a survey done by the Palawan State University (PSU) upon the request of PPC-DSH and KAMMMPI the problems in the pilot project sites are:

·        1. Farm Credit –The  Farmers pay three sacks of palay (valued at P1,500 to P2,000 at government support price for every P1,000 borrowed. However, most often the buying price of palay by traders is only half the government support price of P 17.00 per kilo;

·        2.Mechanization – In the target site, only one tractor is for rent although some farmers have their own “pagong” and hand tractor;

·        3. Post Harvest Anomaly – Farmers complain of traders that collect loans with their threshers and pay only P7.00 per kilo claiming that the remaining amount is to pay for the thresher;

·        4. Seed System – Foundation and Registered Seeds are supplied by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and International Rice Research Institute . Certified seeds cost P3,000 per 40 kilogram but cost P1,200 per sack at Munoz, Nueva Ecija where PhilRice is located; and

·        5. Soils Analysis and Fertilization – Five to 10 sacks of complete fertilizer is used per hectare at the cost P1,400 per sack with an average of 70-80 cavans per hectare.

Hagedorn believes that the SMARTFarmS project, if it is implemented in Puerto Princesa and Aborlan, can be sustained with its yearly income starting at P33 million on the first year and going up to P52 million in the fifth year. This would result to a total cash flow of P217.69 million in the fifth year of the project.

“On the third year, the accumulated funds will be P118.572 million which is more than enough to start a  new SMARTFarmS and transfer the project to the ownership of the farmer participant cooperative that will be organized for this purpose,” the document on the project stated.

“The project is replicable from its own fund generation after the initial seed fund that will be provided by the government through the Office of the President,” it added.

Hagedorn said that SMARTFarmS can be replicated in other parts of the country, but it is essential that the Palawan pilot project be started as a showcase and for the benefit of the small farmers there.

“Since the proposal is an agribusiness initiative for 1,000 subsistent farmers, the P97 million as revised  should be provided as a seed fund and not distributed over a three-year period since the program is designed to recover the seed funds and apply the same to other disadvantage area and sectors,” the proposal for the funding on the project stated.

The P97 million will be released to the Palawan State University as a lump sum to purchase all the farm machineries required for complete farm mechanization, and to conduct training for the participating farmers.

Hagedorn is fully backing the SMARTFarmS initiative in Palawan and wrote President Benigno Aquino 3rd to back the funding support for the project.

“As we have told you during your visit to Palawan, it will be a continuous cropping system   and  fully mechanized that will enroll at least 1,000 farmers with one hectare each to undergo commercial farming as an option to get out of poverty. At the same time, SMARTFarmS will be a model to save on the cost of production and increase yields by at least 20 percent in the paradigm shift from subsistence to commercial farming,” he said in a letter to President Aquino.

The Palawan lawmaker said SMARTFarmS will be an agribusiness module complete with postharvest facilities, and marketing capability under  professional management. It has a Return on Investments and can be reinvested.

“It is not only repeatable but also expandable to other provinces to also trigger their self-sufficiency with the surplus to be consolidated for export to high end markets,” he said.

The SMARTFarmS Agribusiness Systems Approach (SMARTFarmS A.S.A.) is shown in the framework below.

smartfarm

Photo shows the Agribusiness Systems Approach adopted by SMARTFarmS

Hagedorn said that the rice mills under SMARTFarmS will be owned and operated by the farmers, and will have cogeneration using renewable energy to save on energy cost and make rice farming competitive to prepare farmers for free trade. Wealth sharing is a basic component of SMARTFarmS other than clustering to have a the economies of scale to be competitive in the forthcoming ASEAN ECONOMIC INTEGRATION.

Domingo said he is hoping the SMARTFarmS project will come to fruition and eventually make selected farming areas in the Philippines competitive.

“The overall vision is for more farms in the Philippines to become part of the SMARTFarmS network or initiative. What the country needs is a truly modern farming sector that the SMARTFarmS initiative can help realize,” he said. (BY VERONICA ANACAY HERNANDEZ)