The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), together with other partners sign two memorandum of agreement recently, March 18, 2015, for two projects that will primarily cater to abaca and rice farmers.

According to DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, the projects—the Abaca  Sustainability Initiative, and the Better Rice Initiative Asia-Fostering Agriculture and Rice Marketing by Improved Education and Rural Advisory Services (BRIA-FARMERS)—will be respectively implemented within two to three years to further ensure sustainability of the government’s current programs on improving abaca and rice production.

The Abaca Sustainability Initiative aims to secure the ecological sustainability of abaca fiber production and to enhance the income of the farmers through improved access to markets and extension service in the mountainous provinces of Madalag and Libacao in Aklan; and Janiuay and Maasin in Iloilo.

On the other hand, the BRIA-FARMERS Project seeks to contribute in achieving the goals under the Philippine Development Plan in strengthening the agricultural sector and improving food security in the Philippines through improved education and advisory services for farmers. This will be implemented in the provinces of Aurora, Iloilo and Southern Leyte.

Increased certified abaca production areas

The Abaca Sustainability Initiative to be implemented from 2015 to 2016 by the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) specifically aims to increase the certified production areas to a minimum of 500 hectares. About 300 farms,with average landholding of 1.5 hectares per farmer, and covered under the project, will undergo certification from the Rainforest Alliance, a  body recognized by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). “With their farms being certified, the farmers will be assured of better market access in the coming years, hence, increasing their annual revenue,” DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said.

The €386,000 (about ₱19 million) project will include training of agricultural extension workers and farmer leaders on good agricultural practices, the sustainability certification process, marketing and post-harvest handling. The trained extension workers and farmer leaders will, in turn, serve as trainers to targeted farmers, as well as assist them in complying with the requirements for SAN certification.

The project will as well provide “apparently” healthy planting materials and establish nurseries for replanting and rehabilitation of areas affected by abaca plant diseases. In addition, the project will introduce improved fiber extraction and drying processes.

With these interventions, the DA expects that the project areas will be able to partly meet the supply requirements for certified abaca products, such as for teabag manufacturers that have committed to 100% certified teabags by 2016.

Alcala said DA also looks forward to scaling up the project in other parts of the Philippines to benefit more farmers and increase exports of certified abaca products.

Improved education and rural advisory services for rice farmers

The BRIA-FARMERS seeks to contribute in the development of sustainable strategies across the public and the private sectors in enhancing food security and economic development. It is collaborative project facilitated by the GIZ among German private and public sector institutions through the German Food Partnership of the German Federal Ministry of Development Cooperation.

The BRIA-FARMERS Project in the Philippines specifically aims at increasing the incomes of about 8,000 rice farmers in the targeted municipalities. To be implemented by the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute and the Philippine Rice Research Institute from 2015 to 2017, it will include training of LGU-based trainers in enhanced agricultural extension to ensure that the adoption of technology and farm-based enterprises will be sustained beyond the project duration.

Under the project, which has a budget of €1.8 million (about ₱90 million), agricultural technicians, lead farmers and private service providers will be trained on value chain analysis, basic agriculture, rice-specific farming techniques, use of technology-based nutrient management, post-harvest handling, mechanization and market access.

The BRIA-FARMERS also highlights the adult-friendly learning method in training delivery.

“Another fresh feature of the project is improving the farmer’s marketing and enterprise skills through participation in farm business schools. We have been deliberately incorporating entrepreneurship in our programs as we want to produce not only good farmers but also successful agri-entrepreneurs,” Alcala said.

Alcala added that improved education and rural advisory services for farmers play a vital role in empowering farmers to become more productive—and self-reliant—hence contributing more to the government’s bottom-up approach to agricultural development.

GIZ is a federal enterprise that supports the German government in the field of international development cooperation. For more than 40 years, GIZ has been cooperating with Philippine partners in strengthening the capacity of people and institutions to  achieve sustainable development. (Jan P. Dacumos)

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