Since December, farmers in Lebak are experiencing drought and it seemed like too long and hard for them already. This was the impression during last month’s meeting with them in the office of the department of Agriculture.
Municipal Agriculture Officer Nenita Frias encouraged the coffee farmers to prepare their lands while it is still drought period. “Habang wala pay ulan, pag buho- buho namo” (while there is no rain yet, start digging around your trees ”. She told them to fill it with composts materials. This will help hold water and moisture while the holes and small pits help absorb rain water ( percolation) into the roots and prevent runoff that causes flooding in the lower areas when the rain comes.
The officer also confirms the coming of planting and rejuvenation materials, fertilizers and a four-wheeled tractor this year from the government, but they are looking for responsible farmers who can be takers of the grants. “We will give to those who have prepared their lands, said Mrs. Frias”.
Drought period can be long and daunting but there’s always something farmers can do to be productive while waiting for rain. And as sure as the heavy rain will come after drought period, so is government support. There are a lot of grants to avail from the government. Money is in the government, but often what is lacking is qualified farmers and groups who can manage the facilities. The Provincial Rural Development Program (PRDP),for example is ready to give FARM to MARKET road, roasting, drying facilities, seedlings and other needed equipment for value-chain development but farmer groups must pass the following eligibility requirements:
-Equity req’t of 20% ( cash or in kind)
-Willing to shoulder the cost of DED ( Detail for Engineering Design)
-Certification from the Provincial Accountant
all of these requirements entails that farmers must already be in a level of running an operational business entity whether a cooperative or corporation. Last year, our group joined in the planning of the PRDP, and recommended newly organized but not yet registered coffee farmer groups as proponents. However, during the validation, these groups did not pass because of organizational capacity issues.
Strengthening farmer organization and institutional building is one of the pressing need of farmers today. For this reason, we in Pasali Philippines have shifted to organizational development approach- learning from the previous 3 year FARM project.