Turning Farmers into Scientists

| Written by Stephanie Cabigao

A mother, a farmer, a scientist and a businesswoman is what Maria Lina Raposa is today.

Lina’s place is in the fields as farming has been her life and source of living in a one hectare farm in the agricultural area of Brgy. Maltana, Tampakan, South Cotabato. While farming along with her husband, she is on to greater dis­coveries as she learns about new farming technologies and experiments. She has also found her passion in processing sweet delicacies by growing her own ingredients—and adding business into the equation.

Moving from being a homemaker to a household name in Tampakan, Lina owes much of her achievement from a formula that she learned back in 2013. “KKAA,” which stands for Kogi (hard work), Kusog (strength), Antos (sac­rifice) and Ampo (prayer), is what Lina took to heart after earning her place as a member of the pioneering batch of the Farmer-Scientist Training Program (FSTP) in Tampa­kan, South Cotabato that year.

 

Maria Lina Raposa, farmer-scientist from Tampakan, South Cotabato. (Photo courtesy of Augustus Franco Jamias, FSTP Development Communicator)
Maria Lina Raposa, farmer-scientist from Tampakan, South Cotabato. (Photo courtesy of Augustus Franco Jamias, FSTP Development Communicator)

 

Sowing knowledge, harvesting farmer-scientists

“Lacking in scientific farming technology, the farmers only produce low yields for their families. Thus, they re­main poor and hungry and peace and order is a perennial problem. This was basically the situation in Cebu, where we started our extension work in 1994,” the Cebuano scientist and FSTP project leader Romulo Davide says. Dr. Davide is a Professor Emeritus at UP Los Baños and a Ramon Magsaysay awardee for his work with farmers.

“In response and to address the poverty of poor farmers, especially those in the upland mountainous communities, I conceived a program that was specifically designed to liberate the poor farmers from the bondage of poverty and hunger based on the assumption that farming is business. The farmers will not only grow corn but also staple crops like sweet potato, cassava, vegetables, fruit crops and other crops of commercial value and integrate them with back­yard animal production,” according to Dr. Davide.

He further explains that “FSTP is based on the premise that farmers are smart individuals who by themselves can become scientists who implement and design experiments to arrive at useful conclusions with the guidance of scien­tists.” In the FSTP program, farmers have to go through three phases, namely: Phase I: farmers do research with the scientists in the field and also learn values for love of God, country and people. They design and conduct experiments that include land preparation, varietal and fertilizer trials, intercropping, among others, which is the initial and technical part of FSTP for the farmers to become farmer-scientists.”

 

Members of Mansalay Corn-based Farmer-Scientists Association (MCFSA) able to learn and apply low-cost, effective, and environmentally-safe pest management, as well as adopt different organic farming techniques. (Photo courtesy of Augustus Franco Jamias, FSTP Development Communicator)
Members of Mansalay Corn-based Farmer-Scientists Association (MCFSA) able to learn and apply low-cost, effective, and environmentally-safe pest management, as well as adopt different organic farming techniques. (Photo courtesy of Augustus Franco Jamias, FSTP Development Communicator)

 

In Phase II, farmers adopt the scientific methods and technologies learned in Phase I into their own farms, such as the use of new high-yielding varieties of corn, sweet potato and vegetables, correct use and application of fertilizer, correct preparation and care of soil.

Phase III requires them to teach untrained fellow farmers in their barangay as volunteer technicians and extension workers. Thus Phases I and II cover the R&D aspect of the program while Phase III takes care of the extension portion.

Lina’s is just one of the many success stories. Since 2011, Oriental Mindoro has been in the good hands of its indigenous people-turned-farmer-scientists especially in the vast lands of the municipality of Mansalay.

Shortly after, in 2012, the Mansalay Corn-based Farmer-Scientists Association (MCFSA) was formed and reg­istered. Today, its 70 active members have been able to learn and apply low-cost, effective, and environmentally-safe pest management, as well as adopt different organic farming techniques. The association is also being sup­ported by both government and non-government agen­cies for its various scientific-agricultural projects such as the weaving of their locally-grown leafy plant called anabu, which is backed by the Department of Science and Technology-IVB, Philippine Fiber Industry Devel­opment Authority, and their local government.

Meanwhile in the fourth-class municipality of San Andres, Quezon, just as the same year as MCFSA was formed, the San Andres Corn Farmer-Scientists’ Association (SACFSA) was established. Its membership has grown over the years reaching to about 105 members who are all part of SACF­SA’s cooperative agribusiness ventures today.

Aside from SACFSA’s funding support of PHP 3.7 million from various government agencies, it has established its own charcoal briquetting center, corn mill, and building equipment for coco sugar production funded by the De­partment of Science and Technology. Also, SACFSA takes pride of its women farmer-scientist members of the asso­ciation who are now venturing into corn coffee business.

With the many achievements and continuing develop­ment of SACFSA, it has been recognized by the Philip­pine Maize Federation (PhilMaize) in 2015 as “one of the promising farmers’ associations advancing the corn industry in the country.”

 

Photo courtesy of Augustus Franco Jamias, FSTP Development Communicator
Photo courtesy of Augustus Franco Jamias, FSTP Development Communicator

 

From farm to fish

The impact of the FSTP program include the technical empowerment of poor farmers, especially in upland com­munities for socio-economic progress; the improvement of corn, vegetable and livestock production through introduc­tion of high-yielding corn varieties and improved live­stock; a reduction in farmers’ cost of production by more than 50 percent through introduction of newly developed microbial and organic fertilizers like BIO-N, chicken manure, and vermi-compost; and an improvement in the farmers’ annual income especially in corn production from zero before the training to PHP 125,000 or more after the training.

The FSTP program is now looking to expand into the Philippines’ vast waters with FishSTP. Very much like how FSTP started out, the Fishermen-Scientists Research Development and Extension Training Program (FishSTP) for Sustainable Development in Fisheries was launched in 2017 right in the heart of FSTP’s origins in Argao, Cebu.

Its project leader, Dr. Davide, takes pride in its being a first in the country. He says that it will be the same as the FSTP training program only that it will focus on the scientific methods of aquaculture and sea farming. He is hopeful that it will carry on just like FSTP is doing today.

Dr. Davide gives much importance to farmers as he said that they are our real heroes who cultivate our land and feed us. Thus, it is only right to bring dignity to their work by empowering them through “direct contact with agricultural scientists and experts to improve their living conditions beyond the poverty level.”