Thursday, April 28, 2016

PDRP helps Albay develop camote industry into priority enterprise
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) through its Investments in Rural Enterprises and Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) component is helping Albay develop its sweet potato (camote) industry into a priority rural enterprise.

“We are now having our initial business planning for the crop following our conduct of enterprise identification and prioritization which determined the suitability, market potential, impact on the poor and rural women’s participation in the province,” Albay I-REAP head Rafael Nicoleta on Thursday said in this provincial capital.

The process, he said, enables proponents to come up with proposals that are responsive to the value chain analysis (VCA) findings and aligned with the proposed interventions identified in the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP), a three-year strategic plan based on the value chain analysis of commodities.

Nicoleta describes PCIP as a rolling plan that rationalizes the interventions within the various segments of the commodity value chain and will be the basis in selecting eligible interventions and sub-projects for PRDP funding.

It also emphasizes on climate-smart agriculture as a way to achieve short- and long-term agricultural development priorities in the face of climate change and serves as a bridge to other development priorities.

“Through enterprise prioritization, meanwhile, we are able to have proper direction for the establishment of the business enterprise. Kumbaga, hindi bara-bara (In other words, it is not done in an aimless manner),” Nicoleta said.

The Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO), according to its officer-in-charge Cheryl Rebeta, has identified in its PCIP, submitted recently for assistance to PDRP, the development of camote into an industry that would help local farmers earn more and even put up self-run agricultural enterprises for additional profit.

The PRDP is a foreign-funded program being implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php27.535-billion total fund -- consisting of Php20.553 billion loan from the World Bank, Php3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php3.118 billion equity of the local government units (LGUs) and Php287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In six years (2013-2019), the project aims to raise annual real farm incomes of household beneficiaries by five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and ensure that 20 percent more farmers and fishers benefit from DA services.

With PRDP, Rebeta said, the PAO is moving up to value adding in the province’s engagement with climate smart agriculture by giving more attention to the production of sweet potato even as Albay is already contributing at least 7.17 percent to the country’s production of the crop.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the province, with its 1,675 hectares of effective area for sweet potato production, produces an average of 40,167 metric tons yearly.

According to Rocelyn De Vera of the PRDP South Luzon Project Support Office (PSO), sweet potato is a unique commodity because unlike other plants, it is less prone to diseases, drought-resistant and grows with minimal use of fertilizer.

Nonetheless, she said, Albay farmers must learn to explore other products from the crop and take the industry to the next level with the help of other stakeholders, including government agencies, to support its value chain in the province.

There are also recommendations that include the revitalization and strengthening existing nurseries, constructing warehouse near island port, providing access or linkage to funding agencies, intensifying Farmer Business School (FBS) and training on good agricultural practices, De Vera said.

Provision of farm, processing, and packaging equipment as well as construction and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads, ports, and bridges were also proposed in addition to a call for an updated research and development agenda on sweet potato and market study involving new products.

This project, when approved for funding by PDRP, Rebeta said, will certainly benefit more farmers in Albay, especially that its household population of 255,672, representing a total of over 1.2 million individuals as per official survey in 2010, has over 100,000 families that rely mainly on farming for their livelihood as recorded by the BAS.

These farming families are well within the 36.1-percent poverty incidence of the province as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on its 2012 survey.

The sweet potato (Pomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.

Its young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens and contrary to old misconceptions that it is a “poor man’s food,” sweet potato has now gained popularity among health conscious individuals from all walks of life because of its health benefits.

According to Organic Facts, a team of food and nutrition enthusiasts that aim to spread awareness and information about organic food and healthy lifestyle, sweet potato is rich in beta carotene, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, effective in relieving asthma and arthritis, a good facilitator for digestion, beneficial for curing stomach ulcers as well as cancer of the colon, kidney, intestines and other internal organs and helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels and water balance.

Hence, it is recognized as a very important cash and food crop in the province and all over the country that is highly marketable either as raw or processed.

With these potentials and health benefits, stakeholders of the proposed sweet potato industry in the province are convinced that the sarcastic advice when somebody is turned down from a job or found inefficient in work-- “to go home and plant camote”-- should no longer be taken as offensive but a push to engage in a productive and vibrant industry. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD