Based on a true story, this children’s book hopes to get youngsters inspired to go into agriculture.

By Tony A. Rodriguez

The Provincial Learning and Resource Center (PLRC) in Tuguegarao City in Region 2’s Cagayan province and Monsanto Philippines Inc. (MPI) recently collaborated on the launch of the children’s book “Lina’s Town Rises Again.” A storytelling session was held during the launch with pupils of five public elementary schools in the city, their teachers, media practitioners, book dealers, and some parents and provincial government officials.

After the opening remarks by PLRC head Petra Binarao and the acknowledgement of the guests by Binarao’s staff member Michael Pinto, Dr. Rosalinda Callang, secretary of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Cagayan, read the inspirational message of vice governor and SP presiding officer Leonides Fausto. The PLRC, which was formerly the Cagayan Provincial Library, now
occupies a new building built by the provincial administration through the SP’s initiative.

Teaching Kids to Love Books

According to Binarao, the activity served to bolster the PLRC’s goal of encouraging schoolchildren to lovebooks. In line with this, a book fair participated in by the dealers was held at the Center. At the same time, the activities underscored the need for the youth to be more informed about agriculture, to recognize its important role in food security and nutrition. The Center’s head said that a children’s section will soon be put up in the building.

The author of “Lina’s Town Rises Again,” MPI corporate affairs lead Charina Garrido-Ocampo, spoke to the audience about the importance of imparting awareness and appreciation of agriculture to the young in light of the need to feed the growing population—a challenge due to the decreasing acreage for farmlands, competition for resources like water, and climate change. New agricultural technologies like those for biotech corn are available to help farmers get better yields and consequently, a higher income, she said.

After Ocampo’s remarks, St. Louis University director of Libraries Venus Guyos conducted the storytelling session for “Lina’s Town Rises Again.” A quiz was held immediately afterwards, and 10 pupils won prizes for correctly answering her questions about the story, impressing the adults in the audience with their sharpness and exceptional comprehension.

The attendees partook of snacks courtesy of the hosts, who also distributed copies of the book to the children and their teachers. Many of the book’s recipients later requested its author (who was glad to oblige) to autograph the copies they received.

Real Life Basis for the Storybook

“Lina’s Town Rises Again” is based on the true and inspiring story of how biotech corn positively transformed a farm family’s life and that of its rice-producing town after a severe natural calamity. In the children’s book, the story centers on the child Lina, her parents, and their sad plight after a destructive typhoon that leaves them homeless and without a means of livelihood. They have to stay with the little girl’s grandparents in another part of town, but their trials
end when Lina’s uncle from a neighboring province visits and brings them news of a highyielding corn, then lends money for buying its seeds. Lina’s father plants the Dekalb corn, and the family prospers.

In real life, Typhoon Frank devastated parts of Lambayong island and the Visayas in June 2008. Then known as the “rice granary of Sultan Kudarat,” the town was among Mindanao’s most devastated areas. Heavy rains brought by the typhoon turned the town’s over 6,000 hectares of ricelands into a vast lake and totally destroyed its multi-million-peso irrigation system. After the two months that it took for the floodwaters to subside, the Lambayong farmfolk’s main livelihood was gone.

For Lambayong’s some 4,000 households, Frank’s debilitating result was months of lack of income and basic necessities. For the Reyes family of Barangay Sadsalan, no harvest from their 25 hectares of ricelands in three sites in the barangay to look forward to meant they had no hope of repaying the loans they had taken out for crop inputs and the crop’s regular needs.

A rice farmer for 30 years who had started as a tenant of two hectares, Consolacion Reyes had saved enough money through the years to be able to buy her own land, but still had to take out loans for crop inputs.

Through Monsanto’s Dekalb biotech corn, Reyes and other farmers in the town of Lambayong in Sultan Kudarat Province in Mindanao recovered from the aftermath of Typhoon Frank. A crop financier-couple, for whom Reyes had stood as wedding sponsor years back, offered Reyes Delkalb high-yielding biotech hybrid corn seeds on credit, telling her that with no irrigation, rice was no longer a viable crop, while corn was drought-tolerant. Reyes accepted the offer and got a highly-profitable harvest. She then urged the farmers in her barangay to do as she did—and they listened to her.

After a couple of harvests, more farmers in the town followed their lead, and soon, Lambayong was back on its feet, more progressive than before. Today, Sultan Kudarat Province contributes to the SoCCSKSarGen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City, or Region 12) Region’s status as one of the top producers of hybrid corn in the country (second only to Cagayan Valley). These regions’ biotech corn growers and those of the other areas in the Philippines are typical of the farmers of Asia whose lives have improved because they produce a biotech crop.

About Delkalb and Monsanto

The Monsanto Company of the U.S owns and manages the Dekalb brand, the leading corn cultivar in the Philippines, which is Asia’s only Bt corn-producing nation at present. The first Dekalb seeds marketed by Monsanto Philippines, Inc. (MPI) were Roundup Ready (RR) varieties with YieldGard (YG).

RR corn is a genetically improved product tolerant to over-the-top applications of Roundup Herbicide, thus giving growers a flexible and broad-spectrum control over post-emergent weeds in their fields. In addition to weed control, this new technology benefits farmers in terms of outstanding yield potential, crop safety, convenience, and compatibility with minimum-tillage techniques that protect against soil erosion.

YG corn, on the other hand, protects itself against the Asiatic Corn Borer (ACB) through an inserted specific protein-producing gene: Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally-occuring microorganism. ACB is the primary pest of corn in the Philippines, which can cause yield losses of up to 80 percent if uncontrolled. MPI established Dekalb Learning Centers (DKLC) in key sites of the country’s corn-producing areas, where the company’s Technology Development Department conducts on-site training courses for 300 to 500 farmers per batch. It also has farmer-cooperators who plant Dekalb cultivars.

The most successful cooperators in terms of yield and farm income become ‘Dekalb Ambassadors’ who, in turn, share their experiences with other farmers in their respective communities. Consolacion Reyes of Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat is one of those Dekalb Ambassadors today.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2014 issue.