From Seeds to Cash: Packets of Seeds Fill Farmers’ Pockets

Legend has it that the village of Parami in Sulop, Davao del Sur used to be the place for wedding ceremonies among indigenous tribes. Thus its name “Parami,” referring to the proverbial “go forth and multiply.”

By Noel Provido

Today, the villagers still live up to its name as “multiplier,” though not so much its human population as the vegetable seeds they received from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and their municipal government.

PVFA chairman Joseph Menchavez harvests eggplant thrice a week while patola is harvested daily.

Joseph Menchavez, chairman of the Parami Vegetable Farmers Association (PVFA) says they used to plant corn, but shifted to vegetables since the latter can provide them better income in a shorter period of time.

“Corn harvest is seasonal but with vegetables, we can harvest daily and with diverse crop year round,” he says, adding that the seed distribution program of the DA and the LGU encourage them to venture into vegetable production.

Jocelyn Labiaga, another vegetable seeds recipient, says growing vegetables is less laborious compared to corn production and requires an only small parcel of land. “In 35-40 days you can start harvesting its produce while in corn, it would take more than 3-4 months before you can start harvesting,” she says.

“Seeds are a major input in production and often costly. The provision of vegetable seeds has helped us overcome production cost as the money saved from seed distribution was spent for other necessary inputs,” Menchavez says.

Apart from receiving vegetable seeds, he says the local government also trained them in cultural management, control of pests and diseases, and organic fertilizer production.

This has enabled the PVFA to succeed at vegetable production and earn better income. Menchavez is proud to report that their association’s pooled net income in 2016 has reached as high as ₱2 million.

Menchavez alone earns more than ₱400,000 out of only 3,900 square meters vegetable garden planted to low land vegetables. He says cucumber, patola, and okra can be harvested daily while eggplant can be harvested three to four times a week, and harvesting of ampalaya is done twice a week.

Jocelyn Labiaga harvests okra daily; string beans are harvested every other day. (Photos by Ronell Tangonan)

“String beans are harvested every other day while the harvesting of squash is done two to three times a week,” he adds.

He earns at least ₱400 per day in his 30 x 50 meter net of patola, while his 600 hills of eggplant yield at least 200 kilos a week giving him a weekly net income of ₱2,000 while ampalaya yields 100-200 kilos a week, with a net income of around ₱2,000.

Apart from quality seeds, another factor that boosted their income vegetable production is the use of stackable plastic crates from DA. Menchavez says it has reduced harvest time, as more vegetables can be stacked in the crate.

“It has also kept the quality of our produce from farm to market as plastic crates protect our produce from bruises. When our vegetables reach the cities of Davao and General Santos the quality and freshness is preserved enabled us to command a better price,” he says.

Pinakbet basket: Municipal technician Lourdes Gales says the local officials want to turn the village into a “Pinakbet basket,” or major source of lowland vegetables such as eggplant, ampalaya, okra, tomato, string beans and squash as well as other vegetables such as upo, cucumber, and patola.

Gales says the Parami is strategically located in between Digos City and General Santos City making it easier for the farmers to market their produce to these two cities. She says PVFA also sells their produce to Davao City.

She says they are also encouraging farmers to go into organic farming and produce their own organic fertilizer such as vermicast to reduce their production cost and increase their profit.

“Some of the soils here are eroded and need to be conserved for farmers to sustain their growing vegetable production,” she says.

On top of DA Region XI’s vegetable seeds distribution assistance, the Sulop LGU also allocates at least ₱250,000 on its annual budget to beef up seeds supply and cater to more farmers. To make the most out of the seeds received, recipients are required to attend training in vegetable cultural practices as well as on organic fertilizer production.

Gales says the vegetable production did not only provide income to small-scale farmers in Parami but has also improved their quality of life.

“One farmer here has invested in a water-pump to sustain his vegetable production despite last El Niño episode. He was the sole supplier of upo (bottle gourd) for a couple of months and commanded a higher price. Out of his income, he now owns a “Bongo” [mini-truck] that transports his vegetable produce from his farm to the market,” she relates.

Indeed, the PVFA members live up to their village name “Parami” as they multiply packs of vegetable seeds received into tons of benefits for their association and families.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2017 issue. 

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