Nueva Ecija rice farmers gain better skills, yield, and income through the PAG-AHON project

L-R) East-West Seed (EWS) Philippines Knowledge Transfer Manager Girlie Banaña, EWS Philippines General Manager Henk Hermans, DA Secretary William Dar, and DA Food Security Ambassador James Reid attending the Harvest Festival to show their strong support to the PAG-AHON farmers. (Photo courtesy of East-West Seed)

Amid the current health crisis, fifty farmers from Lupao, Nueva Ecija improved their income with their newfound skills and knowledge on vegetable production.

For more than four months, East-West Seed trained the farmers on crop diversification, improved vegetable production techniques, and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) through the project entitled “Sa Palay at Gulay – May Ani, Hanapbuhay, Oportunidad, at Nutrisyon (PAG-AHON) Project”.

On September 23, the PAG-AHON farmers celebrated the fruits of their labor in a Harvest Festival, together with representatives from the collaborating organizations of the project: Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice), East-West Seed, LGU of Lupao in Nueva Ecija, and Lupao Vegetable Growers’ Association (LVGA).

Launched in May 2020 as part of DA’s “Plant, Plant, Plant” program, the PAG-AHON project aims to give farmers a sustainable income source and ensure food security in their communities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Vegetables have great economic power. Diversification into vegetables presents a good business opportunity for our farmers,” said East-West Seed Philippines General Manager, Henk Hermans.

Hermans further explained that vegetables are also often referred to as “cash crops” because they grow faster and can be grown throughout the year, therefore more crops can be raised providing a more steady income for the farmers. He also cited that the average income per hectare is also significantly higher with vegetables, compared to field crops. A 1,000 square meter of land planted to bitter gourd will give a farmer roughly the same income as one hectare planted to rice, added Hermans.

In a statement, Mayor Alex Rommel Romano said, “This project is a big help to Lupao, especially that we only produce rice once a year. Through this project, more sources of income will be provided to our farmers while ensuring their own food supply.”

The PAG-AHON farmers were also trained on how to market their produce to direct buyers. They were linked to buyers like Dizon Farms, and as of writing, the farmers have sold around 5.9 tons of vegetables to them.

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