Banana Farming Plants Hope for Progress in Veruela
With no signal for communications and living far away from industrial developments, the residents of Brgy. Sta Emilia, Veruela, Agusan del Sur almost lost any hope of improving their lives by selling the only common commodity in the community – bananas. However, with the interventions given by the Department of Agriculture Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) in Caraga in 2018, farmers slowly regained their lost confidence and that lost hope for a better future for their community was restored.
Improving the Banana Industry
The Kinabugawan Farmers Producers Cooperative (KIFAPCO) is one of the Proponent Groups (PGs) of the I-REAP or Enterprise Component of DA-PRDP. The 9-year-old coop started with just 25 members and struggled to establish their coop because of their remote location.
According to Maricel Bautista, KIFAPCO Secretary and banana farmer, aside from the problems in the field, selling bananas has been unprofitable since buyers often times reject their products.
Members were also lost in the marketing operations of the coop, unaware of proper financial process and management.
In 2018, DA-PRDP funded KIFAPCO with P928,000 for the two interventions: the establishment of a 2-hectare (ha) lakatan plantation as an expansion to the existing 13-ha Lakatan area of KIFAPCO and provision for the buying station, weighing scale, and operational funds for their banana production and trading business.
The project allowed KIFAPCO to expand its economic activities on buying and selling bananas thereby generating income for the coop. On top of the income from their lakatan production, a P0.25/kg additional income was added to their cooperative. Additionally, the microenterprise members and banana growers were guaranteed a sure market for their produce since KIFAPCO consolidates and sells it to their contracted buyer. More importantly, farmers get a fair market price, which increased their income up to 5%.
For three years, PRDP provided training to the coop such as Enterprise Operations and Manual, Simple Bookkeeping, and Capability Development Planning. This engaged them in properly managing the coop’s finances and operations.
“These training helped us how to manage the coop’s money, how much it should profit and the annual patronage refund of the beneficiaries. We learned how to manage a business,” said Bautista.
Gabato also emphasized that the training opened their eyes to how credit and debit works.
“We thought before that credit was just a loan and debit argument session,” Gabato said. “Then PRDP taught us their difference in the financial aspect: Credit is income and debit is expenses. Now we can itemize our operations and regulate our financial record and that’s very important in a cooperative,”
Empowered banana farmers
The interventions from DA-PRDP gave boosted the operations of KIFAPCO allowing them to expand their plantation area from the original 2-hectares to 5. The coop also accumulated assets worth P3M.
Banana farmers were empowered to expand their farm area and immerse themselves in business.
“My banana area was just 1-hectare before. With PRDP’s training on proper planting, I was encouraged to expand my plantation to 7-hectares. My income increased from P10,000 to P30,000 per month depending on the market price. Residents here have been buying cars already since their monthly income is guaranteed and has a huge increase. PRPD helped us a lot,” Bautista said.
Even during the pandemic, KIFAPCO had no issues in selling their products since their contracted buyer could freely come to their coop and buy their bananas.
Banana farmers meet World Bank
With the banana farmers’ hard work and DA-PRDP’s interventions, KIFAPCO has grown to become a booming enterprise. This gave them the ticket to represent DA-PRDP Caraga’s I-REAP to the World Bank Mission consultation and dialogue.
During the consultation, Chairman Gabato addressed the question from the World Bank consultant Agnes Deshormes on how they foresee the coop’s growth.
“We envision to strengthen KIFAPCO’s marketing strategies which will also improve the lives of our banana farmers. In business marketing, we encourage the members to sell their bananas to us so that our income will increase. With every purchase, P0.25 goes to our coop. This amount will surely increase and we can use this to improve the coop and help our banana farmers,” he said.
Gabato added that despite the many negativities brought about by the pandemic, COVID-19 became an advantage for them.
“During the height of the pandemic when the lockdown was implemented, residents concentrated their farming specifically banana since it that is the notable commodity here. Most untilled lands were now planted and this increased banana production,” Gabato said.
KIFAPCO and other PGs from Visayas and Mindanao were lauded by the World Bank consultants including Eli Weiss, Maria Theresa Quinones, Tim Hancock, and Agnes Deshormes for their hard work despite the calamities and crisis they have encountered along the way. (Zenny Awing | RPCO 13)