Our dream has become real
“Sa loob ng anim na taon na kami ay nagdedeliver na sa Jollibee, and pinakamalaking problema namin talaga ay iyong mga farm equipments namin. Nag-uusap kami minsan kapag nagmi-meeting kami kung paano kami magkakaroon ng ganoon. Pero dahil sa panaginip, dumating nga po ‘yong PRDP sa amin. At doon po nasolve iyong problema namin tungkol sa mga machineries…” [In the six years that we have been delivering to Jollibee, our biggest problem is still our lack of farm equipment. Sometimes when we hold meetings we talk amongst ourselves on how our Association can avail equipment. PRDP came like a dream to us. It was when our problem with machineries was solved.] Tugui Grande Fresh Produce Farmers Association (Tugui Grande) President Elmer Cave shared in an interview with the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).
Tugui Grande is a farmer organization operating in the Municipality of Bani, Pangasinan and mainly grows palay and tomato. It started the business of supplying tomatoes to Jollibee in 2012. However for the past six years, the same problem plagued the members of the Association – that is the lack of farm equipment.
According to Mr. Cave, the members of the Tugui Grande used to manually cultivate the soil because of the lack of machineries in the area. “Dati kasi pagka nagtatanim kami ng kamatis, dahil walang makinarya, talagang mano-mano na binubungkal namin iyong lupa na gamit po ang pala o kaya iyong spading fork. Sa paggamit ng pala, maraming tao pa ang kailangan. Ang isang tao kasi, ang nagagawa lang niyang butas sa loob ng isang araw mga 200 na butas lang. Kasi medyo nilalakihan namin iyong butas eh. Kasi alam namin na pagka maliit lang iyong butas, pagka tag-init na, mabitak na iyong lupa. Siyempre iyong ugat ng kamatis napuputol, at isa iyong dahilan kaya ang kamatis ay hindi lumalago. Hindi siya namumunga ng husto. At iyong 1000 sq meter na tinataniman ng isang miyembro sa isang module ay kailangan ng apat na tao na magbungkal.” [When we did not have our machineries, we manually cultivated the soil using a shovel or spading fork. We needed a lot of laborers. A person can only make 200 holes per day. It takes time to make holes because they needed to be big enough. When the holes are small and when the soil cracks in dry spells, the roots of our tomato plants are cut off and thus, do not bear as much fruits. A 1,000 square meter lot needed four persons to cultivate.]
The problem with farm equipment in Tugui Grande’s area is so apparent that there were none available even if members wanted to rent. Or if there are machineries available for rent, the tomato plantations have already dried up. “Kami talaga, gaano man ang kagustuhan namin na magpabungkal ng lupa sa may-ari ng rotor, pero hindi kami nakakakuha ng time. At kung kailan lang sila may oras o schedule na pupunta sa amin, iyong lupa ay tuyung-tuyo na. Hindi na pwedeng bungkalin or tractor-in. Kaya talagang last remedy ay mano-manong bungkalin iyong lupa. Iyon ang pinaka malaking challenge na na-encounter namin dito sa pagtatanim ng kamatis.” [No matter how much our desire is to rent machineries, we cannot get scheduled. And if ever we got scheduled, our lands have dried up. Really, our last remedy was to manually cultivate our lands. That was the biggest challenge that we faced in planting tomatoes.] Mr. Cave added.
Hoping to solve their problems in farm equipment, the Tugui Grande members proposed for the Salad Tomato Contract Farming and Support Service Facility before the Regional Project Advisory Board (RPAB) in 2017. The existing linkage of the Tugui Grande to Jollibee provided an opportunity to venture into contract farming where production inputs, land preparation equipment, hauling, and trading services are availed by members and non-members in the area.
Tugui Grande’s tomato enterprise has a total project cost of Php7,190,175 (including a 20% proponent group equity). Through the PRDP tomato enterprise, members of the Tugui Grande received tomato seeds, seedling trays, farm tractor, multi-cultivator, knapsack sprayer, pump engine, grass cutter, and weighing scales.
Aside from production inputs and farm equipment, the Association shall also receive a trading post worth Php2,892,000 and a trading capital worth Php879,900. The trading post will house the consolidation activities of the tomato enterprise. Meanwhile, the trading capital targets to encourage more farmers to join the contract growing enterprise of the Tugui Grande. With the capital, Tugui Grande can pay tomato farmers immediately after the delivery of tomatoes to the consolidation facility instead of waiting for the payment of Jollibee.
For the Tugui Grande tomato growers, a well-cultivated soil equates to a bountiful harvest. Compared to manually tilling the soil, mechanical cultivation particularly with the use of multi-cultivators results to looser soil which allows roots of tomato plants to grow better and yield more fruits. The increased yield of the farmers will consequently increase Tugui Grande’s supply commitment with Jollibee.
On 24 January 2019, Tugui Grande harvested its first batch of tomatoes to be delivered to Jollibee. Tugui Grande’s treasurer Mr. Valentino Catabay attested to the increase in yield of their tomato plants with the use of the new farm equipment. He is also positive that the Association’s future is looking ahead because of PRDP’s interventions. “Daytoy nga dakkel ti naitulong ti PRDP kanya mi, daytoy association mi, dakkel ti masangwanan, dakkel ti pagrang-ayan na ta adda usaren mi nga makinarya. Ken barbareng nu agadu pay ti umay kanya mi, dakkel ti maitulong daytoy dagitay tattao. Adu ti maitulong ti PRDP.” [With the interventions of the PRDP, our Association has better future and more opportunities to grow because we now have machineries. If more interventions would come to our Association, it will be a great help for the people. The PRDP helps a lot.]
Mr. Cave also marveled about Tugui Grande’s journey with the PRDP and how the Association’s hard work translated into an enterprise. “Nagulat na rin iyong ibang mga farmers na nabigyan kami ng intervention ng PRDP. At sa nakikita ko, marami nang nag-iinteres na talagang sumanib na rin sa amin. … Akala namin noong una, hanggang diyan na lang kayo. Noong nakita na nila iyong epekto, nang dahil sa pagtitiyaga ng mga miyembro ng Tugui Grande ay andiyan na. Talagang may way na rin siguro, na hindi na lang basta-basta grupo ng farmers, meron na talagang destiny. Iyong pangarap ay hindi na lang pangarap, maging totoo na.” [Other farmers are surprised that we were given interventions from the PRDP. In my opinion, it is making them interested to join our Association. … At first, we did not think we’d go far. Now, they can see the fruits of the hard labor and patience of the members of Tugui Grande. Indeed, there is a way for a group of farmers to make it. Our dream is not only a dream now, it has become real.]
Tugui Grande’s tomato enterprise is among the three tomato enterprises funded by the PRDP in Pangasinan. It is generally aimed to increase farmers’ income by 20% at the end of six years.
Tugui Grande’s farmers who used to till the soil manually with shovels and spading fork now have their own farm equipment and machineries. PRDP can indeed transform a farmer’s dream into reality given the latter’s hard work and passion in farming. (Dessa U. Estrada, RPCO1 InfoACE)