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natural disasters, common in the Philippines.
Knowledge gaps, especially regarding pest
and diseases, negate opportunities for
These constraints are compounded by the
low prices that traders dictate for the farmers'
Dr Peter Batt, of Curtin University of
Technology, heads the 'Vegetables Component
4' project of the Philippines Horticulture
Program. He first met Mr Horio in August 2009,
along with other farmers in the community of
Barangay Saloy in the Calinan district of Davao
City. They decided to form a cluster through an
eight-step research and development approach
used by the Catholic Relief Services (see box,
page 13). Mr Horio served as their leader.
"He learned more about farming, particularly
in planting vegetables," Dr Batt says. "Forming
the cluster improved the relationships among
farmers and eased the tension brought about
by differences in political affiliations. Most
importantly, they gained negotiating power and
are now able to sell directly and at a higher price."
Together, the cluster selected the main
vegetables to sell and interviewed prospective
buyers. With the farmers' combined yield,
they were able to make their first delivery to
Bankerohan Public Market in Davao in January
2010. Forty neighbours are now interested in
joining the cluster.
Since the creation of the agricultural cluster
in 2009, Mr Horio and his Barangay Saloy
cluster have federated themselves with two
other local agricultural clusters to expand their
network and manage common challenges and
Production constraints for John Villanueva
presented a different puzzle for researchers. He
farms on the sloping land of South Cotabato, in
the Mindanao region.
The 46-year-old father of 10 used to earn only
about PHP3,000 (A$70) a month planting corn on
his 4 ha farm before becoming chairman of the
Ned Landcare Association in 1999.
The Landcare Foundation of the Philippines,
Inc (LFPI) is an organisation that uses a people-
centred approach for extension, bringing all
key stakeholders in the community together
to learn and jointly address a broad range of
livelihood issues that confront them.
LFPI has a long history of partnership with
ACIAR, providing extension, training and
community development assistance in various
programs. In the Ned Landcare Association,
the focus was on the introduction of the
conservation practice of contour farming
using vegetable strips to prevent soil erosion.
It is a practice that incorporated legumes and
other high-value crops, such as fruit trees as
hedgerows, to better manage the land.
"The Landcare group faced a number of
market challenges," Dr Batt says. "They had
limited buyers and an oversupply of vegetables.
They delivered their products individually to
traders in Isulan and Lambak in Sultan Kudarat,
which was laborious and costly.
"With little knowledge in marketing
requirements and colour classification, they
sold sweet pepper at a low price to traders.
Farmers who depended on traders to finance
their production inputs had to sell to their
Starting in 2008 the farmers were trained in
conducting a market-chain study that included
interviewing potential buyers. They formed a
sweet pepper cluster and were linked to a tuna
canning company and a financing cooperative.
"The cluster became knowledgeable about
market requirements and linkages, and now
know where to sell their produce to assure
good market returns," Dr Batt says. "In one year
they sold 55% of their produce to the tuna
company and 45% to local buyers."
Training in marketing, vegetable production,
and pest and disease management further
helped farmers meet market requirements,
while marketing costs decreased upon selling
their produce as a group.
By shifting production from corn to sweet
pepper, Mr Villanueva was able to double
his income; some of his cluster colleagues
recorded as much as a 200% increase. ACIAR
involvement allowed Mr Villanueva to visit local
and institutional buyers, attend seminars and
undertake training. In recognition of his role as
a leading local grower he was recently a guest
speaker at a Mindanao vegetable congress. The
empowerment of these agricultural clusters
and their members is one of the key factors in
sustaining their livelihood development.
LEO CASTILLO AND RODILLO CANDIDO:
LIFTING THE DISEASE BURDEN
The tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt Apo
in the Davao province in Mindanao, may be
one of the country's most popular climbing
destinations, but sadly its forests are being
cleared. Soil-borne diseases are making it
necessary for farmers to plant crops in higher
areas where infectious pathogens are absent.
Bacterial wilt is Mindanao's most important
disease of 'solanaceous' crops---plants in the
nightshade family, which include Capsicum
(peppers), Lycopersicon (tomato) and Solanum
(eggplant and potato). While many farming
communities are aware of this disease, they do
not know how to manage it.
Such was the plight of Leo Castillo, a farmer
from Kapatagan, Davao del Sur. He has bacterial
wilt in the soil of his 6.5 ha farm where he
plants vegetables such as potatoes all year
round. In Mindanao, potatoes are among
the most valuable vegetable crops, yet many
farmers have opted to grow bananas and other
crops because potatoes are highly susceptible
to bacterial wilt.
Farmer field trials made possible by the
Philippines Horticulture Program enticed
Mr Castillo to try biofumigation of his potato
farm. This was done by chopping and
shredding the leaves from his broccoli and
cabbage crops and incorporating them into the
soil during land preparation. The soil was then
watered to allow the leaf tissue to produce gas
that kills the bacterial wilt organism. Healthy
potato seeds were also provided.
The biofumigation reduced bacterial wilt
incidence to about 4%, which was significantly
lower than the untreated areas. The treated
areas not only had lower incidence of wilt,
but also recorded higher yields. There was an
overall improvement in the quality and volume
of potatoes produced.
Mindanao also hosts almost 60% of the
Philippines' production of the distinctively
smelly, but heavenly tasting, durian fruit.
Despite the popularity of this tropical delicacy,
there is a large unsatisfied demand that farmers
cannot meet due to difficulties controlling yet
another disease, Phytophthora.
Durian grows abundantly in the middle
and southern part of the country as a prized
tree that commands extraordinarily high
prices at local and export markets. However,
Phytophthora is causing infections so severe
that many farmers have been forced to cut
down their durian and jackfruit trees and plant
other crops instead. The disease affects all
stages of the cropping cycle and causes the
vital tree parts to wither and eventually die.
Leo Castillo benefited from
farmer field trials made
possible by the Philippines
Horticulture Program, where
he learnt about the use
of biofumigation to
control disease on
his potato farm in
PHOTO: JOHN OAKESHOTT
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