CABANGAN, Camalig, Albay—“Baga ako umibi nung nagaulug na su abo git sa Mayon. Sabi ko, goodbye na sa mga linati ko. Indi ko na kamo mapakinabanan (I nearly cried when ashes were raining from Mayon. I said to myself, goodbye to my crops. I will no longer benefit from you),” narrated 55-year old Jose Milarpes, father of seven children, from Barangay Salugan, Camalig, Albay during the heavy ash fall from Mayon Volcano.

Same ordeal was experienced by Norma Villamor of barangay Tumpa, Sandy Napay and Diego Moyo of barangay Quirangay, and Roger Gnilo of Barangay Sua.

These 4 barangays are within the seven-kilometer permanent danger zone in Camalig, Albay.

The four farmers left their farms with a heavy, disappointed heart.

But with the recent visit of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Pinol, the five farmers along with 115 farmers from Miisi in Daraga and from barangays Sua, Quirangay, Anoling, Tumpa and Salugan in Camalig will return to their farms armed with a new technology and various farm inputs.

As a response to the ten-day challenge of Pinol to provide Quick-Response activity after his visit, DA-Bicol conducted five schedules of Training on Vegetable Production in Protective Culture in Ligao City, Guinobatan and Camalig since February 5, 2018.

According to DA-Bicol High-Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) Regional Focal Person Rose Imperial, these series of livelihood trainings and farm inputs were initial response of the DA to the needs of the affected farmers.

To date 270 farmer-participants have received polyethylene UV-treated plastic films; 100m of plastic mulch; two bags Durabloom; one unit of sprinkler and 100 pieces of bamboo stick to start the establishment of tunnel-type greenhouses. The vegetable seeds were already distributed during Pinol’s visit.

Once the greenhouses are established, the municipal and provincial agriculture offices and Harbest Agribusiness Corporation technical staff will regularly visit and monitor their farms.

After the eruption, the farmers can dismantle the said greenhouse and thus can established them in their respective farms.

The remaining 230 affected farmers from Polangui, Legazpi City, Sto. Domingo, Malilipot, Tabaco City, and Oas will undergo the same training from February 12-21, 2018 and will receive the same farm inputs.

Training speaker and Field Agriculturist Conrado C. Calderon of Harbest Agribusiness Corporation said that this new technology is from Taiwan and is already being practised in Benguet, Mindoro and Pangasinan.

Albay Provincial Agriculturist Che Rebeta assured the farmers that the government will continue to assist them. During the recent visit of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Albay, the national government allotted Php100M pesos from the 1-B pesos Quick Response Fund to be used for projects and programs for the affected Albayanos.

As to the market of the produce that will be harvested from the project, the DA and the Albay provincial government will help in promoting and linking up with markets or buyers.

Rebeta encouraged the farmers to organize themselves and form a cooperative. An organized farmers’ association can avail of different services and benefits from the DA.(jaysonmgonzales with photos from Mona Guiriba and Francis Napay)