TUBURAN, Ligao City—Pedro Orpiana can no longer get his expected harvest from his corn, sili, radish and pechay farm in Barangay Amtic, Ligao City.

Rufina Brillante of Dona Tomasa, Guinobatan, Albay lost more than Php12,000.00 pesos from her expected harvest of tomatoes and sili.

Neighbors Remedios Quejada and Fe Mosquite in Tandarora, Guinobatan lost more than Php 30,000.00 which could have been their income from their sili, okra, tomatoes, palay, cassava, peanut and sweet potato crops.

Others just left their vegetables to wilt because their farms and residences were part of the extended nine-kilometer danger zone.

Their loss in their farms and their agony in the evacuation centers were due to the eruption of Mayon Volcano on January 13, 2018 which covered their houses and farms with ash and tiny volcanic pebbles.

However, the visit of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Pinol last January 29, 2018 in Guinobatan, Albay gave them hope.

Responding to Pinol’s marching order to immediately assist the affected farmers in ten days, the Department of Agriculture-Bicol kicked-off its series of livelihood trainings and distribution of farm inputs on February 5, 2018 in the Tuburan, Ligao City in coordination with the local government units and the Albay provincial government..

“Matindog kami sa laog nin tulong bulan (We will recover in three months),” Orpiana said during the conduct of the Training on Vegetable Production in Protective Culture.

Guinobatan farmers Brillante, Quejada and Mosquite who attended the training on February 6-7 at BUCAF were also excited to establish their plastic greenhouses in their farms because the new technology introduced to them can now protect their crops from other elements like strong winds and rain.

According to DA-Bicol Regional Executive Director Dr. Elena B. De Los Santos, this activity and the free farm inputs were initial response of the DA to the affected farmers.

The DA is not mandated to give free cash and food to the affected farmers unlike the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The DA is mandated to capacitate farmers to plant crops and raise animals in order for them to have a sustainable livelihood, and ensure food security for the people.

The DA-Bicol has begun distributing polyethylene UV-treated plastic; 100m of plastic mulch; two bags Durabloom; one unit of sprinkler and 100 pieces of bamboo stick to the farmer-participants. Each farmer should make eight greenhouses or tunnels. The farms will be regularly visited and monitored by the municipal and provincial agriculture technical staffs.

DA-Bicol High-Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) Regional Focal Person Rosita Imperial said that the farmers will be making the vegetable tunnels in vacant lots identified by the local government. Since the volcanic activity of Mayon might last for months, affected farmers will be growing their crops in these tunnels. The DA will assist in the marketing of their produce.

Training resource person and Field Agriculturist Conrado C. Calderon of Harbest Agribusiness Corporation said that this protective culture technology is already being practised in Benguet, Mindoro and Pangasinan. This technology, aside from shielding the crops from natural elements like strong rains, strong winds, and in the case of Albay ash from Mayon Volcano, the farmers can also produce off-season vegetables.

The Training on Vegetable Production under Protective Culture will also be conducted on February 8-9, 2018 at the Albay Processing Center, Cabangan, Camalig, Albay; February 12, 2018 at the San Jose Elementary School, Malilipot; February 13, 2018 in San Vicente, Tabaco City; February 15, 2018 at the City Agriculture Office, Legazpi City; February 20, 2018 at Napo, Polangui, Albay; and February 21, 2018 at the Provincial Agriculture Office, Cabangan, Camalig. Participants will be from Polangui, Daraga, Camalig, Legazpi City, Sto. Domingo, Malilipot, Tabaco City and Oas.

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

“Pag umasa sa bigay, magugutom kayo. Kailangan magbanat ng buto. Kaya, sana, pakinabangan ninyo ang inyong matututunan sa training (If you rely on donations, you will go hungry. You need to work hard. I hope that you will use your learnings in this training.) De los Santos said in her message. (jaysonmgonzales)