PRDP-GEF leads seaweeds techno-demo farm establishment in Sorsogon’s coastal community

MAGALLANES, SORSOGON – The Magallanes Fish Sanctuary and Marine Reserve is one of the five marine protected areas (MPA) in Bicol endowed with diverse but globally threatened species. The fish sanctuary, located in Sitio Taliunod to Barugbadugan in Brgy. Biga, has 57.6-hectare fish sanctuary and marine reserve.

However, fish visual assessment conducted by the Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies Inc. (REECS) in April 2016 showed that fish density, biomass and fish diversity inside and outside the Magallanes Fish Sanctuary are in poor condition. According to Nilda Llorera, 55, a fisherman’s wife from Brgy. Biga, fish catch dwindled over the last two decades.

“Noon, madaming huli, ngayon konti na lang. Dati nakakahuli ang asawa ko ng sampung kilo, ngayon, minsan, wala na kahit pang-ulam (We used to catch large amount of fish before. My husband could even catch up to 10 kilos of fish, but now, there are instances that he catches nothing at all even for our own consumption),” she said.

As part of the Philippine Rural Development Project Global Environment Facility (GEF) unit’s intervention, a P1.71 million-worth Seaweeds Production and Marketing Project is now under procurement process. The enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject is designed to reduce fishing pressures in and around the Magallanes Fish Sanctuary and Marine Reserve while MPA rehabilitation is ongoing from 2017 to 2021.

To build the targeted beneficiaries’ capability in implementing the I-REAP subproject, the PRDP-GEF conducted a hands-on training on diversified seaweeds farming methodologies and culturing systems in Brgy. Biga Magallanes, Sorsogon on April 20, 2018. PRDP GEF provided 726 kilograms of seaweed propagules, polyethylene ropes, straw ball, crates, knives, sinkers, floaters and weighing scale for the Biga Farmers and Fishermen Association’s (BFFA) seaweeds technology demonstration farm.

About 20 members of the BFFA participated in the techno-demo designed to establish a 25 x 10 meter seaweeds technology demonstration farm using the floating rope method. In said method, seaweeds will be attached in ropes to keep them floating at about 50 centimeters below the water surface, anchored on floaters. In a 25 meter square frame made of polyethylene (PE) rope, the fishermen stretched up to 50 lines of PE ropes, one-half-meter apart. Each line will carry 40 pieces of seaweed tied to soft plastic straws. According to Ronilo Conde, Aquaculturist II of the Sorsogon Provincial Agriculturist Office, the floating rope method is more climate-resilient and durable unlike the longline method which requires seaweed farmers to re-establish their farm during cultivation period.

Conde related that a seaweed farm using the floating rope method can last for a minimum of five years. He added that seaweeds are most likely to thrive using this method because they are less prone to “ice-ice” and epiphytes in areas with stable water temperature. Marine epiphytes are organisms that grow on organism and derive their moisture and nutrients from the water in marine environment.

BFFA will manage the seaweeds technology demonstration farm for 45 days. The cooperative projects to harvest five tons of fresh seaweeds which they can sell to prospective buyers.

He also encouraged the community to take their active roles in maintaining the seaweeds farm, telling them that seaweeds flourish with tender loving care (TLC).

“Sa PRDP tinawan kami capital para makapundar. Mahalaga ini ta kung kami lang dai mi kayang bakalon ang mga produktong ini. (Through PRDP we received a capital to start with. This is important because we cannot purchase these materials by our own means),” said BFFA officer Comprencio Olitan.

Rosechel Cambal Labilles, PRDP GEF-Bicol Natural Resource Management (NRM) Officer, further boost the community’s enthusiasm by informing them of income-generating opportunities through the seaweeds technology demonstration farm.

“Sana dae kita mawaran nin pag-asa na magiging positive and successful ang techno-demo kasi may enterprise pa po kamo na seaweeds (We should not lose hope and let us be positive that the techno-demo will be successful because you still have a seaweeds enterprise in the works),” she added.

PRDP is a six-year development project under the Department of Agricultureaimed at establishing a modern, inclusive, value chain-oriented and climate-resilient agri-fishery sector in the countryside. The Project’s total cost includes a P287 million-worth grant from GEF, a global partnership among 183 countries, international institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues and support national sustainable development initiatives. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)