PILAR, SORSOGON – “Substantial food on their tables, and the farmers are already organized and some even started on their value adding enterprises.” This is how Dr. Myer G. Mula, National Program Director of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) sums up his observations of his visit to Bicol to personally asses SAAD implementation.

Dr. Mula first met with the SAAD regional program implementers headed by DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla, SAAD focal person Luz R. Marcelino and SAAD Action Officer Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez at the DA regional office on June 15 before proceeding to Sorsogon province.

In the discussion, Dir. Mula opens up the possibility for SAAD beneficiaries who are organic practitioners to apply and be certified under the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of RA 11511. Present during the meeting is the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) Organic Division Chief, Ms. Joeve Calleja.

A briefing was also conducted to the Provincial SAAD Management Staff of Sorsogon headed by Mary Rose Detera (Provincial Coordinator) on June 16.In Pilar, Sorsogon Dr. Mula turned over P275,000 worth of high value crops interventions to two organizations namely, Esperanza Farmers’ Association and Poctol Backyard Farmers Association. Randy Argote, president of Poctol Backyard FA thanked Dir. Mula and the SAAD Bicol for the continued outpour of interventions to his group. “Halos kompleto po ang ibinibigay ng SAAD, may pananim, abono, farm equipment at training. Kulang na lang nga po yun SAAD staff ang magbungkal ng lupa,” Argote quipped. His group also received P221,000 worth of interventions from SAAD in 2020 which they planted in aggregate 15 hectares of vegetable areas. They harvested more than 200 kilos of siling haba which they made into pickles. The other vegetables they harvested were consumed by the members’ households. “Binubuhay po ng SAAD ang aming mga pamilya ngayong pandemic. Last year nang nag-ECQ napakalaking tulong po ng SAAD dahil naging food sufficient po ang mga pamilya namin,” Argote added.

The SAAD interventions also reached the nearby Poctol Elementary School where the teachers were inspired to put up a vegetable garden with the help of the parents. “Ako mismo, nakita ko ang enthusiasm nila (Poctol Backyard FA) at ang impact ng garden sa community, Jane Tad-o, the school principal attested. Impressed by the principal’s dedication to vegetable gardening, Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez committed to include the Poctol Elementary School as recipient of Gulayan sa Paaralan Project under HVCDP.

In Donsol, Sorsogon he turned over P 370,000 worth of livestock package composed of 400 heads mallard ducks, 450 bags feeds, nets and laminated sacks to Ogod Indigenous People Agta Agriculture Production Association. Director Mula challenged the tribal group to multiply the ducks from 400 to 40,000 heads and come up with sustainable enterprises such as balot and salted egg making. He also urged the SAAD beneficiaries to integrate small ruminants in their farms and diversify their crops as he noticed that most of the areas in Bicol are coconut-based. He emphasized the importance of SAAD’s partnership with the LGUs as the agricultural extension workers from the respective LGUs are serving as resource persons in various training conducted by SAAD.

Mary Rose Detera, SAAD provincial coordinator said that they have organized 89 groups of farmers in Sorsogon since 2018 and also helped them register with either SEC or DOLE.

Director Mula said that SAAD will continue providing various assistance to deserving farmers’ associations in the provinces covered by the program. He is keeping his fingers crossed that SAAD will be extended beyond 2022.

SAAD is under the locally-funded projects of Department of Agriculture, serving as armor against poverty among the marginalized sectors in agriculture and fishery. It is currently being implemented in agriculture based 4th to 6th class municipalities in 11 regions identified based on poverty incidence. (Lovella P. Guarin / RAFIS 5)