DONSOL, SORSOGON – Thirty-two farmer beneficiaries of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD)  completed a season-long Farmers’ Field School (FFS) on Vegetable Production Technology on August 20, 2021. All the graduates are members of the Gimagaan Indigenous Peoples’ Farmers’ Association. The FFS was one of the interventions under the Social Preparation component of SAAD in collaboration with the NCIP, to ensure readiness and empowerment of its beneficiaries.

A combination of lecture and hands-on learning, the FFS ran for 12 weeks starting on May 28, 2021. The beneficiaries gathered together every Friday from 6:00 AM until 3:00 PM to learn the basics of vegetable farming from seedling management, soil preparation (plowing, tilling), seedbed preparation, and AESA or Agro-Ecosystem Analysis including identifying of beneficial insects and pest insects. The FFS also included special topics selected by the farmers like organic concoction making  or preparation of FPJ (Fermented Plant Juice) and FFJ (Fermented Fruit Juice). Municipal High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) Coordinator Sharmie Guerrero served as resource person assisted by SAAD Area of Coordinator of Donsol, Mark Joven Barja.

Farmers Field School is a participatory method where the participants can exchange knowledge and experiences in an environment conducive to learning. The FFS encouraged learning-by-doing and the field or farm served as the space for hands-on group learning. Farmers learned and improved their skills through observing, analysing and trying out their learnings in their own fields, contributing to improved production and livelihoods (

For the hands on part of the FFS, the association utilized a half hectare vacant lot as training site cum community vegetable garden were they planted eggplant, pepper, ampalaya, and cucumber. They were very happy when they sold 17 kilos of eggplant, which were actually the excess after the harvests were divided among themselves for their families’ consumption.

The graduation ceremonies held at Bgy. Gimagaan, Donsol, Sorsogon was graced by Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez, SAAD Bicol Action Officer and Chief of the Field Operations Division. “Magtatapos na kayo ngayon, pero hindi pa po ito tapos. Dito pa lang tayo magsisimula. Although may mga interventions na na-provide before sa inyo, we will still provide the farm inputs, farm tools and planting materials para masimulan nyo na after graduation yun pwede nyong gawin para i-apply ang natutuhan nyo sa FFS,” Dr. Rodriguez quipped.

During the graduation, Dr. Rodriguez distributed a total of PhP230,000.00 worth of interventions from the HVCDP, namely: 60 bags complete fertilizer, 15 bags urea, 2 muriate of potash; 30 pieces each of bolo, rake, trowel, hand sprayer, and crates; 20 pcs plastic drum, 20 sets garden tools, 15 garden twines, 10 knapsack sprayer, pruning shear and brush cutter. Assorted planting materials composed of 100 pcs. Calamansi seedlings, 180 taro cuttings, 2 bags peanut, 2 bags ginger and 10 kilos assorted vegetables seeds were also turned over to the beneficiaries.

Allan L. Magdamit, president of the Gimagaan Indigenous Farmers’ Association was grateful for the opportunity given his tribe. “Sobra kaming natulungan ng SAAD sa pamamagitan ng FFS na ito at naibigay din sa amin lahat ng pangangailangan namin sa pagtatanim. Sa ngayon po ay marami sa barangay namin ay nahihikayat nang magtanim. Makaka-asa po ang SAAD na hindi masasayang ang mga itinulong ninyo sa aming barangay lalo na sa aming mga Indigenous Peoples, Allan enthused.”

Also present during the FFS graduation were Donsol Municipal Agriculturist Engr. Lindez Espada;  Bgy. Captain Benjamine M. Arellano; APCO Officer Florentino Ubalde Jr.; and Engr. Agnes Espinola, OIC Superintendent of Regional Dairy Production and Tech. Center.

Among the criteria in selecting the beneficiaries of SAAD is that they have never received any interventions from DA regular program and from DA attached agencies in the past three years. The SAAD Program is therefore conducting FFS among its beneficiaries to equip them with the skills required to ensure improved productivity in planting various crops.

For 2021, SAAD targets to conduct three FFS on vegetable production for the beneficiaries in each of the three provinces of Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate. (Lovella P. Guarin / with reports and photos from Mary Rose Detera, SAAD RPMSO and PPMSO)