Farm Integration and Diversification are the keys to survival

AGRIBUSINESS | LARRY LOCARA
AGRIBUSINESS | LARRY LOCARA

With the shrinking farm size, the average farmer can barely feed his family now a days. Iloilo farm size has steadily shrunk in the past decade that it is estimated that the average farmer here holds about 0.8 hectare. If the farmer holds on to traditional farming technology and rely on a single crop, he cannot feed his family well, much less send his children to school.

With this situation, he has no option but to find ways to improve his income and the obvious course of action is to produce more from his farm. Assuming he has one (1) hectare of rice farm, his average annual net income would be about P80,000.00 even if he applies the latest technologies and uses hybrid seeds. With this income, the farmer can barely feed his family. Rice is a low value crop and is market-dependent, meaning, it is the trader who dictates the price of the raw product.

However, if he is resolute, hard-worker and innovative, he can earn more from the farm by using various technologies now available either generated by government agencies or innovated by his fellow farmers. Also, Iloilo has more than 140,000 hectares planted to rice but the majority of the rice farmers in the province live below the poverty line since they still cling to the mono-crop system that they are used to form generations. We will write a series of articles, first based on rice because Iloilo is mainly a rice producing province and later we will write about dry-land based farm integration systems.

 

Rice-based Integration:

This model revolves around the main crop which is rice. Other crops, poultry and livestock can be incorporated into the system depending on the choice of the farmer. If the farmer has about one hectare, he can start by reducing the area for rice and use this for water harvesting during the rainy season so that he can use the water later during dry months. Meanwhile the pond is seeded with tilapia and planted to kangkong that he can sell on weekends at the nearest market. In three months he can cash in on his tilapia which he can sell at P100.00/kilogram when they weigh about 150-250 grams each. He can also use hook and line to catch the fish for food which add protein to the diet of his family.

Most of the rice farmers in Iloilo now deliberately keep the dikes small to maximize the area for planting to rice. The small dikes also makes weed maintenance easier. Farmers in other provinces however have kept their dikes big because they plant these with vegetables and small fruit plants like  papaya and guava. This adds more income to them. Vegetables like pole sitao, Kadios, alugbati and even tagabang are planted on the dikes and provide additional sources of income for the farmer.

Chickens and ducks can be added projects for the farmer. He can start small with one rooster and five hens. this small flock can grow to 50-70 heads in about six months and can add about 2,000 to 3,000 pesos more to he income of the farmer. Ducks can also be added especially if the farmer has already developed his fishpond. With the right practice and technology, he can take care of up to 20 heads of mallard ducks that can provide at least 12 eggs daily and thus add between P40-50 daily assuming that his children will eat the eggs for added nutrition.

He can also raise a few heads of pigs feeding them with left over and other feed raised on the farm. He can time the selling of the pigs just before enrollment time when the prices are high. The pigs will be considered piggy banks and sold when needed. (to be continued).