Integration and Diversification are Keys to Survival

Larry LocaraTime and again, we have written about integrating and diversifying crops for better agro-ecology and income streams. Readers and listeners of our radio program have acknowledged that indeed, they find our write-ups interesting, educational and worth adopting. Yes indeed, these concepts are not new, in fact they have become global trends in farming and even large scale agriculture.

The Iloilo Provincial Government knowing the validity of such approaches have given full support to the Provincial Agriculture Office which has given ample space to demonstrate a model called “Palayamanan”, the rice-farming-based Integrated Farming System, where in a small farm of say one-half hectare, a farmer can plant varied crops and raise animals to intensify production and earn more income. This model as well as other models are open to public especially farmers so they can adopt and copy the models.

There are also many concepts, models and approaches to choose from. Usually they are built around a main crop where all other features or income generating activities will support the main crop.

One easy model that is rice-based and easily adopted is the livestock-vegetables-fish integration into the rice farm. The animals like pigs and chickens will not only provide additional income but will also provide the much needed inputs to the rice farm: manure. Vegetables will provide additional income and provide nutritious addition to the famiy diet. Waste vegetables are fed back to the pigs and chickens and also to the fish. If one has additional funds, he can build a simple biogas to provide 25% savings on fuel. Of course, the rice farm gets the most benefit since the major part of the manure will enrich the soil to give the rice plants better growth and production.

In dryland situations, some models will include corn-based, sugarcane-based, coffee- and cacao-based integrated systems. All these will provide probably a 30-50% addition to the income streams of the farmers compared to a mono crop of corn, cacao or coffee. Again the same features can be adopted like livestock, vegetables etc. However, Negrenses and many Ilonggos have added a twist to the integration. Many are raising gamefowls in their farms for sale to cockfighters in other places. They have already attested that by raising gamefowls, they have sent children to school comfortably and are proud of their nurses, seamen and teachers who were sent to school by their income from gamefowls.

Some have brought this integration to another level which is diversification, using their products as stepping stones. In other places in the country, many farmers and entrepreneurs have started to process their products and they earn higher because of value addition. Freshwater fishponds can earn more if they grow high density tilapia but harvest them early for processing into dried crispy forms called “tilanggit”. Many small growers grow pigs not for sale as live pigs but for slaughtering and processing into various forms like “longanisa” ham etc. Rice can also be processed into snack food where the ladies sell them at merienda time.

One need not be a genius to turn to integrated and diversified farming. This should be need- or skills-based. A farmer in Mindanao turned his experience in a government nursery to multiply his outstanding rambutan by grafting this and selling the grafted seedlings at a good price. So did this retired farm technician who went into ornamentals and nursery because of his experience.

When one is at a quandary as to how to provide for his family, sometimes a stroke of genius or inspiration can create income streams too. A guy started with a few heads of ducks in the early 1990s because he needed more income from his small farm and now his barangay is the duck egg center of Iloilo.

There are many models of integration and diversification. One simply has to ask the technicians, read magazines and surf the internet for ideas.