Press Release
August 4, 2012


SAN PABLO, LAGUNA - The main challenge for cassava farmers in Barangay Sta. Elena, San Pablo, Laguna is sustaining their income outside of the harvest season. The cassava planting and harvesting cycle usually takes eight months, within which there is very little income to be made. To augment their income from cassava farming, farmers here also plant vegetables such as eggplants and beans.

According to Alteniz Calatine, a cassava farmer, the average income of farmers in this area is Php150,000 annually, or approximately Php12,500 a month--barely enough to support a family.

Given this, the farmers hope to increase their income by at least Php100,000, by generating revenue during the off-harvest months.

Thanks to an intervention program known as Sagip Saka, the farmers of Unlad Agri Marketing Cooperative and their families have a new cassava nursery where they can do inter-cropping with peanuts, corn, and string beans. The nursery also allows for farmers to harvest cassava leaves, which they can then sell for profit.

Sagip Saka is an advocacy that aims to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and food security by opening access to credit, markets, infrastructure, research and development, and organizing. It also helps agricultural communities ensure quality supply and mitigate the risks brought about by climate change.

It was conceived by Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and co-chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM); the Department of Agriculture, and COCAFM.

The Sagip Saka intervention in Barangay Sta. Elena has made it possible for cassava stalks to be planted across 18 hectares of land for the cooperative's nursery. This helps farmers and their families, even those who are not members of the cooperatives, by providing job opportunities such as harvesting and peeling of cassava, and the selling of cassava leaves.

According to farmer Ernesto Empemano, cassava leaves, are harvested on the fifth month of the eight-month cycle, enabling farmers and their families to earn even in the middle of the harvest cycle.

According to Sen. Pangilinan, "Sagip Saka is a key example of the power of public-private partnerships for development, to bring back the primacy and the importance of our farmers and uplift their quality of life. As an agricultural nation, we cannot turn a blind eye to that the fact that over 60 percent of our labor force is still directly or indirectly employed by agriculture, and nearly half of our GDP comes from agriculture and agri-industries and enterprises."

"At the heart of Sagip Saka is the drive to bring farmers and fisherfolk out of poverty and to give them the respect that their professions so deserve, with the belief that empowering our agricultural sector with financial stability and disposable income will also make a huge impact on our economy. When this 60% of our labor force can afford to live better lives, they will spend more for food, for housing, for the education of their children, for some basic necessities and even some luxuries. Imagine the impact of that on consumption and spending. Imagine how much more money will flow around and pave the way for the creation of more jobs? The possibilities are truly tremendous."

The lawmaker concludes, "We are only just beginning, and the best for agriculture and fisheries in the Philippines is yet to come. If we continue to work together--kung patuloy po tayong kikilos nang sama-sama--then there is much that we can achieve not for ourselves, but for the people whose very lives depend on our ability to create positive, meaningful change."

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