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CamSur farmers rely on vegetables for a steady income.

LEGAZPI CITY, PHILIPPINES – A farmers’ cooperative in Libmanan, Camarines Sur, is increasingly turning to vegetable production and enjoying substantial rewards.

In an interview on Tuesday, Gerard Buensalida, a spokesperson for the Department of Agrarian Reform in Bicol (DAR-5), said the Mambalite Palangon Farmers Irrigators Association (MAPAFIAmodest )’s achievements are well-known throughout the community.

“The group’s commitment to gradually strengthen the organization directly benefits over 122 farmers and other locals, the most of them hail from the barangays of Mambalite, Palangon, and as far as barangay Uson,” he stated.

MAPAFIA was founded in 2019 and, with the help of the DAR, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the following year.

“Many of us preferred to plant vegetables over palay because we discovered that producing vegetables is far more profitable than rice farming, given that vegetables have a much shorter gestation than rice,” said Florentino Umali, a vegetable farmer and president of MAPAFIA.

He pointed out that, while veggies demand a lot more care, the extra effort is “many times over” rewarded.

“Vegetables provide us with a steady source of money, allowing us to live a simple life free of worry.” “Only the laziest will go hungry in our community,” Umali remarked.

However, controlling the planting of other crops is critical to maximizing the use of farmland and avoiding unnecessary risks, he said, adding that programming assures a steady cash flow.

“I’m pleased to report that farmers in our neighborhood are making similar gains to farmers in other parts of the country,” he said.

Umali stated that eggplant is grown on a larger scale than other crops, with the first harvest taking place in March.

He claims they harvested between 2,000 and 3,000 kg per harvest in a single 1.75-hectare region, and he expects even higher harvests in September.

They sell eggplants at a farmgate price of PHP20 per kilogram and earn between PHP40,000 and PHP60,000 per harvest, twice a week, for an average monthly gross sales of PHP400,000, according to Umali.

“As other farmers regularly gather and sell native squash, ampalaya, okra, cucumbers, pole beans, bottle gourd, sweetcorn, and watermelon,” he added, “that income increases.”

Many of the high-performing farms’ owners credit their success to a combination of hard work and luck, including access to exceptionally valuable markets for their produce.

“We now have year-round markets for our produce,” Umali explained.

MAPAFIA, he explained, consolidates and markets the farmers’ produce to local Camarines Sur buyers who visit their farms on a regular basis during harvest season.

The organization receives a 2% “administration fee” as a consolidator, which is added to the cooperative’s earnings.

“We no longer need to deliver or carry our gathered vegetables to markets because buyers have become accustomed to visiting us on our farms during the harvest season.” “We save a lot of money on gas,” Umali explained.

He also mentioned that when MAPAFIA became a direct supplier of various food and farm commodities to the National Nutrition Council’s (NNC) “Tutok-Kainan” nutrition program in 2021, the organization made over PHP2.6 million in total sales.

Their bravery in signing a contract with NNC originates from their inventive ideas and unity as officials and members, which have transformed their once-struggling farmers’ club into a business.

Umali said they are seeking to re-supply various food and agricultural items for the NNC’s feeding program with a new contract later this year.

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