Agriculture - - Very Bad -

ONE OF THE SALIENT FIND­INGS of a re­search by two in­ter­na­tional agen­cies is that among 117 coun­tries, agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment took off when they re­moved price poli­cies that pe­nal­ize agri­cul­ture.

This was re­ported by the In­ter­na­tional Food Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute (IFPRI) and the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment (IISD). The re­search tracked the per­for­mance of 117 coun­tries over 45 years to un­der­stand which poli­cies have suc­ceeded or failed in erad­i­cat­ing poverty through agri­cul­ture.

The re­port noted that poverty erad­i­ca­tion through agri­cul­ture de­pends whether a coun­try has enough agri­cul­tural land, how fer­tile it is, and the de­mo­graphic pres­sures.

The other key find­ings in the re­search, aside from the price poli­cies that pe­nal­ize agri­cul­ture are: “To de­ter­mine the de­vel­op­ment needs of a par­tic­u­lar coun­try, look at how much agri­cul­tural land is avail­able, how fer­tile it is, and birth rates.

Pub­lic in­vest­ment in re­search, ex­ten­sion ser­vices, elec­tric­ity and ir­ri­ga­tion are im­por­tant, but the qual­ity of those ser­vices can mat­ter more than quan­tity.

Land re­forms, re­search in­sti­tu­tions and im­prov­ing ac­cess to credit are also crit­i­cal, but ul­ti­mately no coun­try suc­ceeded with­out a com­bi­na­tion of poli­cies and pub­lic in­vest­ments that com­ple­mented each other.”

“In­clu­sive agri­cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion is the be­drock of de­vel­op­ment. It can lead to in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity, higher in­comes, food se­cu­rity and women’s em­pow­er­ment,” said Carin Smaller, se­nior pol­icy ad­vi­sor of IISD. The global anal­y­sis ex­plains how progress has been achieved in some coun­tries in re­cent decades and what steps can be taken for coun­tries to suc­ceed – and the out­look is pos­i­tive.

“Only 10 coun­tries of the 117 are still cat­e­go­rized as sub­sis­tence agri­cul­ture com­pared with 30 in 1970,” ex­plains David Laborde, se­nior fel­low, IFPRI. “Ex­cept for coun­tries at war, no coun­try is worse off than they were decades ago. Our re­port is a clear in­di­ca­tion that agri­cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion fosters eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment for coun­tries and their com­mu­ni­ties.”

None of the coun­tries stud­ied were able to trans­form with­out an ap­pro­pri­ate mix of poli­cies and pub­lic in­vest­ment that com­ple­mented each other at a given junc­ture. No sin­gle mea­sure alone was suf­fi­cient to make good progress,” ac­cord­ing to Smaller.

I AM A WEEK­END FARMER, em­ployed as a col­lege pro­fes­sor at the Cen­tral Min­danao Univer­sity in Musuan, Bukid­non. I want to show that I don’t only know how to teach but also how to prac­tice in the farm what I teach. I don’t only im­part my know-how to my stu­dents but also to farm­ers who see what I grow in my farm. I am a soil and hor­ti­cul­ture ex­pert and it is al­ways my plea­sure to share tech­nolo­gies that could help other farm­ers in mak­ing their farm­ing prof­itable.

Peo­ple have been ask­ing me why did I choose to grow rub­ber? Well, for a num­ber of good rea­sons. For one, rub­ber is a re­tire­ment crop that could last for a life­time. After five years from plant­ing, we start har­vest­ing the latex and that could last for many years, es­pe­cially with new tech­nolo­gies that could make old trees pro­duc­tive.

Com­pared to oil palm, rub­ber is more ad­van­ta­geous to pro­duce. In oil palm, the har­vested nuts should be pro­cessed within 24 hours, oth­er­wise, the nuts will be re­jected by the oil mill. Rub­ber, on the other hand, can be stored for years with proper stor­age while wait­ing for bet­ter prices. While the rub­ber trees are still young, the rub­ber plan­ta­tion can be used for mul­ti­ple crop­ping to make the farm in­come-gen­er­at­ing while wait­ing for the rub­ber to be har­vested.

Mul­ti­ple crop­ping in the rub­ber plan­ta­tion while the trees are still young re­quires care­ful plan­ning prior to es­tab­lish­ment. The most com­pat­i­ble crops for in­ter­crop­ping in­clude corn, veg­eta­bles and other high-value crops like wa­ter­melon, early in the first two years. These are fol­lowed by ca­cao, cof­fee, gabi, and gin­ger. By this time, the rub­ber trees are al­ready par­tially shad­ing the va­cant spa­ces but still suit­able for the in­ter­crops to grow.

While the trees are still small, corn and veg­eta­bles will pro­vide con­tin­u­ous in­come to the fam­ily. Cof­fee and ca­cao, on the other hand, will be pro­duc­tive in two years from plant­ing so there is a con­tin­u­ous cash flow for the farmer.

Why do I in­ter­crop ca­cao with rub­ber? Both crops have a com­mon dis­ease prob­lem ( Phy­toph­thora) but I ap­ply only one con­trol mea­sure to both crops. Ca­cao is con­sid­ered as a golden crop be­cause the de­mand is high and the price is also high at R145 per kilo of fer­mented beans.

Mul­ti­ple crop­ping sys­tem is easy but needs care­ful plan­ning be­fore es­tab­lish­ing the plan­ta­tion. Plan out a pro­gram for the pos­si­ble crop com­bi­na­tions. In my farm, I planted my rub­ber trees at two me­ters apart in the row and 10 me­ters be­tween the rows. In the mid­dle be­tween the rows, I planted dragon fruit at 3 me­ters be­tween hills. Wa­ter­melon was then planted in be­tween dragon fruit and rub­ber rows, in ro­ta­tion with corn and sweet po­tato.

After two years, when the rub­ber trees have de­vel­oped a big­ger canopy, ca­cao and cof­fee trees were es­tab­lished at 3 me­ters x 3 me­ters in be­tween the rub­ber rows, cre­at­ing 3 rows of ca­cao be­tween the rub­ber rows. That’s in the blocks not planted to dragon fruit. With this prac­tice, there’s no need to es­tab­lish shad­ing for the ca­cao plants. The rub­ber trees pro­vided the shade. Gabi and gin­ger can also be planted in be­tween the ca­cao rows. The rub­ber ori­en­ta­tion should be prefer­ably from east to west di­rec­tion, but since my farm is rolling in ter­rain, con­tour farm­ing was de­signed at 10 me­ters be­tween con­tour lines.

A hectare or two can be prof­itable in rub­ber pro­duc­tion un­der the mul­ti­ple crop­ping sys­tem. Any lo­ca­tion will do pro­vided that one should se­lect the best va­ri­eties suit­able to the cli­mate of the site. Rec­om­mended clones and va­ri­eties are avail­able. Just con­sult the ex­perts.

What’s im­por­tant in rub­ber pro­duc­tion is proper tech­nol­ogy. It pains me to see trucks loaded with logged rub­ber trees. The farm­ers have to cut their trees be­cause of the low rub­ber cup lump prices, rang­ing from R28 to R35 per kilo. Break-even prices of cup lump is R20 per kilo­gram. If we can only prac­tice mul­ti­ple crop­ping, the farmer will have a con­tin­u­ous source of in­come. When prices of rub­ber prod­ucts in­crease, the farmer will even gain more.

We have mil­lions of ve­hi­cles that need rub­ber tires and there are count­less uses of rub­ber other than ve­hi­cle tires. Thus, rub­ber has a lim­it­less po­ten­tial for mak­ing farm­ers rich. Plant­ing rub­ber and other tree crops is our ul­ti­mate con­tri­bu­tion in con­serv­ing and rein­vig­o­rat­ing our en­vi­ron­ment.

(Ed­i­tor’s Note: Dr. Rey­mon P. Ruba is As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor at CMU in Musuan Bukid­non. He is cur­rently the Re­gional Tech­ni­cal Fo­cal Per­son for Rub­ber and Ca­cao.)

Price poli­cies that pe­nal­ize agri­cul­ture ham­pers eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Rub­ber plants in­ter­cropped with ca­cao and gabi.

My six-year old rub­ber in­ter­cropped with 18 months old ca­cao.

Dragon fruit and wa­ter­melon in­ter­cropped with rub­ber.

The au­thor and his fruit­ing 18-month old ca­cao.

Ideal stem size of rub­ber plant for har­vest­ing.

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