Potato program changes lives of Davao and Bukidnon farmers

Potato farmer Alan Regino of Sitio Gappang in Barangay Alegre, Davao Del Sur recounted that when he first received potato seeds from Universal Robina Corporation’s (URC) Sustainable Potato Program, he made P280,000 from his first harvest in 2019. The following year, he earned P170,000. The consistent stream of income allowed him to save up for his family’s needs.

“Dati, mababa lang ang produksyon ng patatas namin kaya hindi sya sapat sa amin. Malaki ang naitulong ng URC at DA dahil kumita ako at nakapagpagawa ng bahay (Before, the potato production was very low, so it wasn’t enough for our needs. URC and DA helped me a lot because I was able to earn money and build a house),” Alan said.

Alan is just one of many farmers who have reaped the benefits from URC’s Sustainable Potato Program. First initiated in 2018 to complement the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), the program provides farmers access to quality potato seeds, training, research, and development in order to aid them in enriching their livelihood.

Last March, URC and DA representatives visited various barangays in Davao Del Sur and Bukidnon to distribute 27 metric tons of granola table potatoes to over 200 farmer beneficiaries.

Previously, URC and DA provided assistance to potato farmers in Benguet and Lanao Del Norte.

A bright future for potato farmers

Before the Sustainable Potato Program offered its assistance, the farmers from Davao and Bukidnon struggled to grow good quality potatoes and other crops. A lot of times, they said, the potato seeds were “prone to sickness,” which greatly affected their overall yield and earnings.

Ricky Monterde from the Cawayan Farmers Association in Bukidnon said that high-quality potato seedlings greatly improved their harvests. This sentiment was echoed by Rex Nawasca, a farmer and member of the Gappang Alegre Potato Farmers Association in Davao Del Sur, who said, “Nung dumating ang binhi ng URC, madaming nagbago sa aming buhay (When we received potato seeds from URC, a lot changed in our lives).”

Nawasca added that he was able to buy a motorcycle, and also saw his colleagues purchase their own vehicles from what they earned from potato farming.

Meanwhile, another farmer from the Imbayao Community Participatory Action Research Association (ICPARA) in Bukidnon shared, “Nakabili ako ng lupa, at nakapagawa ng bahay at garden para sa mga tanim namin.” (I was able to buy a lot, and build a house and a garden, where we can plant more crops.)

Former office employees like Noel Padrones of the Kapatagan Upland Farmers Association (KUFA) in Digos City also turned to potato farming to make ends meet. Apart from himself, he’s seen firsthand how fellow farmers achieved a better life and financial growth.

“We’re happy with the Sustainable Potato Program because we can really see how it improved the lives of farmers,” said Melani Provido, DA representative of Alegre Vegetables and Arabica Growers Association, Mt. Apo Potato Farmers Association (in Balutakay, Davao Del Sur) and Highlight Farmers Agriculture Cooperation (in Kapatagan, Lanao Del Norte).

“When the pandemic hit, the program gave them jobs and money to feed their families. Now, they have their own vehicles, houses, and school tuition for their children,” she added.

Aside from enabling farmers to harvest quality produce for consumers, URC’s Sustainable Potato Program continuously helps Filipino farmers provide for their families. The program is part of the company’s move towards becoming a global sustainable organization in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As the Philippines strives to improve the agricultural sector, this program, and others like it, is a step towards making food security and fruitful opportunities in farming more accessible to Filipinos.

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