The beaming beautiful lady Mayor of Sogod, Southern Leyte, Honorable Imelda Uy-Tan, together with her Vice-Mayor, Honorable Rufo Olo, greeted with much enthusiasm the DOST VIII staff and Provincial Director, Dr. Dominador A. Clavejo of DOST Southern Leyte, during the turn-over of project financial assistance for the project Rehabilitation of Abaca Production in Barangays Maac and Mahayahay, Sogod, Southern Leyte. The said financial assistance amounting to P200,000.00 is for the purchase of tissue cultured abaca seedlings necessary for the project implementation to start. The abaca planting materials will be purchased from Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte. This project was conceptualized when DOST VIII Director, Engr. Edgardo M. Esperancilla joined WorldFish and the LGU Sogod, Southern Leyte in the identification of possible livelihood project for the four poorest barangay in the municipality. Director Esperancilla committed the project fund in his hope that the abaca industry in the said area will be rehabilitated and the DOST VIII have found a partner in the person of Mayor Tan.
There will be 150 farmers who will benefit from the project. Barangay Maac and Mahayahay are just two barangays in Sogod, Southern Leyte known for abaca. Abaca or internationally known as Manila Hemp, is a primary commodity in the said barangays and many farmers depended on this commodity as their means of livelihood. Since the occurence of the abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) that kill the industry in Bicol region then majority affected the industry in Region, specifically, in the province of Southern Leyte, many affected farmers look for alternative livelihood but to no avail, they still go back to abaca. Records show that there was a 75% sink of abaca production in the Province in 2011, from 8,491 metric tons in 2005 and only 2,074 in 2011 (http://www.southernleytetimes.com/Abaca_harvest_down_75_percent.html). The ABTV virus is claimed to be carried by umbak, an outer coating of abaca plant. There was motion before of FIDA Regional Director Jeffrey G. Espina to stop the harvesting of umbak because the said umbak sheaths have been identified as carrier of bunchy top aphids. The project, however, is attempting to rehabilitate the industry in the area using a culture inosa variety from VSU.
For a farmer who have a 1-hectare of land planted with abaca he will be able to have a harvest of 1.3MT (1,300 kilos) of abaca fibers per year (3 harvest in a year) equivalent to P68,900.00 at a current buying price of P53.00 per kilo.
As an initial assistance to the project, Mayor Tan initially released P150,000.00 for the purchase of 6,000 pieces "inosa" variety that was distributed to 77 farmers who are into abaca farming and one of the farmer beneficiary is Manu Turing. Mano Turing and his family have been an abaca farmers since the time of their forefathers. Mano Turing is 70 years old and have been into abaca farming for 50 years. He is maintaining a land which was planted with abaca even before the occurence of ABTV. During the project ocular monitoring, one of the best grown abaca plants was found in the lot of Mang Turing. His passion and dedication was seen on how his abaca grows.
Ms. Evelyn Tablante, SRS I, DOST VIII, surmised that among the farmer beneficiaries, Mang Turing is the most dedicated and really tend his plants with utmost care. She (Tablante) mentioned that Mang Turing gets his organic fertilizer from a nearby poultry in the area. Mang Turing can be seen carrying a big wicker/basket made of woven rattan early in the morning to contain the healthy abaca to be transplanted in his farm. His family rely heavily in abaca farming.
For the sustainability of the project, each farmer beneficiary will pay the planting material provided to them through replenishment equivalent to the number of planting materials they received. This planting materials then will be reared in the nursery and to be distributed to new beneficiaries in the area or in nearby barangays within the municipality.
The project is in partnership with the National Abaca Research Center (NARC) and the Fiber Industry Development Authority of the Department of Agriculture (FIDA VIII). (By Engr. Ramil Uy, DOST VIII)