Agusan Sur’s abaca industry gets boost

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews/09 June) — Abaca farmers and weavers in the province got a big boost after the local government unit and the international nongovernment organization Oxfam agreed to work together for the development of the industry.

Gov. Edward Adolf Plaza, however, asked the abaca farmers in this capital town, Bayugan City and Sibagat municipality to regulate the transport of falcata logs in exchange for a P126-million worth of farm-to-market roads.

In a stakeholders conference here Wednesday, the provincial government and its partner in the Oxfam Mindanao Programme amd Integrated Conservation Solutions (ICS) vowed to support abaca farmers by producing quality planting materials, support services and in the production of quality abaca products, primarily abaca fabric.

The projects supported by OxFam and ICS involve product development and marketing of locally produced abaca fabric.

Plaza said the provincial government is committed to support the development of the abaca industry from the farm down to the market. He committed 30 abaca weaving machines to abaca farmers.

Barbara Stockings, Chief Executive Officer of Oxfam Great Britain said that Oxfam will continue to support the initiative in the province and underscored the partnership among the local government and small farmers.

“Local government commitment to small farmers is not very usual to most countries that I have visited,” said Stockings who oversees Oxfam missions in 60 countries worldwide.

On the issue of poor farm-to-market roads, Plaza admitted that logging, particularly falcate logging is getting to be a barrier in the implementation of all-weather farm-to-market road projects.

He challenged the abaca farmers to take the lead in at least regulating the transport of this timber product which he said is damaging the vital link between farmers and the market especially during the rainy season.

“Pag barikada mo aron dili madaut sa mga trucks nga ga haul og falcata, og dili sila motuo, tawagi ko kay akoy molatus sa mga kapitan nga wala magpakabana, (Put up barricades to prevent falcate haulers from destroying our farm-to-market roads. If they don’t follow, call me so that I can discipline the barangay captains that don’t show any concern)” Plaza said.

The development of a 32-kilometer all-weather farm-to-market road worth P126 million is already approved according to Deanna Fudalan, Provincial Planning and Development Officer.

This project will benefit the abaca farmers in this town, Bayugan City and the town of Sibagat.

ICS Project Manager Gil Dennis Raposa said they are confident the abaca industry in the province will succeed.

Issues of quality abaca fiber and capability building of the weavers, mostly Lumad women, are being addressed by the project that they are implementing with Oxfam and the provincial government.

“What makes us optimistic with this project is that from our end, we can see that the market is available,” Raposa said.

Meanwhile, in order to address the issue of quality abaca planting materials, the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) is set to produce about 20,000 tissue-cultured planting materials by April 2012.

Vice Gov. Santiago Cane said that the PAO has been given marching orders to utilize its tissue culture laboratory to produce the needed abaca planting materials. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)