DA-12 pools farmers into mobile labor providers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 August)– The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12 has devised ways to utilize the available time and labor of landless farmers in the area, forming them into mobile service providers for farms that needed various works, an official said.

Amalia J. Datukan, DA Region 12 director, said in a recent statement that they were the first DA field unit to organize farmers into a pool of farm service providers starting last March.

Organized was the Firmus Farm Service Cooperative (FFSC), based in Koronadal City in South Cotabato. Its chairman, Jaime Junsay, said that their association members could be hired in performing farm operations from land preparation to harvest.

Junsay said the association prioritizes landless farmers as members, called farm maintainers and enjoy Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and Social Security System benefits.

He said land owners who wanted to get their services would have to contract the kind of work needed in the farm and would have to pay them for the services rendered.

Junsay said the cooperative already received from the DA several agricultural machines that include two units of hand tractors for rice, a unit of corn hand tractor and two units of rice threshers.

The DA regional office organized a Farm Service Providers’ Forum in Koronadal City on August 8-9, which was participated by leaders and representatives of farmers’ organizations from nine other regions in Luzon and Visayas.

Datukan said that the forum was intended “to orient and to highlight this trailblazing initiative of Region 12 in the realization of the project.”

She said this undertaking of Region 12 would serve as a case study for the other regions for possible replication or enhancement.

Region 12 groups the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

According to Junsay, the cooperative has already serviced 120 hectares of rice farmlands in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, using hand tractors in land preparation.

“To have a bigger production, we encourage the farmers to invest in land preparation,” Junsay said.

The DA has embarked on a project called “Farm Service Providers,” which is embedded in the agency’s national food self-sufficiency program.

But organizing farmers to work in other farms is not entirely new in the Philippines. It has been done in the remote New Corella town of Davao del Norte, with landless farmers organized in so-called “kumboys,” the local version of “convoy.”

Organized by the Davao City-based Institute of Primary Health Care, the kumboys have increased household incomes for landless farmers and small land tillers by working in other farms during planting, harvesting and weeding, or cleaning the farms in between. The kumboys have been organized in the late 1990s. (MindaNews)