US-based NGO wants to help Mindanao farmers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 Sept) – A United States-based non-government organization is seeking to further strengthen the organized farmers, cooperatives, and associations in Mindanao in a bid to improve post-harvest management and quality of cacao, coconut, and coffee.

The Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA) rolled out its new program called Mindanao Productivity in Agricultural Commerce and Trade (MINPACT), a four-year program launched in September 2014 until September 2018.

In an interview Friday at the SMX Convention Center Davao, Thelonioius S. Trimmel, chief of party for MINPACT of ACDI/VOCA, said at least 10,600 farmers are seen to benefit from this new program that is expected to receive $8 million the from US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Around 600 value chain actors composed of providers, traders and financial institutions will also be tapped, he said.

“We are working full-value chain, focusing on production, establishment of nurseries and ensuring good planting material, farm-level training and cooperative-level training,” Trimmel said.

Even the value chain actors will be strengthened to ensure that they would extend the best services, most especially to the cacao sector which has an annual domestic demand of 50,000 metric tons.

The country can only produce 10,000 MT a year, with 70 percent of its total production coming from the Davao Region.

Trimmel emphasized the need to support the farmers so that they can reach new markets.

The ACDI/VOCA, he added, has already signed a memorandum of understanding with identified partner cooperatives or associations.

“With the MOU, we identified what types of activities that we’re gonna be working on,” he said.

The training program includes strengthening their capacity as well as beefing up their knowledge on the opportunities for cacao, coffee, and coconut.

The NGO will also extend between $1 million to $2 million worth of grants to farmers for the procurement of equipment and the implementation of some services.

“In this case, initial grants will be focused on establishing nurseries and beneficiary organizations, purchase of equipment and farming materials for the establishment of those nurseries,” Trimmel said.

He said they are eyeing to increase the production of coconut, cacao, and coffee before they will put up more processing facilities.

He added some of the processing facilities established under previous programs such as Success Alliance and CoCopal Project are underutilized for lack of production.

“Biggest issue facing the three commodities is the demand outstretches the supply, there’s not enough supply of coconut, cacao and coffee. We need to plant more all of those tree commodities and ensure good quality, good processing, and good management,” Trimmel said.

Among the production facilities under MINPACT include fermentation tanks and solar dryers.

Most of the farmers who will benefit from MINPACT are coconut and cacao farmers, composed of 7,800 of the 10,600 farmers, he said, adding that they are pushing for the intercropping of both crops.

Support will also be extended to coconut farmers who need to replant old senile trees.

The ACDI/VOCA will work with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Davao Regional Industry Cluster in the reproduction of mother palms to ensure proper replanting of good quality coconut trees.