SAN LUIS, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 22 July) – Farmers in the interior village of Nuevo Trabaho here are pinning their hopes for the future on the livelihood potential of the lowly kalabasa (squash).
Already, a one-hectare model communal farm developed by the local electricity consumers group called Multi-sectoral Electrification Advisory Council (MSEAC) had recently produced some 7,000 kilos of the highly-nutritious vegetable.
The farmers were encouraged to grow the crop after the Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative (ASELCO) assured them of help in getting fair market prices from local traders in neighboring Bayugan City.
They have so far planted squash on at least 15 hectares of individual farms.
Melodina Pineda, MSEAC president in Nuevo Trabaho, said there are many potentials for processed squash products like flour, biscuits, candies and crunchy chips.
But she added that for now they are focusing on the production of nutritious squash cooked meals for feeding programs in the daycare center in Nuevo Trabaho and neighboring villages.
Arnie Arreza, ASELCO board member, said he will help the farmers in processing byproducts to add value to their produce and generate more livelihood opportunities.
“The objective of the rural electrification program is not only to energize the far-flung villages but to let them utilize electricity into economic enterprises,” Arreza said.
He said the ASELCO board is closely coordinating with the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association for a possible squash meal production supply deal after they learned during a meeting with top executives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development about a P10-billion unused funds for the feeding program nationwide.
He said they have visited the Food Innovation Center of the Caraga State University in Butuan City where they saw some of the equipment that will be useful in processing food products from squash.
Engineer Emmanuel Galarse, ASELCO general manager, said their office will work to access government funding to enable MSEAC members to produce more and acquire a processing plant and equipment.
ASELCO said the project is a livelihood program spearheaded by the National Center of Electric Cooperative Consumers Inc. – Agusan del Sur Chapter.
Other farmers who were encouraged to plant squash in at least one hectare of their farms would continue to grow in the next cropping season after getting a good yield last June.
Joseph Curato, president of Nuetra Micro Farmers Association, harvested 2,007 kilos in the initial harvest which he sold to a buyer in Bayugan City at P5.00 a kilo.
He said he would negotiate for P6.00 a kilo for the remaining produce.
He said prices of squash went higher last year at P13.50 a kilo in the wake of heavy demand from Luzon consumers who experienced supply shortage during the implementation of strict anti-COVID-19 measures. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)