Thirty abaca farmers from indigenous T’boli and B’laan communities in the municipality of Maasim in Sarangani are now adept at using climate-smart farming technologies and capable of mentoring their fellow abaca farmers after graduating from the Climate-Smart Farmers Field School on Abaca Production.
The Farmers Field School was a 24-session training program that stemmed from the Integrated Pests Management Farmers’ Field School on Abaca Production of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA). The program’s core curriculum covered all aspects of abaca production and farm management technology, with emphasis on pest management. With support from USAID and Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, PhilFIDA strengthened the program by integrating climate-smart farming and practices of conservation agriculture and agroforestry into the curriculum.
The training honed the farmers’ skills in and knowledge of abaca production and management through hands-on lessons on conservation and agroforestry methods like soil and water conservation, forest landscape restoration, and integrated nutrient management; and enterprise development, such as postharvest handling and farm record-keeping. It also prepared them to become farmer-trainers who will teach their fellow farmers what they learned and advocate against practices that negatively impact the biodiversity of Mount Busa, such as slash-and-burn farming and indiscriminate harvesting of trees for charcoal and fuelwood.
Moreover, the Protect Wildlife project engaged the United Maligang Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, a local abaca consolidator, to demonstrate postharvest practices and value addition, such as abaca harvesting, stripping and bundling; classifying and grading of abaca fiber; and t’nagak- and sinamay-making to the trainees.
The Climate Smart Farmers Field School on Abaca Production was part of USAID’s implementation of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative in the Philippines. Under the W-GDP Initiative, USAID, through its Protect Wildlife project, targets to support 20 enterprises with active women members and aims to benefit around 5,000 households by strengthening the economic benefits derived from biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. W-GDP support for women’s livelihoods includes training on organizational development, training on improved production and post-harvest technologies, strengthening access to credit, and facilitating marketing agreements and networking opportunities. (PWP/ May Anne Ramos)