Agriculture is a dynamic industry, with new techniques and practices regularly being developed to increase yield.
East West Seeds Philippines’ Knowledge Transfer Foundation’s (EWS-KTF) thrust is to make both available to smallholder farmers who might otherwise not have access to such information.
“Knowledge transfer is more on capacity building smallholder farmers. We do training on vegetable production depending on the needs of the farmer. Sometimes it’s anchored on Philippine Good Agricultural Practices or sometimes it is based on natural farming systems. We also have [prograpms] wherein we capacitate farmers and enhance their entrepreneurial skills,” said Girlie Banaña of East West Seeds Philippines’ Knowledge Transfer Department.
EWS-KTF usually works with other organizations who have pre-selected the farmers to undergo training. It’s these partner organizations who fund the project through providing training programs and farm input packages for the farmer beneficiaries, referred to as “key farmers.” Partner organizations have included PhilRice, Nestle, and BDO.
The time span of each project depends on the partner organization as well, and can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. The key farmers attend training while establishing their own vegetable farms at the same time.
“We’ll also check if the learned technologies were applied appropriately and at the same time assist them in pest and disease management,” Banaña said.
Before the pandemic, all training sessions were done face to face, involving both classroom lectures and hands-on practical applications. The pandemic forced everyone to go online, though training sessions are returning to the classroom and field.
Access to market
When applicable, farmers were taught Philippine Good Agricultural Practices (PhilGAP) and assisted in fulfilling the requirements for its certification. “They were able to learn the concepts or principles of producing the quality vegetables, safety of vegetables, quality of the environment and safety of the packing,” Banaña said.
Farmers whose farms were selected as model PhilGAP farms were further able to benefit from being provided facilities such as “washing areas, storage areas for fertilizer and pesticide, resting areas for the farm workers, (and) sorting areas.”
The training also included an introduction to different buyers beyond the traditional wet market or trading post. “Before, they were only engaged with the traditional markets but… through the project, we were able to introduce them to new markets like the modern retail markets, engaging the consolidators, concessionaires, and food processors,” Banaña said. “This ready market can absorb a lot of volume, so [the farmers] can really expand their production. At the same time they have a ready market with competitive prices…. Some of the farmers we assisted [have] even expanded their production areas.”
The results have been positive. “In terms of income, based on the data that we gathered from a minimum of 500 sqm of vegetables, a farmer can have a net income of P5,400-6,500.”
Another aspect of the program is training home gardeners to boost self-sufficiency. “We (need to make) sure that the community is food-reliant, so we need to introduce the concept of home gardening, planting vegetables in their backyards,” Banaña said, adding, “We also offer training courses on nutrition education.”
Banaña reported that, “We were also able to introduce the vegetable as a nutritious source of food for the family,” resulting in “an increase in consumption in the vegetable for the farming households in the areas where we operate.”
EWS-KTF is looking forward to continue working with new and current partner organizations to capacitate smallholder farmers, introduce them to a wider customer base, and increase their food security at home.
“We also want to propose bigger skilled long-term programs so we can reach more… farmers,” Banaña said. “We also want to engage more women farmers and young farmers.”
The organization is hopeful that through proper knowledge transfer, technical training, and introductions to different markets, more Filipino farmers will have the opportunity to better compete and succeed in the industry.
Photos courtesy of (EWS-KTF)