PRDP Arrowroot Enterprise promises brighter future for Marinduque farmers

BOAC, Marinduque — For a family with three children, Karen Sace, manager of Bahi Agriculture and Fisheries Association (BAFA), admitted that it is a challenge to make ends meet with the P300 a day wage of her laborer husband.

At that time, she saw farmers bringing down arrowroot rhizomes that they planted in the mountain to be sold in the market. This pushed her to think of the stagnant piece of land that her husband owns.

“Na-encourage ako sa ibang farmer na may ibinababa galing sa bundok. Sabi ko bakit kami may lupa, wala namang ibinababa na produkto (I was encouraged by the farmers who are able to harvest crops from the mountain. I thought that we had land, so why are we not able to bring down crops as well?)” Sace shared.

Karen Sace proudly admitted that she did not know anything about planting arrowroots at first. “Actually, sa pagtatanim ng arrowroot, wala akong idea. Kaso ako ay graduate sa isang agricultural school. May mga subject kaming nakuha kaya may idea ako sa pagtatanim, (When it comes to planting arrowroot, I have no idea. But I graduated from an agricultural school and was able to take a few subjects [about planting] so I at least have an idea about farming in general).” Sace added.

Sace was eventually invited to join the BAFA in 2013. What started as a cooperative with just 16 people, has grown into an organization with more than 50 farmer members.

Sace was proud to say that with their organizations’ relentless pursuit of funding and training opportunities, BAFA emerged to be recognized by government institutions and different funding initiatives — the Department of Agriculture – Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) being one of the projects to award them with a grant.

PRDP’s Intervention

The Marinduque Arrowroot Production and Processing subproject is an initiative that recognizes arrowroot (locally known as uraro) as an emerging commodity not just locally but globally as well. With a total worth of P8.4 million, the main objective of this subproject is to provide the proponent group with a stable source of income which can eventually improve their economic status.

In line with this goal, DA-PRDP I-REAP provided BAFA with an arrowroot processing center (with the help and supervision of I-BUILD), a delivery van, a fabricated tricycle for hauling, and pieces of equipment like an arrowroot extractor, mechanical spinner, mechanical dryer, and pulverizer.

“Napaka-laking tulong sa amin. Una ‘yung misyon namin na matulungan ang aming mga kasapi na mai-angat ang antas ng pamumuhay ng magsasaka. Wala silang ideya kung paano i-benta ang kanilang mga produkto eh. Ang sa kanila, ibababa nila sa pwesto nila sa palengke, okay na, ganoon lang. Unlike sa amin ngayon, ibibigay nila sa amin, kami na bibili ng kanilang produkto, hindi na sila mahihirapan, ([The processing center] is such a big help to us, in our mission to uplift the economic status of our farmer members… They [the farmer members] don’t have an idea how to sell their products. Bringing their products from the mountain to the market is enough for them. Unlike with our arrangement, we will be the ones to buy their products in bulk so they don’t have to sell them in the market in retail),” Sace said.

According to Sace, this arrangement allows their farmer members to have instant income which they can readily use for daily expenses and tuition fees of their children.

Moving Forward

With the provision of a processing center and modern equipment, Karen Sace and the rest of the BAFA are optimistic that they will achieve their organization’s vision.

“Ine-expect po namin na makapag-produce kami ng malinis at ligtas na pagkain. Pangalawa ay matulungan ang mga farmers namin na kahit paano ay mai-angat ang pamumuhay, and then at the same time, ‘yung supply ng pagkain, kahit dito na lang po sa lokal, dito sa Marinduque, ay ma-sustain namin ‘yung supply, (We’re expecting to produce clean and safe products. We also expect to help uplift the standard of living of our farmers, and at the same time, we expect to sustain the food supply even if it’s just locally here in Marinduque),” Sace explained.

When it comes to her influence in her own household, Sace was happy to share that her children are taking a positive interest in farming. “Ako na mismo ngayon ang nag-momotivate sa mga anak ko. Actually, sila pa ngayon yung “Mama, tara na sa bundok, magtanim na tayo (I motivate my children to (to farm). Actually, they are now the ones taking initiative to go to the mountain and plant).” —

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