Marciano Saclauso, 69, has just finished preparing his pot bed for this season’s seedling production. Once again, he is filled with hope that demands for forest and fruit seedlings from real estate developers and resort owners in Zambales, and the government’s National Greening Program (NGP) will increase substantially with the onset of the rainy months.
Ka Mari to the Subic-Cawag Upland Farmers Association (SCUFA) in Zambales, he dreams of earning big for his group out of selling 2-foot high forest and tree seedlings. Ka Mari acts as the chairman of SCUFA.
“Ang seedling production ay natutunan namin sa programang CBFM (Community-based Forest Management) ng DENR. Ito ngayon ang pinakamalakas na pinagkakakitaan ng aming samahan,” Ka Mari related as we walked through rows upon rows of young robust seedlings in his group’s nursery. Huge mahogany and mango trees provided an awesome shade for the group’s multi-purpose hall nearby.
SCUFA’s 200-strong member has restored barangay Cawag’s landscape into a thick forest – a sharp contrast to what the barangay looked like in the early 80s when cogon and talahib stretched to as far the eyes can see.
Ka Mari recalled that the first time the members learned about seedling production was in 1994. They started small, mostly in their respective backyards. Since then, through the support of CBFM, more than P3 million worth of fruit and forest seedlings have been raised by the group.
In 2005 alone, SCUFA earned some P200,000 from the seedlings it sold to big real estate developers and resort owners in Zambales. Today, SCUFA supplies seedlings to countless tree planting and landscaping projects of the DENR, local governments, Department of Education (DepEd), non-government organizations (NGO), and private companies in Zambales.
“Noong nakaraang taon, P400,000 ang kinita namin. Ngayon ay P300,000,” he narrated. He said his group has committed to supply the seedling requirements of President Aquino’s National Greening Program in the province.
Five percent of group’s income from seedling production goes to the organization. “Mas madaming seedling ang naipagbibili, mas malaki ang kita ng bawat kasapi, at mas malaki ang kita ng samahan,” Ka Mari stressed.
This benefit-sharing scheme is part of the agreement among the members when DENR awarded the group a stewardship deal over a 233-hectare of forestland in 2000.
Livestock and a fishpond have also been added to the group’s major source of income. Fish harvest from the 80 square meter pond would yield P20,000 for the group in a year.
Through the years, Ka Mari’s group used their CBFM area as a laboratory, experimenting on various crops and planting schemes. Soon enough they discovered many ingenious ways of growing trees and increasing their harvests.
For example, the sap of the local vine “kalot”, when mixed with water and sprayed on plants, would kill pests and insects. Noticing that aphids are virtually absent in fruits during the rainy season, the group also now sprays water on papayas at summer time to kill aphids.
Petchay (Chinese cabbage) planted in clusters not only maximizes space but also yields plants with bigger leaves and longer stems. Green mangoes that sink in a basin of water make sweet fruits when ripened.
“Kaya lahat ng mangga ng samahan ay matamis dahil alam namin kung kelan husto na sa gulang at pwede nang pahinugin,” Ka Mari revealed.
SCUFA is also into organic farming. “Napatunayan namin na hindi kailangang gumamit ng mga kemikal na pataba at mga pestisidyo upang gumanda ang ani,” Ruben Dario, 65, vice chairman of SCUFA.
Dario said SCUFA earned P26,000 from honey dew and another P6,000 from petchay. Cucumber earned the group another P2,000 in a single cropping from a 100 square meter- lot.
Animal manure, dried and decayed leaves, branches, twigs and other debris are the common organic materials used by SCUFA members to turn into compost fertilizer.
Using compost has improved their fruit harvests like langka, lemon, coconut, papaya, pineapple and banana. Increased yields were also noticeable in some vegetables like ampalaya, kalabasa and sitaw.
Fruits of hard work
Hard work and persistence are SCUFA’s strongest traits. Already, the group is planning to equip their newly renovated multi-purpose hall with computer, and some appliances like refrigerator to ease the day-to-day administration of the group’s activities.
“Dahil sa mga kinikita ko mula sa CBFM, nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral ang tatlo kong anak. Ngayon may anak na akong engineer, teacher at agriculturist,” Ka Mari said, with face beaming with pride.
Aside from bringing back the greens in Cawag, socio-economic development is the most essential contribution of the CBFM program to SCUFA members.
“Marami akong kinikita sa CBFM. Yung dati kong bahay na sawali napalitan ko na ng konkreto,” said Renato Guyaoy, 43, one of the early settlers in Cawag.
Forging strong alliance with different government agencies and private companies is a skill SCUFA learned from CBFM.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) donated P200,000 for the group’s greenhouse while the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) provided 6,000 coconut seedlings. The Bureau of Fisheries of Aquatic Resources (BFAR) gave the group 20,000 fingerlings of tilapia for their community fishpond. The local government of Subic fixed the two-kilometer farm-to-market road of Cawag. Electricity was also installed in the village.
A ship-builder in Subic donated P150,000 cash to assist the group in the purchase of a hauling truck for their seedlings. Another private company donated plastic containers to be used as fire hydrant to help the group’s fire control initiatives.
SCUFA has definitely come a long way. With less than 20 members at the start of the association, the group’s membership has risen to 200. This phenomenal rise in membership reflects a collective will of the barangay folks to lick poverty and chart a better future for the children of Cawag.
And, judging from the group’s motto, “Sama-sama, tulong-tulong, pangalagaan ang kalikasan,” there is no reason SCUFA would not realize their dream.