Story by Dennis Amata (Communications & Knowledge Manager, CARE Philippines)
International humanitarian organization CARE and the Antique Development Foundation (ADF) continue to support abaca farmers and processors in Antique as the 2nd Provincial Abaca Congress has created another milestone in the province’s booming abaca industry.
The Abaca Congress, financially supported by the Government of Canada through the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), was held in Antique’s capital San Jose.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao and Senator Loren Legarda expressed their support to the event that was also attended by over 200 abaca farmers and micro-entrepreneurs as well as key officials from the national, provincial and municipal government.
The annual congress links abaca farmers, knotters, twiners and handicraft makers with the Government. CARE and ADF presented the project accomplishments, and engaged farmers and various stakeholders to address issues and challenges in terms of industry sustainability. Farmers were given an opportunity to ask key officials from the government on further support and matters related to the abaca industry.
The Philippines is a major supplier of abaca fiber in the world and the province of Antique ranks 4th in Western Visayas in terms of production volume. Abaca is used to produce fabric for clothing, cordage, specialty papers and cardboards, tea bags etc.
“Holding the Provincial Abaca Congress in Antique serves as a major step towards our long-term approach in supporting the development of abaca industry. The initiatives benefit the marginalized farmers in the province,” said Tess Bayombong, Project Team Leader of Typhoon Haiyan Reconstruction Assistance (THRA).
“The abaca industry has also opened livelihood opportunities for women in Antique. Many women are now earning from abaca fiber extraction, knotting, twining and weaving,” added Bayombong.
By improving the abaca industry in Antique, the sugar migrant workers or locally known as “sakada” are given alternative sources of income.
“One of the bottlenecks in the abaca industry in Antique is low productivity in cultivation and fiber extraction. Our mountains are rich in abaca. That’s why we have brought the farmers closer to local government units and agencies so we could address this challenge,” said Rhoda Pon-an, Executive Director of ADF.
Through the THRA Project and ADF’s facilitation plus the technical support of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), a total of 2,416 farmers were trained in abaca cultural management from nursery to post harvest management. This addresses the lack of technical know-how on good agricultural practices and appropriate harvesting and processing techniques.
Demo farms have been established in Antique to showcase good practices and new planting protocols particularly the low-level, high-density abaca farming technology.
ADF recorded over 6,500 beneficiaries in 15 municipalities who have undergone various capacity building activities in the abaca value chain since the start of the THRA Project.
CARE has also partnered with the Metals Industry Research and Development Center of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in developing a handy and user-friendly fiber extracting tool that was named “Carerigyan,” also derived from the word CARE + kerigyan (local name for the stripping tool). Carerigyan was launched in the Abaca Congress and is expected to increase productivity of abaca strippers who currently use traditional extraction tools that require time and skills for set-up.
Through the value-chain development approach, CARE and ADF provided community organizations financial assistance and training in abaca nursery and plantation development, organic fertilizer production, fiber extraction, marketing, enterprise management and support for tools and equipment. They also receive orientations on gender and development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
The ADF has trained farmers in abaca fiber classification and was also able to leverage prices of abaca fiber with the buyers and has increased farm gate price from 20 pesos to at least 35 to 40 pesos per kilo for third class abaca fiber and from 55.00 per kilo for 2nd class fibers to 65.00 per kilo. This provides additional income to the abaca producers.
The Provincial Government has included abaca in the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan. Governor Cadiao also signed Executive Order No. 008 series of 2017 to create the Provincial Abaca Development Committee which will oversee the industry, recommend policy, and provide consultancy assistance to the community organizations and marginalized farmers.
CARE and ADF continue to strengthen linkages with PhilFIDA, Department of Trade and Industry, DENR, Department of Agriculture, DOST, Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation, Department of Labor and Employment, different local government units, research institutions and business development services and financial service providers.
ABOUT THE PROJECT: The Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Reconstruction Assistance (THRA) is a four-year initiative supporting the recovery efforts of people heavily affected by Haiyan in Leyte, Antique and Iloilo.
In Antique, the project supports women, farmers, entrepreneurs and other marginalized groups in boosting their livelihoods through abaca production, processing and marketing.