By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Iloilo provincial government on Monday kicked off the 1st Provincial Farmers Week in Iloilo City in its continuing aim to strengthen the agricultural sector in the province for generations to come.
With the theme “Mangunguma padayon nga edukaron, hugpungon kag pabaskugon para agrikultura mangin mainuswagon,” (Continue to educate, gather, and strengthen the farmers for progressive agriculture), the 5-day activity’s goal is to address the gaps in farming and fisheries and come up with concrete policies to address them.
The event commenced with the launching of the Agri-Fishery Trade Expo 2022 and a forum on farm mechanization and solar irrigation projects which aims to upgrade the knowledge and skills of farmers.
During the opening program, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. vowed for the provincial government to do its best to maximize the province’s potential as an agricultural province.
The governor recognized the need for greater collaboration between provincial government offices, and not just the Provincial Agricultural Office’s brunt alone.
He cited the presence of the sugar, coffee, and cacao industries here, in stating that there also needs to be ways to utilize these resources locally.
Iloilo province’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th legislative districts alone cover 20,875 hectares of sugarcane plantations, according to data shared by 3rd district Board Member Matt Palabrica to the Philippine News Agency back in August.
“We have a large sugar industry here, we have a coffee industry and we plant cacao. But we don’t have a candy factory. The best candies that we eat even come from abroad,” the governor said.
“We are happy that we are an agricultural province and we will do everything to do our best to maximize our potential in agriculture,” he added.
As to the fishing industry, he emphasized the need to improve the shelf life of fish products so that it may compete on a national and international level.
He also mentioned improving the farm tourism industry as well as expediting the concreting of farm-to-market roads, in order to enhance the mobility of products and ultimately, raise farmers’ income.
The highlight of this celebration, the Farmers’ Congress, will be held on the last day (October 7) and will gather farmers and fisherfolk to dialogue on the gaps, for endorsement to provincial government offices and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
The governor said that this was aside from the commitment of the Local Economic Development and Investment Promotion (LEDIP) office to aid in developing the value chain for agricultural products to generate more jobs within the sector.
“We will dialogue with them, we will validate the perceived gaps, develop our ideas, and come up with concrete policies so that at the end of the exercise, we will be focused and ready to put them in the budget of the province that we will submit to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” Defensor said.
The said Congress will also recognize the contributions to agricultural and fishery productivity made by farmers, rural women and youth, and fisherfolk.
Other activities during the 1st Provincial Farmers Week include:
– A lecture demo on flower arrangement and on landscaping and dish garden, and a demo contest on dish garden (October 4);
– Coastal cleanup as well as lectures and games on fish conservation to selected elementary pupils in Oton town, lectures on aquaculture and postharvest value adding at the Casa Real, and Provincial Rural Improvement Club Achievement Day at the Iloilo Sports Complex (October 5); and
– Spaying and neutering for dogs and cats at Casa Real Front Lobby and seminar orientation on livestock production technologies (AI-Swine and Goat Farming) at the National Museum – Western Visayas (October 6).
The Provincial Farmers’ Week was based on Provincial Ordinance 2018-190 which declares the first week of October of every year as Farmers’ Week in the province.