Improvement of seaweeds production and farming technology

Prior to the implementation of project activities, community meetings in Barangays Salvacion and Binocyahan were conducted to validate the specific interventions that will help revive the livelihood of households through seaweeds farming.  Project interventions were: a) coaching and mentoring on seaweeds farming technology; b) setting up of savings mobilization program; and, c) conduct of capacity building activities on organizational development to strengthen the farmer organizations.

Project implementation started in March 2014 in coordination with the local governments of Basey and Marabut, Western Samar through their respective Office of the Municipal Agriculture (OMAg).  Technical trainings and on-site coaching and mentoring were conducted from March 2014 until the end of the project.  Farmer beneficiaries were introduced to new seaweed farming technology specifically on proper site identification, mooring blocks construction, farm installation and cultivar lines preparation.  Farmer beneficiaries were also introduced to the “ambian” or “spider-web” planting method which is different from the mono-line method being practiced in Eastern Samar.  Pest and disease control as well as disaster risk reduction measures especially during typhoons were imparted to the farmer beneficiaries.

Materials preparation and frame installation were done from June to July 2014.  The project provided initial material inputs (i.e. ropes, nylon, floaters, softies, cement and seedlings) while the farmers took responsibility for the labor as part of their counterpart.

In August 2014, a total of 81 farmers (i.e. 43 in Brgy. Salvacion and 38 in Brgy. Binocyahan) started to plant seaweeds.  Farmers in Brgy. Binocyahan were able to harvest in October 2014.  However, farmers in Brgy. Salvacion were affected by the low pressure area (LPA) which hit the area in September 2014.  Recovery efforts were done and harvest was expected in December 2014; however, they were once again affected by Typhoon Ruby on the 1st week of December.  Because of this, most of the farmers in Brgy. Salvacion lost interest in seaweeds farming.  In the 2nd quarter of 2015, seaweeds farming in Brgy. Salvacion was stopped and focused on fish processing.  Some farmers in Brgy. Binocyahan also decided to stop planting seaweeds as they preferred to do skilled labor and fishing.  Only 15 out of the 38 farmers in Brgy. Binocyahan continued planting seaweeds.  Seventeen (17) farmers from Brgy. Amantillo were added as project beneficiaries.  Unused farm materials in Brgy. Salvacion were transferred to Brgy. Amantillo.  One (1) plantation frame was also installed in Brgy. Amantillo.  Additional seedlings were distributed to farmers of both barangays in the last week of September 2015.

Total gross income generated from the sales of raw dried seaweeds (RDS) and fresh seaweeds of the 15 farmers in Brgy. Binocyahan since their 1st harvest in October 2014 until December 2015 stood at Php53,353.  Average monthly income per farmer amounted to Php3,557 or an additional Php237 to each farmer’s income prior to seaweeds farming. In Brgy. Amantillo, no income was generated yet since the farmers started planting seaweeds only in the 4th quarter of 2015.

A seaweed nursery was also established in Brgy. Binocyahan.  It generated a total income of Php4,500 from the sale of 100kgs. of seedlings between October 2014 and March 2015 and 300kgs. of seedlings in the last quarter of 2015.

As of December 2015, 800kgs of crops (500kgs in Brgy. Binocyahan and 300kgs in Brgy. Amantillo) have yet to be harvested.  Needless to say, the crops will be harvested after project completion with provisions for continuity of seaweed farming.

In August 2015, local buying was established in Brgy. Malobago.  The local buyer (i.e. private individual) buys the consolidated produce of the POs as well as the produce of the farmers in the municipalities of Lawaan, Balanggiga and Giporlos, Eastern Samar.

The establishment of local buying has rekindled the interest of some farmers to plant again and those who continued were encouraged to consolidate their produce considering the distances of the barangays to the local buyer. Farmers at the barangay level collected the RDS from each member which were weighed individually and repacked in sacks prior to delivery.  Transactions were made through exchanges of Short Messaging Service (SMS) between the buyer and the assigned PO members.  The produce were then delivered by the member in-charge.

Weekly price monitoring were conducted.  TBK (a seaweed processing company in Tacloban) sent price information (including adjustments) and other advisories through SMS.

Local seaweeds production and market networks were established in Marabut and nearby municipalities of Eastern Samar where seaweed farming was present. It was intended to guide farmers where to get seaweed cultivars and where to sell their produce (See Annex 3).  With the presence of a local buyer and establishment of market networks, it was expected that farmers will continue to plant seaweeds and expand their farms even after the completion of the project.

Promoting farmers access to credit through self-help approach

Savings mobilization was implemented to provide farmer beneficiaries access to credit for their immediate expenses.  A total of 124 PO members from the three (3) barangays (i.e. 34 in Brgy. Binocyahan, 18 in Brgy. Salvacion and 72 in Brgy. Amantillo) participated with Php20.00 weekly savings per member.  Members in Brgy. Binocyahan started as early as July 2014; those in Brgys. Salvacion and Amantillo started in January 2015 and October 2014, respectively.  As of December 2015, total savings in the three (3) barangays stood at Php121,183 (i.e. Binocyahan-Php56,364; Salvacion-Php15,703; Amantillo-Php49,116).

Members availed of loans ranging from Php500 to Php2,000 with 1-2% weekly interest which they used for education, medical and household consumption expenses.  Some were able to pay-off their debts to micro-finance institutions.  Given its benefits, PO members were committed to continue their respective savings mobilization schemes even after the end of the project.  It is noteworthy that as of to date, PO members have stopped borrowing money from micro-finance institutions.

Mobilization of functional Peoples Organizations (POs)

Three (3) People’s Organizations (POs) were organized; namely, Jinamoc Island Seaweeds Farmers Association (JISFA), in Brgy. Salvacion, Women Integrated Seaweeds Farmers Association (WISFA) in Brgy. Binocyahan and Brgy. Amantillo Women’s Association (BAWA) in Brgy. Amantillo.  Among the three (3) POs, only BAWA had secured registration from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).  JISFA was reprocessing its application based on DOLE’s recommendations on the amendments of some of its documents while WISFA was waiting for the approval of its registration.

Total number of members of the three (3) POs reached 152; 14% were men while 86% were women (See Table 3). Out of the 152 members, 124 were actively participating in the savings mobilization program.

Operationalization of fish processing centers in Brgy Salvacion, Basey and Brgy Amantillo Marabut.

The project saw the need to provide additional source of income to the beneficiaries as seaweeds farming is exposed to various risk factors (i.e. typhoons, diseases, etc.) which affects farmers’ production and income both in terms of consistency and adequacy.

In July 2015, fish processing was identified as a viable enterprise to augment farmers’ income from seaweeds farming since other donor agencies have provided the municipalities of Basey and Marabut with fish cages.  In partnership with and funding support from the Soroptimist International, 60 women members of two of the three PO partners (i.e. 20 in JISFA and 40 in BAWA) were trained and given technical assistance in fish processing.  Hands-on trainings were conducted on July 13–17, 2015 and July 20–24, 2015 in Brgy. Salvacion and Brgy. Amantillo, respectively. Systems such as committees, product pricing and sharing schemes were installed in both POs. Financial systems such as record keeping and the use of accounting forms were also introduced.

In September 2015, the construction of two (2) fish processing centers in Brgys. Salvacion and Amantillo were completed and now operational.  The facilities and other fish processing equipment were turned-over to the POs in December 2015.

While the basic operating and financial systems of both POs were in place, they need to be developed further. Members’ enterprise capacities should be enhanced to sustain the gains of the project. There is also a need to develop and expand the market so they can earn more. However, these can only be done beyond the project timeline.

An additional working capital for both POs is also necessary to help sustain their respective enterprises.  The additional working capital may come from the reinvestments of POs’ income from operations and outside funding.

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