Siargao Island, Philippines – The island of Siargao in the Province of Surigao del Norte has been known as attractive place for tourists. Its gorgeous white beaches, enchanting lagoons, caves, sand bars, coral reefs, bizarre rock formations, exotic wildlife, different crops and rice fields, waterfalls and a large mangrove forest reserve create a longing to every adventurist.
Not known to many, Siargao is also a home of great farmers and fishers. Aside from earning through the visits of the local and foreign tourists, residents also rely heavily on agriculture and fisheries as their source of income.
One of the towns frequently visited by tourists is the Municipality of Del Carmen. Hidden in its area is the longest contiguous mangrove stand in the Philippines, spreading to over 4,000 hectares. The local government headed by Mayor Alfredo Coro II, in partnership with government agencies and private sectors, have gradually converted the small municipality to an “eco-town” to help the residents cope with financial challenges and the effects of climate change.
“Del Carmen is greatly challenged among other municipalities. The only way to move up is through partnership-driven programs. We may be a fifth-class municipality but we act like first-class citizens,” Coro said during an environmental and climate change workshop.
Faced with trials, the local government endeavored to coordinate with government and non-government organizations to educate and equip its residents on livelihood activities to suffice their needs.
Earning support from the government
The municipality is rich with natural resources that are ready to be utilized. Such is its much supply of spiny lobsters which can be found anywhere in its tropical waters.
Since there are available juvenile lobsters and most of the fishers can make a catch when they cast their nets for fishing, the Municipal Agriculture Office of the locality thought of teaching them about lobster fattening using nets for cage culture. “We thought of starting a lobster fattening project after seeing its benefit as additional source of income for the fishers,” said Vicente Comandante, Municipal Agriculturist of Del Carmen.
The knowledge gained by the fishers made them decide to start an association named Del Carmen Fisherfolk Association (DELCAFIA) in 2011 with 54 members. Its main line of business is lobster fattening and selling its produce on special occasions or when the demand is high.
Starting from six cages, the business grew and its produce has been sold and known in the island and Surigao City. Then on, the association added more juvenile lobsters for fattening to meet the demand of the market. “Since there is a great demand during Christmas and New Year, especially Chinese New Year, all of our harvest will be sold out,” said Domingo Cortes, Chairman of DELCAFIA.
An average sales of P 60,000 to P 80,000 is recorded per harvest during the early years of its operation from 2011 to 2013 with the usual harvest of twice a year depending on the demand of the consumers.
Considering the need for expansion, the association searched for opportunities which they can access fund for additional cages, staff house, boat and capital for the purchase of juvenile lobsters and its food.
Through the effort of the association and the support of Municipal Agriculture Office, DELCAFIA has accessed fund amounting to P 250,000 through the DA–Mindanao Rural Development Program–Community Fund for Agricultural Development (MRDP-CFAD) in 2013.
The support from MRDP has allowed the association an additional staff house, eight cages, motorized boat and additional working capital. These translated to a better business such as an additional 200 juveniles and a boat for the transportation of their lobsters to the buyers or the market.
“This year’s Chinese New Year has allowed us to earn P 150,000 for one harvest, equivalent to lobsters weighing to a total of 60 kilos with a selling price of P 2,500/kg. We got better harvest and earning through the intervention from the government,” said Cortes.
Better profit from every harvest has inspired the members of DELCAFIA. “Since the business has expanded and been making better sales, the members of the association have been contributing wasted fish for the lobster’s food in order to hasten its growth,” said Arlon Donoso, Vice Chairman of the association.
MRDP is a program implemented under the Department of Agriculture jointly funded by the World Bank and the Local Government Units. The successful implementation of the projects in MRDP inspired the government to level up its scope through the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) today. (Fretcher Magatao 02/11/2017, ruralevolution.net)