RM Awardee Davide: We have no right to keep farmers poorBy Matikas Santos
Dr. Romulo Davide, a Filipino agricutural scientist, talks about empowering farmers who have multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor. Video by INQUIRER.net’s Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines – To make the Philippines rich, the farmers must be made rich.
This is the belief of 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and scientist for the farmers, Romulo Davide. “If the farmers are rich, the town becomes rich, [and] the Philippines becomes rich,” he said during an interview with INQUIRER.net Thursday during his lecture.
Davide created a program known as Farmer-Scientist Training Program (FSTP) in Argao, Cebu, in 1994 where a scientist would partner with farmers to teach them science-based agricultural skills to help increase their crop production.
Through FSTP, local farmers, who suffered from poverty and poor agricultural techniques, were transformed into farmer-scientists that are now able to make at least P125,000 or more annually compared to almost zero before the program, Davide said in his lecture paper.
Their increased income was due to the technical and scientific skills taught by Davide. Farmers learned about new high-yielding varieties of crops that increased the production by more than 100 percent. They used to produce half a ton of corn per hectare but now are able to produce four to six tons per hectare.
They also learned about better organic fertilizers such as chicken manure and vermi-compost, which were also cheaper compared to the non-organic fertilizers. Farmers were able to save more than 50 percent in production costs.
Farmers were also taught to become volunteer technicians so they can teach other farmers about the scientific method that will help improve crop production.
They have also established cooperatives and associations so they can organize themselves to work together. Some farmers even went on to become local government leaders that actively worked for community development.
Because of the increased capabilities, production, and income of the farmers in Argao, the municipality rose from being a 5th class municipality to a 1st class municipality in 2006.
Davide has since expanded the FSTP program to 37 towns in Cebu and trained more than 30,000 farmers nationwide.
He said in his lecture paper that the program “successfully demonstrated that poor farmers can be technically empowered through direct contact with agricultural scientists/experts to improve their living conditions beyond the poverty level.”
“It has shown that farmer-scientists can also freely share their expertise to untrained fellow farmers as volunteer technicians in their respective barangays,” Davide said. “Moreover, FSTP-trained farmers also have developed the sense of leadership in their community development projects or became barangay officials themselves,” he said.
Davide, however, said that the program needs to be accelerated and expanded with the help of government agencies as well as local governments. There was already Executive Order 710 issued by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008 adopting the FSTP program, but it was still lacking in implementation, he said.
“[The farmers] have no right to be poor. And we have no right to keep them poor. [But] that’s what’s happening,” Davide said.
Davide along with the five other 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees will be formally given their awards Friday at 4 p.m. at the Philippine International Convention Center.