Towns turn marijuana fields into food bowls
MARAGUSAN, Compostela Valley—An upland community that used to be known as a “home” to marijuana plantations is slowly transforming into the food basket of Compostela Valley.
Vast hills and plains of Caragan Valley in the towns of New Bataan and Maragusan will be the sites of more than 2,000 hectares of organic rice and vegetable farms, according to Maragusan Mayor Cesar Colina Jr.
With infrastructure, such as farm-to-market roads, funded by the Japanese government and local governments being completed, Caragan Valley is expected to become the rice and vegetable bowl of Compostela Valley.
“As the pilot area for upland organic rice and vegetable production, farmers in Caragan, particularly those belonging to the Mansaka tribe, will be producing enough to supply the entire province,” said Colina.
At more than 1,300 meters above sea level, Caragan Valley is one of the highest settlements in Compostela Valley. Owing to its cool climate and inaccessibility, the area is known to be the source of the illegal drug marijuana being trafficked to cities, such as Tagum and Davao, and town centers, according to police sources.
But with the recent thrust of the local government to turn the area into a center for agriculture production, officials hoped Caragan Valley was slowly shedding that ugly connection.
The settlement area occupies some 4,464 ha and is composed of parts of Andap village, New Bataan, and Maragusan’s Barangay (village) Langgawisan and Bahi, according to Eduardo Suaybaguio, provincial agrarian reform officer. Including ancestral domain claimed by more than 95 percent of the settlement’s 5,000 inhabitants, Caragan Valley has a total area of about 12,000 ha, said Suaybaguio.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has funded a quarter of a billion pesos’ worth of projects, mostly farm-to-market roads, in Caragan as part of its sustainable agriculture programs, according to Suaybaguio, with the hope of transforming the far-flung community into a major agricultural hub in southern Mindanao.
“We are advocating organic rice farming in Caragan as the area is very viable, with the soil very rich and not too contaminated with chemical fertilizers, and local farmers still into the traditional way of rice cultivation,” Suaybaguio said.
The Jica-funded Mindanao Sustainable Agrarian and Agriculture Development project has a P110-million farm-to-market road with bridge component project in Caragan. The 20-kilometer road connects the town proper to Langgawisan and Bahi villages. It was started this year and was expected to be completed by 2016, said Suaybaguio.
“Once the road network is completed, Caragan Valley products can be transported easily to markets in Maragusan and other areas, thus considerably helping our farmers,” said Mayor Colina.
Aside from being the pilot area for rice and vegetable farming, the local government is also pushing for Caragan Valley to become the dairy capital of Compostela Valley, with the planned dispersal of some 400 milking cows to residents there before the year-end, said Colina.
He said high-value commercial crops, such as abaca, coffee and cacao, would also be planted there.
“An ordinance even was enacted to help strengthen Caragan Valley’s development and transformation as Compostela Valley’s agriculture capital,” the mayor said. Frinston L. Lim, Inquirer Mindanao
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