Cashew and cow, anyone?
By Likha Cuevas
Bar Today- april-june 2002
It started out as a forested area. Then farmers slashed and burned the trees to make way for rice and corn. Later came soil erosion. This was the situation in Barangay Luzviminda, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan where the land is slightly undulating and hilly. In 1988, the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries in Brgy. Luzviminda received an average of one to two hectares of land. These farmers’ main crops were rice and corn and practiced one cropping per year. In 1994, the Department of Agriculture Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (STIARC) conducted a Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) and found that there was serious soil erosion brought about by continuous cropping. Even though these farmers knew that erosion was a problem, they were not receptive to the idea of contour farming to lessen soil erosion. The farmers thought that planting permanent crops and hedges along contour lines lessened their area for crop production. Farmers were not also applying fertilizers to their crops.
To solve this problem, Ms Librada L. Fuertes of DA-ROS Palawan headed a project that integrated crop and livestock to help increase farm productivity and profitability of hilly-land areas.
Four farmer-cooperators trained on contour farming, cattle production, compost-making, and cashew production. Each farmer devoted 0.25 ha of his farmland to this experimental cropping system. After establishing the contour lines of the hilly farmlands, they planted napier grass (Pennisetum Purpureum) and ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) as contour vegetative barrier (used in terracing) for erosion control. Napier grass also served as fodder for the cattle that provided the farmers with extra source of income (milk production) while ipil-ipil served as a source of organic fertilizer.
The farmers planted cashew (Anacardium occidentale) as a permanent crop to control soil erosion while glutinous green corn and mungbean were planted in rotation between the contour lines known as ‘strips’. Aside from providing the farmers with a source of income, mungbean enriches the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and it is easily cultivated. Organic fertilizer from corn stover and hedge trimmings was applied on the corn and the mungbean.
After establishing the napier grass and ipil-ipil, the DA-Livestock Resource Center (DA-LRC) provided each farmer-cooperator with a Brahman heifer, which was more than a year old. It was stipulated in the contract between DA-LRC and the farmers that the farmers will retain the mother cow while the offspring will be returned to DA-LRC to be given to other farmers who would adopt the new farming system. The cattle served as a ‘come-on’ for farmers to plant the napier grass.
In 1995, the farmers earned a net of P20,708.34 from this experimental cropping system even without an income from cashew compared to a net of only P6,780 from yellow corn by using their own (old) cropping system. Napier grass (about 60%) and partial grazing supported the cattle. Two other farmers not in the program adopted the new farming system.
From 1996-1999, many farmers in the barangay adopted the crop-livestock farming system, devoting 0.25 to 1 ha of their farmlands. There were some who expanded their cashew plantation, adding 1 to 2.7 ha. The farmers earned a net of P53,959 in 1997 from cashew, mungbean-green corn, and cattle while the yellow corn only earned them P22,150. The number of cattle grew from six to 35 from 1996-2001. This increase in Brahman cattle would help upgrade the native cattle in Brgy. Luzviminda. The number of cashew trees grew from 44 in 1994 to 1,870 in 2000. The cashew weighed 13.54 g per nut during its initial harvest in 1997 and the average production per tree was 1.63 kg, which was sold at P50.00/kg.
In 1995, the recommended fertilizers for mungbean were ammonium phosphate, super phosphate, and muriate of potash. The total cost for these fertilizers was P2,285.00. With soil analysis in 1998, soil improvement was noted. There was no more need to apply inorganic fertilizers as soil fertility improved with the application of organic fertilizer. This was good for farmers who need not spend that amount of money on fertilizers. The farmers also planned to generate income by making organic fertilizer from napier grass to sell.
Terraces were formed to control the erosion with the help of the hedges, however, there was no technical verification done on the site to measure the amount of soil erosion. According to a study on the management and rehabilitation of degraded hilly land areas conducted in Mabini, Batangas, 19 tons of soil per hectare annually can be lost without preventive measures, like contour farming.
Due to the social acceptability and success of the introduced farming system, the project is intended to be replicated in different communities. The farmers involved in the study formed an association and they are now producing seeds for cashew expansion in Region X.
“This is one of the successful dispersal programs of the DA,” said the assistant agriculturist from the Office of the City Agriculturist, Puerto Princesa. Truly, adoption of this crop-livestock system proved to be beneficial to the farmers and to the environment.
Just imagine what cashew, green corn, mungbean, and a couple of cows can do.
Reference: Fuertes, L.L. Hillyland Farming with Cashew + (Green Corn Mungbean) + Cattle in Luzviminda, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. 2001. For more information, contact the Palawan Agricultural Experiment Station, Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.