This is a great idea to develop a new industry to build a new countryside damaged by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The Philippine does not have a dairy industry to support its needs. The people is the areas proposed need a sustainable means of livelihood to get out and start life anew after the damage caused by the typhoon. And one of the hidden benefits is you reduce the level of high poverty present in these areas. Let’s see how we can support this initiative.
From BusinessWorld Philippines
October 06, 2014
‘Milking’ the Yolanda situation
ELEVEN MONTHS AFTER typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), many of the foreign groups that helped in relief operations have gone back to their countries or are winding down.
The next phase is rehabilitation and rebuilding. This is the bigger challenge and will take some years to accomplish. The government body tasked with the rehabilitation has finally submitted a plan on what needs to be done, although it still needs final approval. It was reported that P170.9 billion is needed. With the rehabilitation phase ongoing, I hope we take advantage of this time to really figure out what it takes to develop (not just rebuild) Region VIII.
Prior to Yolanda, this region that is home to six provinces on the islands of Biliran, Leyte and Samar is the second poorest in the country. Poverty is a major reason the New People’s Army (NPA) is still strong in the region. Since Yolanda, poverty in the region definitely has worsened. A lot more needs to be done than just rehabilitation and rebuilding. It’s not just a question of putting back what was there before.
The big challenge for all, not just the government but also foreign aid groups, NGOs and the business sector, is how to develop this region that I refer to as BILESA. BIliran, LEyte and SAmar are the major islands comprising the region.
What industry can be developed to generate income for the people given the natural resource endowments of this region? I mentioned industry, not industries, to give focus on talent and resources for a possible big winner.
Coconut is a major product of BILESA, and as we have seen all over the Philippines, areas dependent on coconut are poor. Likewise, rice and fishing, the other major industries in the region, definitely are not poverty-busting industries.
Last summer, I went to Tacloban, my third visit since Yolanda. On the plane, my thoughts then were focused on how we can provide forage to our farm animals in our MFI Farm Business School in Jala-Jala, Rizal. Grass was not growing because of lack of water; ground was even cracking because of the heat. When the plane was over the island of Leyte, I peered out the window and saw that the mountains and plains were green. This was a stark contrast to Luzon and the other parts of the country that were just brown.
Bingo! Why not promote the dairy industry in BILESA? The country imports close to 98% of our milk and milk product requirements annually and this runs to several billions of pesos that we pay dairy farmers in New Zealand, the United States, and other parts of the world.
Can this be done in a tropical country? That was the question asked in Thailand before. Now, they produce a good part of their domestic requirements. Genetics, feed technology, and good cultural practices have proven that dairy farming is not the exclusive domain of temperate countries.
Here in the Philippines, I have visited dairy farms in Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, and Isabela. Milk can be produced in these areas and farmers make good money! By the way, with only one exception (owned by a corporation), these farms are owned and operated as family farms or as a cooperative. I think we have enough experience and expertise, such that dairy farming can now be promoted as an industry in the country. Given the resources that can be marshaled, why not start it in BILESA?
With a lot of money being poured into the rehabilitation program, a serious plan should be made by the government and private groups to make dairy farming an industry in BILESA. This should lead later on to a dairy industry with all the support facilities made available, like chillers and milk processing plants serving a cluster of barangays.
One model that can be looked into is the project of Heifer International, an NGO based in the US but with operations in the country. In their program, farming families attend seminars, after which they are given animals (cows, carabaos or goats) that are already pregnant. In these seminars, prospective beneficiaries are given values formation and how to take care of the animals.
The other model is what the Philippine Dairy Authority is doing. I have visited their farmer cooperators in Lipa. They have their own milk storage facility right in the barangay, and the buyer (a cooperative that has a dairy processing facility) picks up the milk that is chilled on a regular basis.
A cooperative in Quezon supplies fresh milk to known coffee shops, and dairy farming is done as a coconut “intercrop.” The free range cows “grown” under coconut trees provide free fertilizers and make the coconuts more productive. It’s also a good example of a coconut farming system that earns farmers much more than just the copra.
I truly believe, because I have seen them, that the dairy (cows, carabaos and goats) can be a poverty-busting industry if given proper support in BILESA. It might just be the answer to eradicating poverty in that region. This will also save the country billions of pesos spent importing milk and other dairy products.
Leyte and Samar today still have the most active NPA-influenced areas. Maybe with the introduction of a white revolution (the dairy industry), it may also save a lot of lives lost due to the red revolution.
Jose Rene C. Gayo is a member of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee and project manager of MAP’s Farm Business Schools project. He is also dean of the MFI Farm Business School.
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