BROOKE’S POINT, Palawan – Tatay Beno and Nanay Narita of Barangay Saraza carefully dug up the purple yam from the soil to make sure it did not break.
It was their first “kinampay” harvest under a livelihood project supported by the USAID-funded Protect Wildlife program for partner-farmers living in the surrounding communities of the Mt. Mantalingahan protected landscape.
Tatay Beno Benga, 60, is a “panglima” tribal leader of the “Samahan ng mga Katutubong Nagpapahalaga sa Kagubatan”. He juggles his work as a farmer and being a “judge” for his tribe. Every Friday, he goes down from his house and walks 30 minutes to 1 hour to reach their tribal house.
He said he now dreams of having a productive farm on the upper part of Mt. Mantalingahan planted mostly by ube yam.
Under the project, their produce is directly sold at a fair price to Sunlight Foods Corp. (SFC), a company that is also part of the project that helps them by providing free seedlings and support.
Nanay Narita, 48, admitted they were initially hesitant to join the project, concerned about the time required of them.
“Hindi na sana kami sasali dito, kasi hindi na namin maharap dahil meron din kami sa bahay namin. Malayo pa ang inuuwian namin,” she said.
But Tatay Beno was persistent. “Kung para sa akin lang, sa una pa lang sabi ko sige, magtanim tayo para makita natin kung anong kagandahan dyan. At ‘yon pala tayo ang magkita-kita sa bandang huli, habang naghuhukay kami. Masaya pala,” he said.
The project’s maiden harvest proved to be a cause for celebration for those involved, particularly the farmers, who were amazed at the encouraging result the saw.
“Excited na kami i-model ang mga ube namin,” said one farmer as she bragged about the large ube yam they had harvested, including one which weighed 8 kilos.
“Napakaganda ng proyektong ito kasi nakakatulong, ‘yong hindi namin alam, nalalaman namin ‘yong mga prosesong dapat ikasusulong ng mga magsasaka.” Nanay Liza said.
The association said that for the next planting, they will prepare a 1-hectare land to plant aside from their own backyards and their communal demo farm since a lot of the village folks are interested in joining the next season.