A livelihood project involving local communities around the protected area of Mt. Mantalingahan in Southern Palawan started harvesting this week an estimated 10,000 kilos of purple ube or “kinampay”.
The project, supported by USAID’s Protect Wildlife, local governments, and a private company Sunlight Foods Corp. (SFC) is aimed at increasing farmers’ income in support of the protected area’s conservation.
The harvesting from the farms located in Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Española, and Bataraza began with a Pala’wan tribal ritual called “Ungsod” held on January 21.
The project’s stakeholders considered the successful harvest as a milestone in the effort to preserve and protect Mt. Mantalingahan or the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).
It started as a demo farm located in three municipalities, with the project’s institutional partners providing the planting materials, tools and agriculture training for the local farmers.
As part of the arrangement, the produce from the farms will be bought and acquired by SFC.
Mayor Jean Feliciano of Brooke’s Point said she was encouraged by the successful maiden harvest and plans to expand the effort to other communities.
“Ibibigay namin [LGU] lahat nang pwede naming maitulong para mag-succeed and programa na ito, kasi sustainable siya, ma-engganyo [na] namin ang mga katutubo sa kabundukan na bumaba na kayo dito na kayo magtanim, hindi na kayo mamomoroblema, wala nang mang-aabuso sa kanila, dahil di sila marunong sumulat o bumasa, pero ngayon ay maganda iyong presyo, iyon ang pinakamahalaga sa kanila,” Feliciano said.
Under the project, five demo farms from the three different municipalities had been developed for the planting of the crop. Its produce is being sold to SFC for P15 per kilo which is higher than local market prices.
Tribal leader Beno “Panglima” Benga expressed the local communities’ gratitude for the project, stating its contribution to providing local income.
“Nagpapasalamat ako at sana ay magtuloy-tuloy itong proyektong ito para pandagdag sa aming kabuhayan, nagpapasalamat din ako sa mga bumubuo ng proyekto, sa nagbigay ng libreng semilya ng ube upang maitanim namin” Binga, leader of the Samahan ng mga Katutubong Nagpapahalaga sa Kagubatan located at Sitio Tabud, Barangay Saraza, Brooke’s Point, said.
The partner-farmers started planting the ube in April 2019 and was continuously monitored by the field staff of Protect Wildlife and the SFC for technical support.
SFC provided 190 kilos of free ube seedlings to the 5 demo farms totaling 950 kilos.
Sheila Latawan, 30 years old, member of Bulalacao Community Based Wildlife and Environment Protection Association in Barangay Bulalacao, Bataraza, said that it wasn’t easy for them, especially for the whole group since it was the first time that they will plant the ube using the methods that they were taught.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Protect Wildlife dahil nagkaroon kami nang ganitong samahan o livelihood. Dahil sa kanila [Protect Wildlife] natutunan namin na may mga paraan pa pala ang pagtatanim ng ube, hindi tulad noon sa amin na basta na lang itanim tapos pabayaan na lang, hindi tulad dito na may mga proseso pa pala,” she said.
She also said that through Protect Wildlife, they were able to witness the growth of the environment, she said that they are seeing those wild animals again around their lands.