A Pala'wan lady farmer tying thin bamboo (buho) stalks together to support crops in a USAID-suppoted demo farm in Bataraza town, southern Palawan. (Photo courtesy of USAID Protect Wildlife Project)

A multi-purpose farm shed that can be used as a storage area for tools and crops by members of a Pala’wan indigenous people (IP) farmers association in Bataraza, will be inaugurated next week by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Protect Wildlife Project.

Lawrence San Diego, communications manager of the USAID Protect Wildlife Project, said Friday that the event will be on February 13.

He said the multi-purpose farm shed is where around 40 members of the Kusor Upland Farmers Association (KUFA) can store their farm tools, seedlings, crops, fertilizers, and other implements.

Kusor is a sitio or territorial enclave that forms part of Inugbong in the southern Palawan town of Bataraza.

“It’s a multi-purpose farm shed. USAID provided the farm shed for the KUFA so they can have a storage area for their farm tools, seedlings, fertilizers, and other farm implements. It also doubles as a community meeting space for the group,” San Diego said.

The structure is made of concrete, he said, and is fully supported by the USAID under the Protect Wildlife.

San Diego said funding the farm shed falls under their bigger sustainable livelihood program for southern Palawan communities, where they work with the local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and private sector partners.

“Protect Wildlife, with our NGO partner Lutheran World Relief, started a one-hectare demo farm a year ago for planting cassava and other vegetables for members of Kusor. It just came up as a need na kailangan ng place for the farmers to store their tools and planting materials. This inauguration comes at a right time when Kusor members will also begin harvesting their cassava,” he added.

Under Protect Wildlife, he said the focus is to promote better and sustainable farming practices, particularly for upland IP communities that are farming in or near forests and the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).

Aside from improving the KUFA’s farming of their usual crops, he said they are also introducing to them high-value crops, such as cassava and the tuberous purple yam popularly called as “ube.”

“The project hopes that with this livelihood approach, upland communities will practice sustainable and environmentally-conscious agriculture that puts less strain on forests and other natural resources,” San Diego pointed out.

After the inauguration of the multi-purpose farm shed, some IP farmers will proceed to do the demo training for the propagation of the ube crop.

“Ube propagation training po ang mangyayari sa 13 afternoon. Our partner for the ube is Sunlight Foods Corporation. They’re an ube processor and supplier of ube products from Manila,” he said.

Bataraza is the pilot area of the project, San Diego said, stating they will also set up demo farms in the four Mantalingahan LGUs of Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point, Quezon, and Rizal.