DA starts agro-forestry program in Agusan

By Louise Maureen Simeon

MANILA, Philippines -  The Department of Agriculture (DA) is jumpstarting an agro-forestry program in Agusan del Sur as part of efforts to increase farmers’ income and contribute in environmental protection.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Agusan del Sur will serve as the pilot area where farmers could plant falcata trees.

“We have to encourage farmers to plant more trees. Through this program we will not only protect watershed areas but we will provide farmers a source of income,” Piñol said.

Known to grow quickly, falcata and its lumber are lightweight with good resistance to water and oil and have high temperature durability.

Falcata trees are ideal raw materials for making wooden matches, wooden pallets and boxes for food and agricultural produces. They are also used as core material for furniture, boards, and kitchen cabinets, among others.

Piñol will also meet with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to allow farmers to plant trees commercially in DENR-designated reforestation areas.

He said organized farmers could use credit from the DA’s Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program to purchase seeds from accredited nursery operators.

He ordered DA’s regional office to determine the farmers’ group that would be tapped to assist farmers and fisherfolk in preparing the required documents for the loaning program.

“Farmers could loan a maximum of P25,000 per hectare and we would like agro-forestry to be included as an agricultural activity,” Piñol said.

“Agusan del Sur will also benefit from the success of the program especially in areas prone to flooding,” he added.

The loan program is also the proposed flagship lending program of the DA with a P50-billion allocation for next year’s budget.

It will be implemented by the Agriculture Credit Policy Council, DA’s attached agency which handles the agency’s nationwide lending programs.

Piñol said those who will avail the loan will be automatically covered by crop insurance under the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. and the premium will be deducted from his loan proceeds.

Before the implementation of the lending program, farmers and fishermen will be properly identified and their areas properly marked through geo-tagging.

After the verification, all information will be placed in a computer database and issued identification cards complete with biometrics and passbooks.

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