Wednesday, June 28, 2017
KUmikitang SAkahan (KUSA) Market Day Takes Off in Lipa

KUmikitang SAkahan (KUSA) Market Day Takes Off in Lipa

"Masaya po, naubos po kaagad, wala pang isang oras!" (We're happy, the vegetables were sold in less than an hour), thus says one of the participating farmers during the market day launch at the Lipa City Hall on September 5, 2014. This Market Day marks the first of what will now be a regular sight every Friday at the city hall, and is one of the local outlets for freshly-picked vegetables grown by soon-to-be farmer entrepreneurs under the KUmikitang SAkahan (Profitable Farming) Program.

The farmers beamed with genuine smiles as employees and guests of the City Hall swarmed over their produce even before the ribbon was cut by the Honorable Mayor's wife, Madam Bernadette P. Sabili. For about two hours, the lobby was transformed into a busy vegetable market, delighting not only the farmer participants but the people behind the effort: The officers and staff of the Lipa City Agriculture office, the Tuy Community Multi-purpose Cooperative (TCMPC) and the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC).  

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the KUmikitang SAkahan Program was signed amidst the typhoon Yolanda's strong winds and downpour on November 8, 2013, by NLDC President Gondelina G. Amata, Lipa City Mayor Meynardo A. Sabili, and TCMPC General Manager Roberto Matalog. The same farmers, who witnessed the signing then and had a rather lukewarm stance that this could just be one of those "ningas-cogon" programs, are now marketing their produce. 

Since then, site development support activities were conducted by NLDC for TCMPC to ensure the progress of the KUSA program. NLDC brought more than 50 farmers to Palayan, Nueva Ecija with the help of Alalay sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (ASKI) - another active program partner of NLDC in Central Luzon - to witness the agro-enterprise process and gather knowledge from experiences of farmer members under the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP). Other series of activities done with the help of NLDC are: profiling of KUSA farmer-members; agro-enterprise trainings focusing on choosing the correct site, on organizing farmer members, on the proper manner of computing expenses and income, on managing their lands so that the volume of crops needed will be fulfilled, on planning  and projection of production supply and on analyzing market chains. It also conducted experimental variety testing of crops for a prospective institutional buyer and organized visits to a variety of buyers like the Tanauan Trading post, Waltermart, SM, and Robinsons Lipa. All of these steps helped in establishing the 3 agro-enterprise sites in Barangays Latag, San Fransisco, and Lumbang in Lipa City.

The farmers were not spared from challenges, though. Typhoon Glenda affected the crops of the farmers right before the scheduled site-visit of a potential institutional buyer who supplies produce to the prisons. But no typhoon could stop the KUSA groups from continuing the project and their efforts paid off. Aside from the Market Day at the City Hall every Friday, a permanent space in the Lipa market is now being prepared for the farmers. This "bagsakan" will be Lipa locals' source of vegetables instead of Tanauan. Also, the EPSON Corporation, a local establishment with 13,000 employees and which generates significant volume of food refuse, has expressed intention to provide the vermicast (for organic fertilizer) needed by the KUSA farmers, starting December this year. In return, they will provide a steady supply of fresh produce for EPSON canteen. Lastly, NLDC has laid the groundwork for a stable relationship between TCMPC and the Mountaineers Trading, the commissary of a popular high-end food chain. The Research and Development Team of Mountaineers Trading has already approved the sample lettuce brought by the Lipa farmers. It even expressed readiness to sign a contract with the Lipa farmers as they need volume of deliveries on a weekly basis.

September 5 was indeed a significant day for these KUSA farmers, who woke up early to harvest their crops. Some even passed by the wet market earlier to check the prices of the vegetables as they promised to the Mayor  that pricing of commodities for the market day (which was based on computed cost) will be relatively lower. They sold all they brought with them. And as they descended the steps  of the lobby to the city outside -- with their faces bright, their pockets full, their physiques beaming with renewed energy -- thoughts of how near they are to the realization of their dream perhaps crossed their minds. Once again, the popular adage, "kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga" found its evidence.   





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