DairyConPhil head says dairying is good poverty antidote

Danilo V. Fausto, president of the Dairy Confederation of the Philippines (DairyConPhil), has declared that the local dairy industry has nowhere else to go but forward.

DairyConPhil is the umbrella organization of dairy farmers and other stakeholders in the industry who are members of 12 dairy federations and associations in various parts of the country.

He urged dairy farmers to expand their ventures in light of the growing demand for dairy products, not only in the country, but in other Southeast Asia countries as well.

Fausto, who is a successful dairy entrepreneur with vast experience in investment banking, has a thriving “Gatas ng Kalabaw” (Dairy Buffalo Milk) enterprise based in Talavera, Nueva Ecija. His products, which include fresh milk and flavored milk, are sold in a number of kiosks in big shopping malls in Metro Manila.

He emphasized that, aside from education, the answer to poverty–which is the highest in the agriculture sector–is dairy farming, with continuing government support for improving quality and marketability of local dairy products, guiding and developing the youth toward dairy farming,  and encouraging dairy farmers to usher their children to dairying.

“Dairy becomes the antidote to poverty in the countryside as it ensures daily cash flow for the farmers and their families. It likewise helps promote increased nutrition in the community, discourages migration to urban areas and generates jobs,” he explained.

“We can move forward together as we create value in each segment of the dairy chain,” Fausto added.

Carabaos are stars, too, in festivals

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) continues to move forward with its effort to upgrade the genetic potential of the Philippine swamp buffalo, which is the type commonly used for draft power, for better productivity in terms of producing milk and meat. In all these, however, PCC is also cognizant of the other facet of the carabao: a “star” in the Filipinos’ cultural heritage.

Annually, every 15th of May, for instance, local residents and tourists are regaled in different festivals by the presence of the mighty beast, which is presented as the center of attention and attraction.

Outside of this date, many other places in the country are also holding in honor of the carabao.
May 15, in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, is the feast day of San Isidro de Labrador (Saint Isidore the Laborer), who is considered as the patron saint of farmers.

In celebration of San Isidro de Labrador’s feast day, the farmers see to it that their major products as well as other agricultural by-products, distinctively or commonly produced in the host town, are showcased either in a parade and exhibits. Cottage industry products, too, are flaunted.

Many places in the country also showcase the carabao during their annual religious festivals, including Pulilan, Bulacan; Angono, Rizal; and Lucban, Quezon.

In Pulilan, “The Kneeling Carabao Festival” never fails to draw an influx of tourists due to the dramatic display of the carabao’s “talents”. This popular festival is a “show of religiosity” of the townsfolk which they apparently passed on to their carabaos. With the signal from their caretakers, the animals genuflect right in front of the church.

On the other hand, the San Isidro Festival in Angono is uniquely its own. Aside from a parade of
carabaos, pulling carts loaded with various farm products as their caretakers ride their backs, a showcase of the animal is done in an artful fashion—a parade of carabao’s replica in colorful paper-mâché
Another show of the arts is “Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival”, perhaps the most prestigious and the grandest of all San Isidro de Labrador festivals in the country, where the carabao is the main star of the event.

The colorful parade, which is usually dominated by pastel and bright colors, is interspersed with a tint of a different color—jet black or sometimes dark brown and albino. That “other color” is provided by a convoy of the best carabaos in town. Harnessed artistically to embellished carts loaded with farm products, the carabaos are ushered by their respective caretakers though the parade course.

At some anticipated moments in the long procession, some of the carabaos flaunt their talent in genuflecting, an act that never fails to stir further the already excited crowd.

Other carabao festivals on other dates, simply put the animal in the limelight of their localities’ annual fiestas as a tribute to and in recognition of the animal’s remarkable reliability as the farmer’s work buddy in the farm.

In central Philippines, such occasions can be witnessed in the “Torugpo Festival” in Carigara, Leyte; “Carabao-Carroza Festival” in Pavia, Iloilo; and “Katigbawan Festival” in Catigbian, Bohol. In the northern part of mainland Luzon, there’s the “Viva Vigan Festival of Arts” in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

The “Turogpo Festival”, another crowd-pleaser, is held every Black Saturday of the Lenten Season. It is a well-attended bull fighting event whose beginnings can be traced back to the 1600s as an entertaining way of protesting against the Spanish rule in the country.

Pavianhons in Iloilo, on the other hand, give the carabao a “day’s break” with their “Carabao-Carroza Festival”, which is now approaching its fourth decade of celebration. The event is a showcase of the Pavianhon’s ingenuity as they make use of local materials to decorate a carroza or sled harnessed to an equally dressed-up carabao.

Bohol province also prides itself as a premiere tourist destination. In Catigbian town, the annual
“Katigbawan Festival” has become a must-see event among local tourists. In this festivity, the
carabaos are hailed as “kings and queens”. They are dressed up with human garments and adorned with the most creative ornaments imaginable before they are paraded through the town. Some designers even opt to provide the animal a few props, like sunglasses and handbag, to complete the animal’s fabulous look.

Another artistic way of utilizing the carabao to illustrate the Filipinos’ deep love for their cultural heritage is the “Viva Vigan Festival of Arts” in Ilocos Sur. In this festival, the carabao’s whole body becomes a canvas for Ilocandia’s finest artists where they demonstrate their exceptional talent and impressive creativity in a competition. The results are masterpieces created out of genuine artistry.

The evolution of the simple thanksgiving festivals to big town events—with the carabao as a main feature–mirrors the very soul of the townspeople. They are a culture passed through generations that the residents want to perpetuate and which tourists, both local and foreign, are always raring to see.

Filipino dairy farmers: emerging contributors to the economy

Filipino dairy farmers are now in a position to raise their status from a seemingly lowly profession to being profoundly proud of their collective contribution to the economy, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala.

This development comes on the heels of various interventions being done to move the steadily growing dairy industry at a faster clip to boost productivity.

“Sa ating mga maggagatas, pwede na po tayong muling mangarap. Apat na taon na ang nakararaan ay nandito rin ako sa lugar na ito upang simulan ang isang makahulugang tunguhin at ito po ay ang pagsusulong ng Organic Agriculture Act. Sa lugar din pong ito, mangangarap tayong muli at manunumpang tutuparin ang pangarap na iyon (To our dairymen, we can dream again. Four years ago, I was in this same place to launch a new endeavor made possible with the Organic Agriculture Act. In this same place, we will start another dream and we vow to make that dream a reality),” he declared.

Secretary Alcala made the remarks in a keynote speech during the Dairy Congress and Expo held in Davao City on May 12-14. Farmers, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and other stakeholders in the dairy industry participated in this gathering, which has become an annual event starting in 2005.

Secretary Alcala emphasized that the smallholder dairy farmers’ dream to progress can only be realized through strengthened partnership between the government and the private sector.

He renewed his promise that he would be, at all times, conscious of the interests of farmers whose experiences are contributory to the determination of government policies affecting the agriculture sector.

“I will continue listening to our farmer folks. It is only through this means that progress can be felt more in the countryside,” Secretary Alcala said.

He added that when the farmers’ interests are considered in the government’s decision-making process, they will feel more involved and, thus, empowered.

In recognition of the important contribution of dairy farmers, Secretary Alcala gave the assurance that his administration will sustain the much-needed assistance to ensure the development of a more vibrant dairy industry.

Part of this sustained government assistance is the importation of selected animals as a means of beefing up the country’s dairy herd, which is one of the critical components of the local dairy industry.

Aside from herd build-up, the development of dairy-based enterprises, upholding assurance on milk quality and milk feeding for children will be pushed, he said.

Further, funds will be allocated for the creation of a buy-back program for island-born dairy cattle and carabao with proven performance to conserve the best quality genetics. A technical working group will be immediately formed for this purpose, he added.

The agriculture secretary revealed that genetic traceability is another direction that the dairy sector envisions to take.

He explained that a traceability system for livestock animals in the herd is an effective tool for ensuring protection of animal health, public health and food safety.

This is one of the important initiatives of the government to protect its foot and mouth (FMD) disease-free without vaccination status, he said.

In May this year, the Philippines was declared FMD-free without vaccination by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health during its 79th general session in Paris, France.

PH can now export livestock, pork products

Filipino livestock and hog raisers, and meat processors can now export ‘Pinoy’ livestock and pork products to the rest of the world, as the entire Philippines was recently certified free from the dreaded foot and mouth disease (FMD) without vaccination by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the OIE certification declaring the country’s remaining regions and provinces —collectively referred to as Zone 2—enables the Philippines to finally export, livestock and meat products, mainly pork, particularly to nearby ASEAN and Asia-Pacific regions,. As the country is likewise free from avian flu, the Philippines has been exporting poultry products, mostly to Japan.
He said negotiations are ongoing to export pork products to Singapore and Malaysia. Selected swine farms, abattoirs and meat processing establishments, initially in Mindanao, are being accredited by the Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).
The OIE certification was received on behalf of the Philippine government and Sec. Alcala by agriculture assistant secretary for livestock Davinio Catbagan on May 26, 2011, in Paris, France, during the 79th general session of the OIE held on May 22-27, 2011. The certificate was signed by OIE president Dr. Carlos A. Correa Messuti and director-general Bernard Vallat.
Catbagan said the country’s FMD-free status also augurs well for the domestic livestock industry, as livestock and swine raisers and meat processors can now freely transport and trade live animals as well as livestock and pork products within the country.
He said the free movement and transport will enhance productivity, particularly in improving, upgrading and increasing current livestock herd and swine population.
Zone 2 covers four regions (1, 3, 4-A, and NCR), particularly 12 provinces and 17 cities and towns in Metro Manila or NCR. The 12 provinces are Pangasinan (Region 1); Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, and Bataan (Region 3); and Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Region 4-A).
The other four zones of the country earlier declared and recognized by OIE as FMD-free without vaccination, were the following: Zones 1 and 3 on May 25, 2010; Visayas, Palawan and Masbate Zone in 2002; and Mindanao in 2001.

The four zones are: Zone 1 (North Luzon) – Cordillera Administrative Region – Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Baguio City, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mt. Province; Region 1 – Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and La Union; Region 2 – Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino; and Region 3 – Aurora; Zone 3 (South Luzon) – Region 4-B – Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro and Romblon; Region 5 – Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Sorsogon; Visayas Zone (all provinces in regions 6, 7, & 8), including Palawan and Masbate; and Mindanao Zone (all 6 regions and 29 provinces and islands). [DA Information Service]

San Agustin town pushes carabao-based enterprise development

For years, farmers in San Agustin town in Isabela regarded their crossbred carabaos as their “champion allies” in various farm works. Today, these animals are valued not only for their draft ability but more importantly as milk producers that provide cash flow and a sense of empowerment.

With the continuing combined efforts of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) and the local government unit (LGU) of San Agustin, which is about 232 kilometers northeast of the city of Manila, the town has shown the potential for development as a “CBED Model for Crossbred Buffaloes”. The CBED or the Carabao-based Enterprise Development program of PCC aims to develop and create sustainable dairy enterprises all over the Philippines, particularly in its identified impact zones.

San Agustin, led by Mayor Virgilio Padilla, has fully embraced the CBED concept. Consistent with this forward-looking vision, PCC mobilized a team to work on the envisioned dairy development program in the town. In August 2010, the San Agustin Project was able to establish the basic social infrastructures crucial in staging its transformation towards the desired CBED Model for Crossbred Buffaloes.

As a development strategy, PCC and the LGU identified 23 barangays where the concept of dairy enterprises development will be actualized, 12 of which have been determined as priority areas where dairy associations will be formed.

Currently, San Agustin has 13 existing organized dairy associations with a total of 380 active members. These are located in Barangays Dappig, Dabu bu Grande, Quimabalasa Norte, Mapalad, Masaya Sur, Palacian, Santos, San Antonio, Salay, Sinaoangan Sur, Sinaoangan Norte, Sto Niño, and Virgoneza.

In the latest inventory that showed 487 breedable crossbreds, 16 of these animals are lactating, 55 are pregnant, and 285 have been subjected to artificial insemination. In 2010, a total of 22,120 liters of milk were collected from 59 milking buffalo crossbreds.

The provincial government, through Governor Faustino Dy, has pledged a Php5 million- support fund for the dairy development program of San Agustin. The fund will be allocated for the establishment of milk barns, including milking machine, power supply, potable water system, forage nursery development, maintenance and other infrastructure. Six barangay clusters have been identified as sites for the milk barns that will cater to the milk collection requirement of dairy farmers.

The PCC, in coordination with other agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Department of Agriculture, maintains technical support for dairy management practices, genetic improvement and carabao-based enterprises development.

To date, the PCC-San Agustin team has been facilitating a capacity-building program for dairy associations, the LGU and other participating stakeholders. It also continues to build linkages and establish support system to ensure project sustainability.

A progress report of the team also shows that it conducts wide-scale estrus synchronization and AI services; nurtures village-based artificial insemination technicians (VBAITs) in the area toward privatization and activates bull handler participation in the carabao upgrading program; and popularizes proven and effective animal nutrition and other dairy-related technologies among crossbred owners to encourage them to engage in dairying.

Market linkages were also established in Cagayan and Isabela to ensure market stability of their milk produce.

Through a participatory process of project management, a clear direction and support from all project implementers and stakeholders, the dairy development program in San Agustin town is expected to prosper, ultimately ensuring sustainable carabao-based livelihood for its people.

Role of agri-tourism in national development cited

President Aquino is optimistic about the potentials of agri-tourism in the country, citing the availability of needed manpower and the innate hospitality of Filipinos.

The chief executive expressed his view in a message read for him by DA undersecretary for field operations Joel Rudinas at the start of the 1st International Agriculture and Tourism Expo (IATE) held June 20-July 2, 2011 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

“We are fortunate to have such a large pool of talented manpower in our population who have the ability to communicate in English and who are hospitable beyond measure. Perhaps that is the most important factor in the development of agri-tourism. Events, such as this exposition, serve as an apt venue to keep tab on industry prospects and trends and to craft strategies and forge partnerships that will give this niche market its much needed boost. This is indeed a good start,” the President said.

He stated that the parallel growth of agriculture and tourism is an appropriate and timely goal.

“We also look forward to our investors’ additional capital and initiatives in making agri-tourism truly an economically beneficial endeavor. I believe that their presence here today speaks for the commitment we all share towards the growth and development of the industry,” he added.

For his part, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, emphasized the significance of the three-day activity.

“This Agriculture and Tourism Expo is very significant. By addressing agriculture and tourism, they become two engine drivers that will help deliver the country to the road of economic development,” Pangilinan said.

“The challenge today is to continue to participate, mobilize and get involved in shaping our community. This Expo is an exhibit of participation and making a stand for progress and development in our country,” he stressed.

He added: “I am certain, optimistic and hopeful that with the continued support and partnership of private sector and government, we would be able to achieve development”.

The 1st IATE, which had for its theme “Improving Economy through Agriculture and Tourism”, focused on the highlighted a wide-array of agri-tourism programs of government agencies, local government units and private companies as well as related products. About 400 exhibitors took part in the event that also featured seminars and other public fora.

Major agencies, such as the DA, DOT, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) supported the event. They also pledged support for joint undertakings and other efforts to promote agri-tourism.

According to TESDA director general Joel J. Villanueva, the Philippine tourism campaign has been rated as the most improved in Asia with 14% annual growth rate, which is the highest in Southeast Asia.

“Imagine the potential for jobs creation economic development that the 7,107 islands of this country can bring. Our islands offer exciting diversity that can truly compete with other nations”, Villanueva said.

DOT Secretary Alberto Lim and Kenneth Dong, the event organizer and president of A-Linx Events, International,  signed a Memorandum of Understanding on March 31 this year that committed both parties to further work on the development of agri-tourism through the promotion of “adventures” in the countryside.

Currently, the country is sustaining 32 eco-tourism sites, including 27 protected areas that include the Tubbataha reef, a national marine park in Palawan.

PCC scientist is NAST 2011 OYS awardee

Dr. Claro N. Mingala, a scientist of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), was recently adjudged as one of the “2011 Outstanding Young Scientist” awardees.

The Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) award is given to young Filipino scientists who make significant contributions to science and technology. The award is a brainchild of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), the country’s premier recognition and advisory body on S&T under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Mingala was selected based on his “exceptional ability to undertake scientific research as evidenced by his papers published in reputable scientific journals”. His selection was based on the quality and number of his scientific works and publications, his contributions to the advancement of science in general and science in the Philippines, in particular, and his contributions in the well-being of the Philippine economy and culture.

Dr. Libertado C. Cruz, PCC executive director, nominated Mingala for the award. In his nomination paper, In his nomination pape, Cruz declared: “The studies of Dr. Claro Mingala, which mainly concern on the immunology of water buffaloes, are some of the only few studies conducted across the world. These studies are indeed very important not only as baseline information with regards to water buffalo immunology but also in the development of DNA-based technologies in producing vaccine, diagnostic tools, and therapeutic agents.”

“The identification of genetic factors, which influence disease resistance and susceptibility, may lead to development and wise formulation of effective disease prevention and control strategies to increase production and propagation of water buffaloes,” the PCC head added.
Mingala’s research interest focuses on the development of gene-based diagnostic tools and analysis of the immune response to various stimuli leading to DNA vaccine production. His other research works dwelt on infectious diseases, specifically on molecular immunology, virology and epidemiology.

His NAST award was in the field of infectious diseases.

Mingala received a trophy and cash prize during the awarding rites held on July 14, 2011 at the Manila Hotel. He is also entitled to a research grant, subject to approval from DOST.

Aside from the OYS recognition given to 12 qualified nominees, other awards given by NAST include the TWAS (Third World Academy of Sciences) prize for young scientists in the Philippines, NAST Talent search for Young Scientist, Outstanding Scientific Paper, Outstanding Book and/or Monograph, pro Scientia Transformatix award, NAST-Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science award, and NAST-LELEDFI award for outstanding research in tropical medicine.

The OYS award was instituted in 1980 by the National Science Development Board (NSDB) to recognize scientists, who are below 40 years of age, for their outstanding contribution in their fields of specialization. Since it was first implemented, the NAST has been the screening and selection body for this award. In 1982, the OYS award became part of the recognition awards given by NAST.

Since its launching, a total of 252 scientists have been given awards in various fields of science.

A Department of Agriculture-fellow scientist, Mingala is currently working on “Genotyping and molecular characterization of NRAMP1/-2 genes as location of markers for resistance and/or susceptibility to Mycobacterium bovis in swamp and riverine water buffaloes” under the DA-Biotech Research Fellowship of the Applied Agri-Biotech Research.

The study aims to identify genetic markers that will correlate with resistance or susceptibility to pathogenic infection in buffaloes particularly of Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of tuberculosis in cattle.

Earlier, Mingala received the “2010 Outstanding Veterinarian in Government Service” given by the Philippine Veterinary Medical Association. He was likewise cited by the Central Luzon Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (CLARRDEC) for exemplary performance in R&D.