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 NiƱo, 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.