FARMERS in Zamboanga City and the peninsula region stand to increase their farm income from planting cassava and jatropha, known locally as tangan-tangan, with assistance from the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU).
The university has received from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) a P2-million grant to support and promote the planting of jatropha in line with the national government’s search for alternative sources of fuel, WMSU President Dr. Eldigarion Gonzales said. The fund will be used to research on the best sites for massive jatropha planting and to set up seedling nurseries, Dr. Gonzales told farmers and other sectoral leaders during a symposium last Monday at the university gymnasium.
German experts have discovered the plant to be a rich source of oil that be processed into bio-diesel and serve as an alternative source of energy. A local company, the Philippine Forest Corporation, has entered into agreement with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), of which Dr. Gonzales is president, to spearhead the massive planting of the perennial, drought-resistant crop throughout the country, he said. The corporation will purchase dried japtropha seeds at P8 per kilo.
Monday’s forum in WMSU was part of the initial two-day centennial celebration of the institution as well as to mark the 9th year of Dr. Gonzales’ appointment as president.
In the other forum presentation, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) agribusiness head Dr. William Delos Santos assured local farmers that his company will purchase their cassava harvests at contracted floor price.
Cassava, he said, is used by SMC in various food and non-food products, from snacks to animal feeds to the making of liquor. He said that although already some 34,000 hectares are planted to cassava in the Philippines, SMC needs at least 300,000 hectares more to meet its production requirements. Zamboanga Del Sur is planted 3,000 hectares and is known as the cassava capital of the Philippines; Zamboanga del Norte has 1,000 hectares, Dr. Delos Santos disclosed.
Dr. Gonzales said WMSU, which has a College of Agriculture and a College of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, will form a group composed of agriculturists and business experts to facilitate the cultivation of cassava by local farmers.
He emphasized that Western Mindanao has to strengthen its agricultural base to serve as foundation for economic modernization and industrialization. By promoting local agriculture and agri-business, he said, WMSU will also help marginalized rural farmers to boost their incomes and, therefore, alleviate poverty in the countryside. He said such interventions are part of WMSU’s mandate and concretizes his administration motto of “La Universidad Para La Communidad.” (Rey-Luis Banagudos – PAO/WMSU)