Up close: Dragon fruit lady of the north, Australian Trade Minister appoints Faylon as ACIAR-PAC member and Bito Watershed at risk, study shows
Posted on January 12th By Danzelle A. Del Valle, Pia Paula P. Mateo, Niño Antonio P. Villalino and Wolfreda T. Alesna, VSU-DDC/VICARP S&T Media Service
Ilocos Norte – Edita Dacuycuy only wants the best for her daughter Kate who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. In her quest to solve her daughter’s perennial constipation, she discovered a solution that brought her light and wealth — the red and scaly dragon cactus plant more commonly called dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus).
Locally known as “saniata”, which means light and wealth, the fruit has eased her daughter’s problem and brought life to her town’s economy.
Dacuycuy, a psychology graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and former division manager of an insurance company, first ventured on dragon fruit production all because of her daughter’s constipation problem. Later, realizing the dragon fruit’s economic and other health benefits, she decided to expand her backyard production.
Not having any background in agriculture, she sent another daughter to Thailand to further study the production of dragon fruit. Upon the return of her daughter, she started her full scale production of dragon fruit.
Now, Dacuycuy has developed almost 10 ha of dragon fruit plantation in Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, which she named Rare Eagles Forest Marine and Agricultural Development or REFMAD Farms. The farm has become a show window for dragon fruit production in the north, providing employment and livelihood to Dacuycuy’s relatives and to the community as well.
In addition, Dacuycuy developed several dragon fruit-based recipes and products such as soap, wine, jam, pastries, and others.
Opportunities, rewards, and awards
In December 2008, Dacuycuy was selected as Magsasaka Siyentista in the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development’s (PCAARRD) Science and Technology-based Farm Project on organic dragon fruit production. She is being assisted by the Ilocos Norte Office of the Provincial Agriculture – Farmers’ Information and Technology Services Center and the Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILARRDEC), one of the 14 regional research and development consortia of PCAARRD.
Today, she is known as the “Dragon fruit lady of the north” enjoying the fruits of her labor. Her dragon fruits have reached the markets of nearby provinces and Manila.
With the support of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte and ILARRDEC, her REFMAD Farms is also being promoted as an agri-tourism spot. During the recently concluded first-ever dragon fruit festival, Dacuycuy and REFMAD Farms were the foci of PCAARRD’s Technology to the People (T2P) media conference.
Dacuycuy’s participation in T2P gave her some exposure on local and national radio, TV, and print media.
Dacuycuy’s efforts as dragon fruit planter also garnered her some national awards. Most recent of these were the Rural Women of 2010 and the Department of Agriculture’s 2010 National Gawad Saka Award.
Meanwhile, Dacuycuy continues her community work by promoting dragon fruit production in Ilocos Norte through demos and lectures in schools, and to interested individuals, groups, and fellow farmers. She also leads the Kailukuan Saniata Cooperative, the cooperative of dragon fruit planters in Ilocos Norte.
On top of all these, she attends to her family’s needs most especially to Kate, the inspiration that led to her successful dragon fruit production.
The Australian Minister of Trade has reappointed Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) Executive Director Patricio S. Faylon as a member of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research’s (ACIAR) Policy Advisory Council (PAC) on August 22.
In an official letter sent to Faylon, Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson emphasized the importance of the Philippines, through PCAARRD, as a partner of ACIAR in achieving its goals on agricultural development. He also highlighted that the collaboration benefits the PAC especially in terms of PCAARRD’s contribution in livestock research, and management of agricultural research locally and internationally.
PAC fulfills a key role in the planning and implementation of ACIAR’s programs. It is the body from which the Minister of Trade seeks advice on the agricultural challenges of developing countries like the Philippines, and on policies and programs for agricultural research aimed at effectively addressing these challenges.
Faylon’s appointment as a PAC member will be effective until 2014. It is his fourth term. As a preliminary activity, he will attend the ACIAR-PAC meeting, as well as the combined PAC-Commission meeting on September 19-20.
Like most of the country’s natural resources, the Bito Watershed, which is located along the so-called Leyte Cordillera is facing serious threats due to physical and man-made factors.
An assessment of the vulnerability of the watershed conducted from 2009 to 2010 showed that it is highly vulnerable to flooding and landslide. This is because the soil in the area is more of andesitic (dark grayish rock like that of Mt. Andes) and basaltic (a dark gray to black dense to fine-grained igneous rock) composition.
Forester Edilberto E. Nasayao, Regional Technical Director (RTD) for Research of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Ecosystems Research and Development Service in Region 8, together with Emma M. Germano and Severino A. Lacandazo, Jr. conducted the study.
The researchers identified 10 types of soil, which they labeled from A to G. Of these types, G is the most dominant occupying 45.97% of the land area. This soil type has a steep slope which explains the presence of many streams caused by high volume and velocity of excess water. On the other hand, soil A is at risk of erosion because of its steep slope. It is also dry. Therefore, once plants on these soils are removed, landslides would eventually happen.
Another factor that could trigger landslide and flooding is the topography of the area. More than 50% of the area is steep slope.
Climate also plays a role. The northern part of Leyte falls under Climatic Type II which means that rain is evenly distributed throughout the year. According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or PAG-ASA, the average rainfall per month from Calendar Year 1997 to 2007 was 2,512 mm. This is lower than the 4,100 mm rainfall per month 15 years ago. Excessive rainfall due to typhoons can cause water upsurge and flooding.
The Bito Watershed is also located in the eastern portion of the Sinistral (left-inclined) Philippine Fault, a major continental fault that bisects Leyte. This means that earthquake could affect the watershed anytime.
The Bito Watershed has been the source of income and water of five municipalities in Leyte. It has an area of 14,706.55 ha categorized as timber and agricultural lands, sprawling across the municipalities of Javier, MacArthur, Abuyog, Mahaplag, and Baybay. Of the aforementioned area, the biggest portion is timberland, which occupies 9,032.70 ha. The cultivated and grassland area is only 4,132.70 ha. The rest are forested and alienable (habitable and can be or are already titled) areas.
Considering the physical factors that could trigger flooding and landslide in the area, all harmful activities at the Bito Watershed should be avoided before it is too late, RTD Nasayao recommended. An ordinance needs to be passed banning all mining activities in the area to protect the whole population living around the watershed. The local government units of the five municipalities that share the Bito Watershed are therefore called to action.
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