The small Leyte town of Inopacan is set to become a national model for 'food secure,' 'ridge-to-reef' ecosystem-based rural dev-elopment under a program developed by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
Inopacan is a third-class municipality with a population of about 20,000.
SEARCA explained that instead of identifying development sites based on political classification, the project would develop Inopacan from farm areas to forests and water bodies.
"The project will focus more on the agro-ecological systems of a potential project site. It will be delineated based on pre-determined ecosystem using the ridge-to-reef approach or landscape continuum," SEARCA said The ecosystem-based concept follows SEARCA's model called "Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development," or ISARD.
ISARD aims that projects in poverty-stricken areas should enable the poorest of the poor in rural areas get out of poverty, SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. explained. At the same time, these communities should contribute to conserving the environment.
The ISARD project in Leyte is being carried out in partnership with the Visayas State University, Visayas Consortium for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Program (ViCAARP), and Inopacan's local government unit.
The "ridge to reef" model improves the chances of success of a poverty alleviation project as communities may be easily tapped for partnerships, SEARCA said.
The close proximity of factors of production (labor and raw materials, machines, land, and management) helps to maximize the use of all agricultural, rainforest, and fishery resources, the research center explained.
Under the ridge to reef concept, LGU-partners are tapped when these are around a "watershed or micro watershed, lake ecosystem including its tributaries." The concept also determines choice of beneficiaries based on landscape ecologies of upland, lowland, coastal and marine ecosystems including ecotones, or areas of transition between two different ecosystems.
Demonstration farms were started in Inopacan in the last quarter of 2016, including a vegetable farm, a tilapia fishpond, and two jackfruit farms. The vegetable plot of 1,000 square meters was planted with okra, alukbati, and eggplant.
A low-cost protective cover technology developed by an Australian Center for International Agricultural Research-funded project was applied in order to protect the plants from the continuous rain that is prevalent in the area.
The fishponds should steadily increase the income of Inopacan residents, SEARCA said.
"The tilapia fishponds were built in sequence along a stream where crystal clear water flowed from a nearby spring. Fingerlings were introduced from a hatchery project of the VSU supported by the district representative Cong. Jose Carlos Cari," reported Prof. Rolando T. Bello, ISARD coordinator.
Since good drainage is needed for the excellent production of jackfruit, the jackfruit demonstration farms were placed on sloping areas with increased elevation to allow for good drainage.
Livestock such as hogs, native chickens, ducks, and goats are also being raised as part of the program.
SEARCA is anticipating helping to expand the market for Inopacan jackfruit, since there is increased demand for processed jackfruit or "langka" from the nearby Leyte town of Baybay, SEARCA said.
VSU earlier entered into agreements that would expand jackfruit markets, signing memoranda of agreement with Technomart, Baybay City Vacuum Fried Jackfruit Processors (BCV-FJP), and the Green Meadows Dehydrated Jackfruit Processor (GM-DJP) to enable commercialization of jackfruit technology (vacuum fried and dehydrated jackruit).
The MOA allows BCV-FJP and GM-DJP to use VSU's technologies in processing of vacuum fried and dehydrated jackfruit.
Banana products are also eyed as an additional income for the community, with a project to develop fried banana chip production.
Climate change adaptation
After the destruction in Leyte due to Typhoon Yolanda, the SEARCA project is applying climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in Inopacan. Planting of rainforest dipterocarp trees and other native tree species have started in order to arrest soil erosion and prevent natural disasters.
"This is part of SEARCA's contribution to the post-Yolanda rehabilitation efforts in Leyte. A rainforestation project will be implemented in the upland grassland areas. Targeted areas are the upland grassland of Brgy. Linao for rainforestation, and Brgy. Cabulisan for expanded vegetable production," SEARCA said.