Because of the challenges everyone is facing right now, farmers or not, the best solution is to become resourceful, creative, and practical.
In agriculture, as the food-producing sector, there are lots of opportunities.
Looking at the Philippine agriculture, the major crops produced are rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane, banana, cassava, pineapple, and vegetables. But do you know that there is an emerging crop that has a lot of potentials? The cacao. Hence, the 2016-2022 Philippine Cacao Industry Roadmap, anchored on the Value Chain Approach and aligned with the 2022 Cacao Challenge (specifically to produce 100,000 MT of dried fermented beans by 2022).
Cacao may contribute to poverty alleviation and inclusive growth through livelihood and job generation in regions like Davao, Bicol, Quezon Province, and Nueva Ecija. This is because cacao production only requires small start-up capital. The most valued advantages of cacao as a high-value crop are the suitability of cacao as an intercrop for coconut and banana, the two-week harvest interval, and the early gestation period of 18 months. Also, the early return of investments and the high profitability of cacao products ensure good income augmentation potentials. Most importantly, the industry is market-driven considering that cacao has no product substitute (2016-2022 Philippine Cacao Industry Roadmap).
Now, the question is,
“Where to start?”
Of course, to grow a crop, you need quality seeds and/or seedlings. Remember that a number of studies, local and international, show that quality seedlings result in better crop yield. Therefore, providing a bigger profit for the farmers and agri-entrepreneurs.
So, there is a lot of potential seen in quality seedling production, and in this article, we will focus on the potential of quality cacao seedling production.
Cacao farmers should always keep in mind that quality seedlings produced in a well-managed nursery result in better crop yield and better profit. And because of this, there is a potential seen in quality cacao seedling production as a business/commercial activity for small farmers and agri-entrepreneurs.
Though the potential is there, the success of producing quality cacao seedlings still depends on the kind of seeds that the farmers will be sowing and the farm inputs they will be using.
With hardwork, passion, and commitment, cacao farmers can establish their own nurseries, even in their backyards, for producing seedlings until the young plants become ready for planting.
Several farmers and farm organizations, like Desmond Farm and Partners, Inc. (DFPI), have already developed their own planting medium and have started using organic fertilizers for better germination rates during the process of seedling production.
Studies show that damage to agricultural crops, like cacao, could be prevented or minimized with the proper application of organic farm inputs, assuming that there are no major natural disasters and calamities.
Taking from the experience of DFPI, the production of quality seedlings requires proper know-how, time, and tender loving care. DFPI farmers have already devised a method to protect cacao seedlings during the rainy season — and this is through a simple and improvised greenhouse.
Because of the improvised greenhouse, the capacity of the nursery increases, allowing DFPI farmers to produce thousands of quality seedlings and meeting the farm’s demand for quality seedlings to be planted. Soon, DFPI will open its gates to clientele looking for quality cacao seedling for their own farms.
Considering the advantages of quality-produced cacao seedlings, this could provide an opportunity for DFPI farmers to augment their income, as well as boost agricultural productivity, specifically cacao, in the countryside.