This is how Datu Bawang, tribal chieftain of Higaonon tribe regard their tribal community in a mountainous area of Brgy. Lawan-Lawan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte.
“Aside from picking wild fruits, our primary means of livelihood is farming,” says Datu Bawang or Eddie Ampiyawan on his real name.
Datu Bawang, chairperson of the Lekda Higaonon Farmers Producers Cooperative (LeHFaPCo) with 30 members said that their practice in farming was to clear a piece of land in hilly areas, plant corn, harvest then leave the area and look for another area to cultivate crops.
In the process, hilly areas left barren and in danger of a landslide. But their traditional way of farming had ended after embracing a project of the Department of Agriculture that somehow changed their outlook towards the environment.
Dubbed as Sustainable Corn Production for Sustainable Agriculture (SCoPSA), a project introduced to the community in 2017 through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).
Prior to the implementation of SCoPSA in a particular site, it should pass the criteria such as accessible and connected to nearest farm-to-market roads; visible to other farmer as a show window of soil and water conservation technologies in the locality; free from any land tenure problems; among others.
After which, soil conservation development plan will be mapped out and corresponding technical training will be conducted for the involved stakeholders including the farmer –cooperator in preparation for the actual establishment of the farm.
The project aims to enhance productivity level of corn farmers through the promotion of a sustainable land use management that will enhance agricultural livelihood and restore ecological balance in sloping areas of the country cultivated with corn.
Technologies demonstrated in the farm is focused on soil erosion control and gully stabilization coupled with soil fertility improvement, such as contouring, buffer cropping system, crop rotation, among others.
“Never in our imagination could those abandoned hilly areas still be utilized again as a source of our livelihood. Nowadays, no need for us to leave and look for new a area to be cultivated,” Datu Bawang said.
“SCoPSA teaches us the value of a piece of land, which could sustainably, provides us food and means of our livelihood,” he added.
Appreciating the benefits of the program, 3 hectares had been initially developed in SCoPSA way, and currently, it has increased to 15 hectares.
Through the Bayanihan spirit among coop members, the area had been planted with corn, banana, coffee, mangosten, durian, and pineapple, wherein the planting materials had been given from the Department of Agriculture with support from the provincial government of Agusan del Norte.
“We already harvested 40 sacks of corn, so it helps us for our food,” Datu Bawang said.
Provincial Agriculture Office of Agusan del Norte provided technical support to the tribe especially on pest monitoring to ensure a good harvest.
“To help our IP brothers, the provincial government trained and provided an allowance to two tribe member as para-technician,” said Oscar Tuyor, provincial corn coordinator.
Soon farmers in Lawan-lawan, some 46 kilometers from Buenavista Poblacion, will experience ease in transporting agricultural products as an on-going construction of a national highway going to Bukidnon, traversed in the area.
In Caraga Region, 3 areas had been identified as SCoPSA sites since last year including Brgy. Malapong in Buenavista, Brgy. Culit in Nasipit and Brgy. Lawan-Lawan in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte. Additional areas are still under validation. (Aurelius P. Arais/DA Caraga)