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By: John Maico M. Hernandez, DOST-PSTC Batangas

There’s no more turning back for members of Mountview Upland Farmers Association, Inc. (MUFAI) in Brgy. Nasi, Rosario, Batangas, after they harmonized plans and strategies for the establishment of their own Science and Technology (S&T)-based enterprise on January 27-28.

MUFAI came up with an enterprise focused on the production of coconut vinegar and ginger/turmeric tea after the capacity building activity designed to develop a business that fits available community resources, integrates use of research outputs and technologies, and upholds the tenets Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) program. The development of this proposed enterprise was anchored to the objectives of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology (CEST) program in support to the “Agroforestry Support Program for Enhancing Resiliency of Community Based Forest Management Areas (ASPIRE-CBFM)” funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) in April 2019. MUFAI, formed by the virtue of Executive Order (EO) No. 263 and allied people-oriented policies and programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), was identified as one of the communities for ASPIRE-CBFM. Hence, resources readily available in their CBFM areas such as coconut, ginger and turmeric, were the principal consideration of MUFAI members in proposing the potential enterprise.

Prior to this capacity building activity, MUFAI has expressed their intention to obtain the technical assistance of DOST CALABARZON and Provincial Science and Technology Center (PSTC) Batangas in creating a holistic approach that would spur sustainable S&T-based enterprise development. During the technology clinic conducted by DOST CALABARZON and PSTC Batangas in December 2020, a weak link between members and familiarity on potential enterprise was found. In response to this, capacity building activities that strengthen association accord, involve design thinking for innovation, and spark interests of members were pursued.

A component of the capacity building was the benchmarking and dialogue with the carabao farmers and production workers of The Rosario Livestock and Agriculture Farming Cooperative (TRLAFCO) formerly Rosario Dairy Raisers Association, DOST CALABARZON Community-based Project beneficiary, focused on the production and processing of fresh and flavored carabao’s milk. The story of how TRLAFCO championed their business has inspired members of MUFAI to also venture in an enterprise that would provide a stable source of their income. TRLAFCO also shared their struggles in introducing their products and in looking for markets. According to Mr. Hilarion Marasigan, TRLAFCO Chairman, the journey towards the becoming of their growing business was never easy. “Naranasan po namin na magtapon ng gatas dahil wala kaming mapagdalhan. Naranasan ko rin na maglako-lako at walang pumapansin. Bagkus ako ay sasabihan na baka marumi ang aming produkto. Mahirap ang aming dinanas pero hindi kami sumuko,” he added. Before the dialogue ends, Mr. Marasigan encouraged members of MUFAI to continue working for the development of their association. He stressed the need to have patience, dedication, and hardwork to win the enterprise. “Palaging mahirap sa umpisa. Sadyang kami ay nagtiyaga. Wag mawawala sa inyo ang dedikasyon at haba ng pasensya para umasenso,” he said. A tour in the processing facility of TRLAFCO was also conducted to provide members of MUFAI a personal experience of how the enterprise operates and how members function.

The second part of the capacity building program took place at Nasi Elementary School the following day. Group dynamics were carried out to harmonize the behavioral patterns of the participants and strengthen their systems of problem-solving, decision making, and cooperation. These likewise aimed to make the association become more innovative and productive. Activities include number drill, problem and solution identification and prioritization, resources naming, business planning, and community dreaming. Final activity was design and development of their potential enterprise framed according to feasibility, available products in the CBFM areas, business interests of members, and market potential.

Capacitated members of MUFAI expressed their renewed hope and interest for the becoming of their association and enterprise. According to Miss Susana Mendoza, President of MUFAI, the group dynamics and benchmarking activity inspired them to spinoff applications and run their own enterprise as a stronger association driven by desire to also become developed. “Kami po ay  sobrang na-inspire sa lahat ng ating ginawa lalong-lalo na po dahil hindi ninyo rin po kami sinusukuan. Kami po ngayon ay masasabi kong mas malakas at talagang nais na nais naming umasenso ngayon bilang isang asosasyon sa tulong ng DOST,” she mentioned.

Technology training on coconut vinegar and ginger/turmeric tea processing, transfer of equipment, and other related S&T interventions are already lined up for MUFAI in the succeeding months. Batangas State University (BatStateU) – Lipa Extension Services Office has also committed to provide assistance to MUFAI and work with DOST to ensure the enterprise’s sustainability. The said office has served as a partner of DOST CALABARZON and PSTC Batangas in the facilitation and documentation of the two-day activity for MUFAI.

Mr. John Maico Hernandez and Miss Hazel Ann Giron served as the speakers of the capacity building activities.