From left to right: Bataan PAFC Chairperson Wesley Adriano, Nueva Ecija PAFC Chairperson Orlando Corpuz, Balanga, Bataan CAFC Chairperson Demetrio Barin, Jr., Balanga, Bataan CAFC Treasurer Lorenzo Dilig, and Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija MAFC Chairperson Servando Dela Cruz

With Central Luzon being the major and longstanding producer of rice in the country, many of its farmers today come from a generation of families involved in agriculture. For them, farming is no longer just a job– it’s a way of life ingrained in the heart of Luzon.

What makes their stories more special is that some of these farmers choose to step up as volunteer leaders in their towns, supporting fellow farmers and enriching their way of life.

During the Lakbay Panayam of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (DA-PCAF) on November 13-17, 2023, the Central Luzon Agricultural and Fishery Councils (AFCs) shared their stories and best practices that contribute to the region’s agricultural development.

Strengthening ties with the LGU and other NGAs

One of the Central Luzon AFCs’ best practices is their strong bonds with their local government units (LGUs).

Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija MAFC Chairperson Servando Dela Cruz shares the accomplishments of the MAFC, including its important role in the LGU’s activities that involve the agri-fishery stakeholders

In Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija, the Municipal AFC (MAFC), led by Chairperson Servando Dela Cruz, successfully lobbied for a threefold increase in their operating funds from the LGU. From PhP40,000, they were granted PhP120,000 for trainings and supplies this 2024.

With his leadership and the MAFC members’ diligence, they demonstrated the importance of the AFCs to the LGU by helping in the data gathering among farmers and fishers and participating in the monitoring of national and local programs and projects.

It is also the MAFC that the LGU consults on the type of assistance to provide to farmers. For 2023, their request for the procurement of knapsack sprayers and mushroom fruiting bags was approved and distributed to all farming households. Grass cutters, shovels, and vegetable seeds are some of their requests for 2024.

Servando came from a family of farmers but had previously worked overseas as a professional photographer and an information technology officer. He started farming in 2015 and has been part of the AFC for seven years now.

When asked about his motivation in being a farmer-leader, Servando answered “Kung hindi kami kikilos, sino? Madaming salita ng salita, ayaw namang mag-volunteer.”

Nueva Ecija PAFC Chairperson Orlando “Orly” Corpuz tells about their plans and actions for the PAFC

According to Provincial AFC (PAFC) Chairperson Orlando “Orly” Corpuz, the MAFC of Santa Rosa is only the start in their overall goal of broader fiscal support for all MAFCs in the province.

He also revealed that the PAFC recently passed a policy resolution that recommends to the DA the distribution of vouchers instead of actual seeds to ensure that farmers will have the suitable seeds and variety they need.

Wesley Adriano shares his best practices during his MAFC Chairpersonship in Samal that he brought when he became the Bataan PAFC Chairperson

Meanwhile, in the Province of Bataan, PAFC Chairperson Wesley Adriano invites representatives from the National Irrigation Administration and the Department of Public Works and Highways to directly discuss agri-fishery-related concerns during their meetings. He also allows these representatives to present their agency’s initiatives that might benefit their stakeholders.

Wesley also became a recipient of technical and leadership trainings from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management and was tapped by the Department of Agrarian Reform for the monitoring and evaluation of dam constructions.

Balanga, Bataan CAFC Treasurer Lorenzo Dilig discusses the policy resolutions and initiatives they passed for the farmers and fishers in the city

Former Balanga, Bataan City AFC (CAFC) Chairperson Lorenzo Dilig has also demonstrated the value of building networks when the CAFC policy resolution for the development of farm-to-market road (FMR) projects was adopted, resulting in the construction of a two-kilometer FMR in Brgy. Dangcol.

His request for a fertilizer subsidy from their LGU of PhP1,000-PhP2,000 per farmer was also granted. The subsidy is distributed every May as part of the Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month celebration.

His last accomplishment as the CAFC Chairperson was the endorsement of a resolution that recommends the distribution of fish processors to the city’s fisherfolk. This was granted by the Department of Labor and Employment to aid them in building their enterprise and generating employment in the fisheries sector.

Balanga, Bataan CAFC Chairperson Demetrio Barin, Jr. shares their endorsed and adopted policy resolutions

With the election of a new set of officers in 2023, Lorenzo was succeeded by retired City Agriculturist Demetrio Barin, Jr. 

Applying his extensive knowledge in volunteerism, Demetrio proposed to increase the allotment of seeds for distribution from 10 to 20 kilograms/hectare..

He also shared that through his leadership, the CAFC was able to obtain from the LGU a budget of PhP1,400 for their meetings. In turn, they actively participate in the LGU’s initiatives such as tree planting and coastal clearing activities. 

The Balanga, Bataan CAFC also takes charge in the consolidation of the list of seed recipients and the schedule of distribution to guarantee that all farmers will get their share.

Demetrio’s business ventures in dairy milk production, which is being distributed to schools, as part of the Department of Education’s School-Based Feeding Program-Milk Feeding Component.

Mobilizing the BAFC

Another best practice of Central Luzon is its focus on mobilizing and empowering the Barangay AFC (BAFC), where most of the MAFC and PAFC Chairpersons started.

Orly explains the value of mobilizing and empowering the BAFCs

Orly, who began his AFC journey in 2013, saw the importance of the BAFCs as the direct feedback mechanism in the grassroots communities. That is why when he became elected as the PAFC Chairperson in 2018, he made sure to activate the BAFCs in all 33 barangays of Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija.

He also shared that the LGUs of the municipality have been very supportive of the BAFCs as well as the MAFCs in terms of providing venues and meals during their meetings.

Wesley discusses how they were able to organize and activate the BAFCs in Samal as well as encourage women to be actively involved in the Council

Likewise, Bataan PAFC Chairperson Wesley’s first line of business upon his election was to organize the BAFCs in Samal with the help of the Municipal Agriculture Office. Together, they made sure that the BAFCs are well-represented by having the presidents of farmers’ associations and cooperatives and individual farmers and fishers as their members.

He also advocates the involvement of women in the Council and encourages them to run as chairpersons. Currently, Samal has four BAFC women chairpersons and 20 female sectoral representatives.

Wesley was also able to pass a policy resolution recommending the grant of travel allowance for the BAFC Chairpersons. It was first approved by the Sangguniang Bayan of Samal and BAFCs are granted a PhP500-travel allowance for meetings and monitoring activities.

Helping the farmers in times of need

AFC members and other farmers/fishers usually rely on their PAFC, MAFC and CAFC Chairpersons for support. This was what motivated Orly to be a farmer-leader. Even before joining the AFC, farmers usually seek his advice on how to increase their yield. Knowing that he may reach and help more of his colleagues, he decided to pursue the AFC Chairpersonship.

Meanwhile, Wesley stepped up during the pandemic by endorsing a resolution that aimed to provide financial help to the farmers and fishers, who could not work because of the restrictions.

Servando shares the efforts of the MAFC in helping other members and stakeholders in times of need

In times of calamities, Servando also leads the utilization of the MAFC’s revolving fund to donate repacked goods to struggling farmers and communities.

Their stories only prove that the AFCs of Central Luzon, including those in other regions, go beyond their duties to help the Filipino farmers and fisherfolk as well as their communities. Though they may be farmers by blood, they are farmer-leaders by choice and at heart. | Text and photos by Joy Camille Luza, with photos from Jez Campaniel and Christian Jay Torralba