CALAPAN CITY-Seaweed farmers of the Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Balatasan (SAMASABALATASAN) farmers' cooperative are thrilled to receive from the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro (PGOM) a P500,000 grant for the construction of their seaweed processing facility.
Provincial Administrator Nelson Melgar who handed the check to SAMASABALATASAN thru Chairman Constancio Mendoza together with the association's Board of Directors (BOD) and other stakeholders stressed out the benefits of convergence in order to resolve the needs of the community.
"We are now more inspired to continue what we started with all your (stakeholders) support, rest assured that we will do our part of the success of the project," Mendoza said.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Marilou C. Baslan said the seaweed processing project of SAMASABALATASAN is under the Agrarian Reform Communities Project (ARCP) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Baslan said seaweed farming is the dominant economic activity in District 2 of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. Seaweed processing was first introduced to District 2 under the national convergence initiative pursued by the DAR, Dept. of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries, Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and local government of Oriental Mindoro.
"Since the introduction of the seaweed project, the SAMASABALATASAN cooperative has developed five products made from seaweed, from which the farmer-members earn extra income," Baslan said.
"In the study we conducted, we found out that their seaweed products like canton noodles, crackers, pickles and soaps, have big demand in the market. The construction of this processing facility would greatly help the farmer in meeting the demands of the market," Baslan said.
Convergence of help from gov't agencies
The seaweed processing project of SAMASABALATASAN started in 2008 when the Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the DAR, through convergence, conducted training on seaweed processing at ATI Building, Barcenaga, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
In 2009 the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) granted the association with a grant worth P264,000.00 for the improvement of the seaweed canton noodle project. The amount was allocated for the noodle machine equipment, label, packaging and product analysis.
In support to the growing demand of seaweed, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) allotted P22,596 for the seaweed production project in 2010. Cooperators then started planting seaweed in coastal areas of Bulalacao.
DAR Senior Agrarian Reform Program Officer Ester Pagilagan said the farmers' interest on seaweed grew due to its unique and rising demand of seaweed in the market.
"Whenever they can't sail to fish, especially during bad weather, this has been one of the alternative livelihood of fisher folks in coastal area of Samasabalatasan," Pagilagan said.
"Some fish are seasonal, planting seaweed requires less capital and effort than planting other marine resources," added Pagilagan.
Pagilagan said the seaweed farmers of the Barangay Balatasan and neighboring barangay such as Maasin also gain from this project as the association buys fresh and dried seaweed from them.
The SAMASABALATASAN has received various funded programs from the DAR. Two of them were the Up-valuing Program in 2014 worth P230,000 and the Village Level Processing Center Enhancement Program worth P100,000 in 2012. These programs facilitated the first phase of construction of their processing building in a lot the association has acquired in Barangay Balatasan, Bulalacao.
In 2016, DAR facilitated the release of P656,229.00 from the DOLE to be used for the procurement of additional equipment while the municipal government of Bulalacao also provided the association with a grant worth P175,000.00 for the construction of fence and facility for a water source.
Targeting seaweed maximum potential, the DAR provided training on soap making (five variants), instant noodles with malunggay, seaweed pickles processing and seaweed shampoo processing and processing of seaweed crackers that created new products to market.
As new products at start needed improvements, the DA-BAR granted an amount of 300,000 for product analysis, product enhancement training, label design and printing and packaging as well as organizational development training.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) then awarded the SAMASABALATSAN with P1,849,000 amount of equipment for the development of seaweed processing project.
The SAMASABALATASAN processing building is expected to be finished this year to be funded by the amount recently awarded by the PGOM.
"Kinakailangang tapos ang gusali upang makakuha sila ng permits and licenses from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). Sa ganitong paraan, mas mai-market nila ang kanilang produkto at tinatanaw na kikita ang negosyo ng organisasyon, mga regular na empleyado, mga miyembro at mga kababaihan na gumagawa ng produkto mula sa seaweed at maging mga magsasaka ng seaweed sa mga kalapit na lugar," said Pagilagan.
Source: Philippines information agency