On the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of his plan to place Boracay under land reform to give land back to farmers, the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is looking to assist in the development of the island's agriculture sector.
SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said SEARCA is conceptualizing a project that will help Boracay farmers and indigenous people make the best use of the land they will receive from the government.
He said the idea is to help farmers in three ways: teach farmers best agricultural practices, involve them in the value chain, and teach them agri-tourism.
"With the world watching the rehabilitation of Boracay, SEARCA sees this time as an excellent window for demonstrating sustainable agriculture practices to show that the invigorated farms would not only be economically viable but also environmentally sound. The importance of forest rehabilitation, re-planting, and protection will also be stressed with possibly significant involvement of indigenous people," Dr. Saguiguit said.
Moreover, Dr. Saguiguit said an important component in strengthening the rejuvenated farming communities would be to get the farmers on track in the value chain.
"This means that whatever the farmers produce, they can sell right on the island. They don't have to bring their produce outside. They can sell raw products to hotels and other tourist locations, and at the same time, explore possibilities for postharvest processing into alternative products that tourists would buy. These are essentials in an island economy," Dr. Saguiguit explained.
"And the most important component," Dr. Saguiguit stressed, "would be to teach the farmers of Boracay agri-tourism as an alternative source of income in the mold of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia where there are paddy areas, which attract tourists as much as the island's world-famous beaches."
Given the push for agri-tourism, he said Boracay is a prime location to demonstrate that farmers can actually earn from the tourism boom by providing opportunities for tourists to experience a rural farm setting in the Philippines without having to get away from Boracay.
Dr. Saguiguit said the plan is to involve the local government unit and private sector to ensure that the proposed agricultural and rural development initiative will be inclusive and sustainable.
SEARCA is actively seeking expressions of interest and possible support from government agencies and other entities to develop and implement this concept approach to help Boracay. (Leah Lyn D. Domingo)