SEARCA pushes Boracay's agriculture development

  • 4 May 2018

Source: The Manila Times
4 May 2018

WITH President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of his plan to place Boracay under agrarian reform to give its lands 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.

Gil Saguiguit Jr., SEARCA director, said the center is conceptualizing a project that will help Boracay farmers and indigenous peoples make the best use of the land they will receive from the government.

He said that while the world is watching the rehabilitation of Boracay, SEARCA sees an excellent window for demonstrating sustainable agriculture practices.

"[It is time] 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," Saguiguit added.

He said the idea is to help Boracay farmers by teaching them best agricultural practices, involving them in the value chain, and teaching them agri-tourism.

He cited that 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 out their produce. 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," Saguiguit explained.

However, he said the most important component 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.

Also given the push for agri-tourism, Saguiguit 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.

"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," Saguiguit said.

He said SEARCA is actively seeking expression of interest and possible support from government agencies and other entities to develop and implement the center's approach to help Boracay.