Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bringing HOPES to horticulture farmers in the Philippines

ACIAR research in the southern Philippines is improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers growing fruit and vegetables, through investigating horticulture, people and soil (HOPES). Recent research has provided useful insights to help farmers cope with pests, diseases and harsh weather; to grow their crops sustainably; and to improve their profits.
2 people holding vegetable harvest
Boie Gerona (vegetable grower) and Zenaida Gonzaga (Visaya State University)
show off the harvest from a successfully protected crop
(Photo: Gordon Rogers)

Philippine farmers face many barriers to maximising profits and being competitive in the marketplace, including declining soil fertility, damaging weather, pests and diseases, and postharvest losses. They also face constraints of agricultural policies, local infrastructure, access to markets and information, and access to finance and extension services. These challenges disrupt the supply chains and threaten farmers’ livelihoods, making the fruit and vegetable industry less competitive and sustainable.
man with jackfruit
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is an important fruit for the Philippines.
Job Abuyabor (centre) is a leading jackfruit grower in central Leyte (Photo: Mara Faylon)
ACIAR's 4-year program included research on a range of fruit and vegetables and addressed agronomic, economic and policy issues. The fruit research component focused on papaya supply chains, Phytophthora disease in jackfruit and durian, papaya and mango crop management, and related economics and policy issues. The vegetable component of the program focused on potato, tomato, brassicas, and leafy vegetables. It investigated bacterial wilt disease, protection of crops from harsh weather, fertiliser management, soil-borne diseases, and value chains. Research included on-farm trials with farmers being mentored while they explored different strategies on their own property.

children in rice field
The research team (and friends) in farmer
Mike Pedrosa’s rice fields in Calbayog,
Samar (Photo: John Oakeshott)
The research has come up with some practical solutions and recommendations to enable farmers to improve their crop production, and to deliver good-quality food that consumers want to buy. It has also built capacity of local and Australian researchers, and equipped policymakers with tools and knowledge to assist with decision making in the Philippines. Benefits will flow on to Australian farmers, through better methods for pest and disease management, protected cropping, improved nutrition and reduced postharvest losses.

The program recently concluded with a technical workshop with the researchers, and the proceedings "Smallholder HOPES – horticulture, people and soil" has just been published. Jointly managed by ACIAR and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), the program involved almost 200 people from 27 research organisations across the Philippines and Australia. ACIAR and PCAARRD have agreed to build on the program's success with further research in the Southern Philippines.

 By John Oakeshott, Philippines Horticulture Manager

More information
ACIAR Projects:
HORT/2007/066 Enhanced profitability of selected vegetable value chains in the southern Philippines and Australia program
HORT2007/067 Improved domestic profitability and export competitiveness of selected fruit value chains in the southern Philippines and Australia program
Workshop proceedings 139:  Smallholder HOPES – horticulture, people and soil
ACIAR's Horticulture research program  

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