An USAD farmer-enrollee shakes hands with Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza after the forum. Photo by Nony Grado, Provincial Public Information Office-Agusan del Sur
By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur--The 48-year-old farmer Madrid Havana who is tending a hectare of falcata trees in an interior upland village in Veruela town is seen to become a millionaire in the next three years when his trees will be ready for harvest.
Havana is one of the 1,363 farmers who are growing falcata trees since 2014 fully supported by the provincial government under the Upland Sustainable Agri-forestry Development (USAD) program, a pet project of Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza.
“I hope our lives will be better when the harvest time comes,” Havana said in an interview with local media during the USAD falcata farmers forum on Friday at the Naliyagan Cultural Center grounds of the provincial capitol.
Little did he knew that the falcata trees he is growing can be sold to a million pesos or more especially when it reaches the mature age of seven to nine years in 2021 to 2023.
Linda Buquir, chief of USAD, said a fully-grown falcata can be sold at P2,000 per tree in the local market but if a farmer allows it to grow up to 9 to10 years which could already reach up to 30 cubic meters in diameter, the selling price on the export market can reach up to P12,000 per tree.
So if a farmer can harvest at least 500 trees for a hectare of a farm lot, he can be a millionaire, Buquir said.
Over the years, falcata (scientific name: Falcataria molucanna), a softwood tree species mainly used in making veneer, plywood and paper abounds in this timber-rich province with almost a million hectares in total land area.
Forester Danny Sarong of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office-Local Government Unit said falcata farmers in Agusan del Sur can produce at least 2,000 cubic meters a day , topping all other four provinces in Caraga region.
A study made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed that Caraga region supplies 70 percent of the country’s wood requirement.
Farmers who availed of the USAD program are called “farmer-enrollees” provided with capacity building technical support and tree seedlings for their farms.
They are however complied to sign a written social contract for them to commit in religiously tending their farm and never enter into loan out scheme, practice among farmers to sell their trees even in its early growing up stages.
Plaza has warned farmer-enrollees attending the USAD forum not to be easily swayed by traders buying young growing falcata trees at a very low prices.
“Push for more effort for your lives to improve and never sell young trees to these buyers,” Plaza said.
Buquir said many farmers in the past before USAD was introduced has been selling their falcata trees still growing at two to three years to a measly P100,000 per hectare. She said USAD farmers who would still engage with this ill practices will be blacklisted and can no longer avail of the program.
To sustain the program, municipal agricultural technicians are tasked to frequently monitor the growth of falcata trees of USAD farmer-enrollees to ensure their million-peson production target.
Staying true to its promise of bringing the services closer to the people, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has opened its 67th branch in Agusan del Sur recently. “Napakalayong lugar ito kaya nga dapat magkaroon ng isang branch doon para mabigyan ng tulong ang ating mga kababayan...