Friday, August 03, 2007

Tractors and Increasing Food Production

I have been to my farm and engage farmers in discussions how to improve their incomes and change their lives. After the discussions, I felt that the farmers just lack prodding from the government, lack government support, and lack government assistance. My observations:

Since, EV is mostly planted with coconuts, areas down the coconut trees are mostly vacant and not planted with anything. Farmers say, these vacant areas are less productive because of the shade provided by the coconut fronds, but still it could be planted. Their problem is that, they are still using Carabao to till these lands, hence planting these areas is difficult. Their suggestions, is that, if the government, can provide "tractors" to till these lands on a rental basis - then it would be faster, economical, and most farmers can increase their productivity by 30%. They can plant these vacant areas with sweet potato, cassava, vegetables, cocoa, among others. Also, the tilling of the land under the coconut trees would increase coconut production.

But how would the farmers afford a "tractor" when its costs is around the cost of a Pajero? Farmers say, 1 tractor can be used by the whole village (around 100 farmers), and that each farmer are willing to pay rent and gasoline everytime they use the tractor. Eventually the rentals, after maintenance cost, would eventually pay the cost of the tractor. Farmers say a tractor can till the land, what 20 farmers can till in a day! Without the food cost for 20 farmers etc. and the effort of 20 carabaos which means tilling these farm lands would be a lot cheaper (probably by as much as 70% cheaper)!

So where would the initial capital outlay be sourced from? I suggest, that the government should order the farming villages to use their IRA to buy a "tractor" for community use. This simple order from the government would help improve food production and livelihood of our farmers. This would be great, if the these are coupled with seeds and fertilizers among other farm inputs.

By doing this - farmers now can till vast areas for planting with just a "rental" and gasoline cost. Also, a job would be created in every village by way of an "operator-driver" of the tractor. Farmers without caraboas and plow can now till their land at minimal cost.

Currently the IRAs which is around 300 to 400K per village are being used to construct basketball courts, halls, waiting sheds, etc. which are mostly non- productive.

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