“Hito” Growing among Davao Rice Farmers

By Digna D. Banzon

DAVAO CITY, (PNA) — It started with only 200 square meters area that rice farmers in Los Amigos, this city allocated for “hito” (catfish) growing within their respective rice fields many years back.

Barangay Captain Angelico Santander, Jr. told the Philippine News Agency they learned of the technology of growing hito from the government through Department of Agriculture.

He recalled there was a time in the past that their yield with rice farming was no longer viable that is why they looked for other projects that will help them augment their income.

He said for over 10 years now of growing hito in between their rice farming, there were already changes in their way of living as most of the farmers were able to send their children to school and finish college and got employed.

He also said that farmers already were able to purchase transportation that they use for their farm products.

Santander said through the years the 200 sq. meter hito farm of some farmers had been expanded to five hectares and gets a million gross income.

He said initial capital ranges between P50,000 to 80,000 depending on the area.

With the success of growing hito in barangay Los Amigos, farmers in the neighboring barangays like Calinan, Balengaeng, Tagakpan, Tugbok also ventured into the project.

Santander said they had organized their group and formed the Los Amigos Aquacuture Producers’ Group.

“We want to formalize our group into cooperative,” he said.

He said they are also venturing into other projects because there are markets that has tapped us for supplies.

Although talks are still ongoing, he said Japan market needs about three tons daily of the African hito that they produce organically.

However, he said they are already supplying the different big markets of Davao City and supermarkets.

He said they are very careful of getting other commitment and bring out their produce outside of Los Amigos because right now there already 19 restaurants that operate along the highways of the barangay from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

These restaurants need about 1,500 kilos daily.

He said the restaurants already have captive market of travelers going towards Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon and vice versa aside from tourists and residents along the area.

Los Amigos also houses eight new subdivisions while colleges and universities of Davao City already has acquired areas for their expansion.

Santander said they also has prepared their zoning plan and allocated areas for commercial development.

He added that with the government’s direction towards tourism they are now discussing with the Department of Tourism (DOT) on their move to focus on agri-tourism.

Other than DOT, he said, they are also in talks with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to help beneficiaries of 4Ps to also engage into hito growing.