By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 28 (PNA) – The Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology (DEBESMSCAT) based in a far-flung Masbate town has been assigned by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as the province’s center for agricultural development.
The DEBESMSCAT is a government-run higher education institution that provides professional and technical education, advanced and specialized training in Agriculture, Teacher Education, Industrial Technology, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, non-degree technical courses and other related disciplines to produce competent human resource for sustainable development.
First called the Masbate National Agricultural School when established in 1952, the DEBESMSCAT operates within a 3,668-hectare campus of mostly rolling terrain in the municipality of Mandaon, 56.5 kilometers from Masbate City, the provincial capital.
The center for agricultural development is a four-year project which will be implemented from this year to 2019 and will become the first of its kind in the country through the initiation of the DA regional office for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur under Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas.
Initially under this project, the DA has provided the school over Php8.4 million worth of supplies such as farm machineries, equipment, inputs and planting materials which were turned over to its administration headed by its president Dr. Erwin Malto during the project launch last week.
Bragas, in a statement reaching here on Wednesday, said the supplies included a four-wheel drive tractor worth Php2.4 million, hand tractors, a palay thresher, rice drum seeder, transplanter, sacks of hybrid palay seeds, corn grits mill, cassava granulator, corn sheller, corn planter, hammer mill and cassava stalks, power sprayers, drums, power tiller, shallow tube well and incubators.
Also provided were 50 heads of native chicken, 300 heads of ducks, 100 pieces of grafted pili seedlings, 40 bags of organic fertilizer, and assorted vegetable seeds.
The agricultural machineries and equipment will be used in massive crop production within the sprawling school complex as well as expose the students to mechanization that would enhance their skills extensively as compared with just learning the theories, according to Bragas.
The native chicken and ducks are to jump-start organic production as the DA pushes food safety and environment friendly food production techniques that would preserve the environment for sustainable agriculture.
One of these techniques, Bragas said, is the community-based commercial production of native chicken that enjoy wide market demand owing to their meat that carries a distinct taste and more nutritious properties inimitable from the commercial breeds.
In a common rural scenario, the native chicken, he said, supply the family with few eggs and, occasionally, meat that are tastier and more savory than those of purebreds for home consumption, for barter or for sale, and despite their slow growth and smaller size, they are more costly.
“We are embarking on some strategies to improve the native chicken — one is a program on community-based production based on organic agriculture system and on a station-based organic native chicken project,” he said.
Under this DEBESMSCAT agricultural center project, the DA regional chief said more interventions will be implemented that will enhance the skills and capabilities of the students, which will greatly equip them in passing the Licensure Examination for Agriculture.
The DA is also conducting a series of technology demonstrations and seminars on production practices of various commodities, soil sampling and soil analysis and organic agriculture reinforced by the exhibits of the five banner programs of the department, showcasing new technologies, and the technologies generated by DEBESMSCAT.
Half of the income from this project will be used to finance succeeding production cycles while the other half shall be given as school allowance of the initial 175 students who will be involved in the project.
He also emphasized the important role of research and extension, one of the mandates of DEBESMSCAT, in helping farmers cope with the fast-changing times, especially that the Philippines is lagging behind giant countries in agricultural development.
According to Malto, the benefits of the project will be radiated to the neighboring communities through research and extension services.
Bragas said the project, in general, aims to showcase agriculture not only as a mere supplier of food, but also as a major income earner by promoting agribusiness and agri-enterprise techniques, through provision of farm machineries and equipment, conduct of training and establishment of 15 different one-hectare techno demo farms in the area.
Another reason for this concept, he said, is the province’s poverty situation–Masbate being one of the country’s poorest provinces, and the youth’s declining interest in agriculture courses as evidenced by the critical drop in number of enrolees in agriculture courses over the past years.
The DEBESMSCAT is the second largest state college in the Philippines, next to Antique, in terms of land area and its 3,668-hectare land gives it the greatest potential to showcase agricultural development through quality production and enhanced agri-enterprises and ultimately serve as service provider for the farmers within the island province, Bragas said.
Investing in a depressed area for the students from poverty-stricken families, who will be the future farmers and agriculturists, is a brilliant initiative as this will help in furtherance of food security, he added. (PNA)