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Friday, September 30, 2011

Dragon fruit boosts livelihood and ecotourism for Ilocos Norte

Agri-based enterprises are often small operations with very little income. Often, this income isn’t enough to support the farm family throughout the year. Enter the dragon! Or rather the dragon fruit!

Dragon fruit is slowly gaining ground in the local market because of its health benefits and command for profit. Recognizing the potential of this fruit for enhancing livelihood and agri-based tourism, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) and Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILARRDEC) teamed up to establish a Science and Technology-based Farm (STBF) on organic production of dragon fruit.

This STBF is located on part of a 10-ha farm of Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) Edita Dacuycuy that also is being developed into an agro tourism site. PCARRD and ILARRDEC effectively partnered with the “dragon fruit lady of the north”, who incidentally received the Department of Agriculture’s National Gawad Saka Award.

The STBF, one of the major modalities under PCARRD’s TechnoGabay Program, showcases the effectiveness of science and technology (S&T) interventions in improving productivity and income derived from specific commodities.

Specifically in Ilocos Norte, it aims to establish a chemical-free production technology for the dragon fruit, develop strategies to prolong its shelf life and promote the S&T interventions to at least 30 farmer-adopters in the community.

To ensure that production is organic, MS Dacuycuy is evaluating the effect of fruit bagging on the quality of the fruits as well as best methods to control pests and diseases. She also produces her own organic fertilizer to maintain the overall health of the soil and to reduce production costs.

Aside from seeking to improve fruit production, the STBF will ensure the production of planting materials to support expansion to other areas. In fact, MS Dacuycuy has been supplying planting materials to farmers from all over Ilocos Norte as well as to those from other provinces in Luzon and Mindanao. She also provides technical support to more than 30 other growers all over the province.

The speed at which dragon fruit has gained acceptance in Ilocos Norte can be attributed to several success factors. MS Dacuycuy herself is one of these. Always enthusiastic for the crop and passionate about sharing, she easily gets converts from among her audience.

Another factor is its promotion by the local government units and the ease with which the production technology is accepted. In fact, even elementary pupils are now dragon fruit producers and they have in turn, convinced their parents to start planting.

As part of its commitment in promoting the fruit nationwide, PCARRD is bringing its Technology to the People (T2P) in Ilocos Norte in time for Dragon Fruit Festival to be held on July 5-6.The T2P on dragon fruit will be held on July 6 in Dacuycuy’s farm located in Brgy. Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

During the T2P, PCARRD Executive Director Patricio S. Faylon will be on hand to share with media PCARRD’s initiatives in the promotion of dragon fruit. As well, he will be sharing his thoughts on the direction for the commercialization of the fruit.

The growers of dragon fruit in the province prefer to call the dragon fruit Saniata, meaning light and wealth. As the self-envisioned Dragon fruit Capital of the North, Ilocos Norte, MS Dacuycuy and her REFMAD Farms, PCARRD and ILARRDEC will work together to ensure that the vision becomes a reality. Butch Pagcaliwagan and Lily Ann Lando, S&T Media Service

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