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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Up close: Dragon fruit lady of the north

Ilocos Norte – Edita Dacuycuy only wants the best for her daughter Kate who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. In her quest to solve her daughter’s perennial constipation, she discovered a solution that brought her light and wealth --- the red and scaly dragon cactus plant more commonly called dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus).

Locally known as “saniata”, which means light and wealth, the fruit has eased her daughter’s problem and brought life to her town’s economy.

Dacuycuy, a psychology graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and former division manager of an insurance company, first ventured on dragon fruit production all because of her daughter’s constipation problem. Later, realizing the dragon fruit’s economic and other health benefits, she decided to expand her backyard production.

Not having any background in agriculture, she sent another daughter to Thailand to further study the production of dragon fruit. Upon the return of her daughter, she started her full scale production of dragon fruit.

Now, Dacuycuy has developed almost 10 ha of dragon fruit plantation in Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, which she named Rare Eagles Forest Marine and Agricultural Development or REFMAD Farms. The farm has become a show window for dragon fruit production in the north, providing employment and livelihood to Dacuycuy’s relatives and to the community as well.

In addition, Dacuycuy developed several dragon fruit-based recipes and products such as soap, wine, jam, pastries, and others.

Opportunities, rewards, and awards

In December 2008, Dacuycuy was selected as Magsasaka Siyentista in the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development’s (PCAARRD) Science and Technology-based Farm Project on organic dragon fruit production. She is being assisted by the Ilocos Norte Office of the Provincial Agriculture – Farmers’ Information and Technology Services Center and the Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILARRDEC), one of the 14 regional research and development consortia of PCAARRD.

Today, she is known as the “Dragon fruit lady of the north” enjoying the fruits of her labor. Her dragon fruits have reached the markets of nearby provinces and Manila.

With the support of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte and ILARRDEC, her REFMAD Farms is also being promoted as an agri-tourism spot. During the recently concluded first-ever dragon fruit festival, Dacuycuy and REFMAD Farms were the foci of PCAARRD’s Technology to the People (T2P) media conference.

Dacuycuy’s participation in T2P gave her some exposure on local and national radio, TV, and print media.

Dacuycuy’s efforts as dragon fruit planter also garnered her some national awards. Most recent of these were the Rural Women of 2010 and the Department of Agriculture’s 2010 National Gawad Saka Award.

Meanwhile, Dacuycuy continues her community work by promoting dragon fruit production in Ilocos Norte through demos and lectures in schools, and to interested individuals, groups, and fellow farmers. She also leads the Kailukuan Saniata Cooperative, the cooperative of dragon fruit planters in Ilocos Norte.

On top of all these, she attends to her family’s needs most especially to Kate, the inspiration that led to her successful dragon fruit production. Danzelle A. Del Valle, S&T Media Service

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